Roy Williams is sporting a beard these days.
It's one of those hairy things hockey players grow for the playoffs. The beard is a symbol that it's time to start working harder because there's a goal within reach. Time for the grind.
It's only April, but Williams -- the Cowboys' much maligned, much analyzed wide receiver -- is grinding.
He's working at Valley Ranch in the offseason program with quarterback Tony Romo.
Williams and Romo are trying to find chemistry.
In two seasons, Williams and Romo don't have it.
In the last two seasons (including five games with the Detroit Lions), Williams has just 1,026 receiving yards.
That ranks him 73rd in the NFL.
Last season, Williams was targeted just 86 times in 15 games, tied for 62nd in the NFL. It seems unacceptable that Williams, who is the sixth-highest-paid receiver in the game with an average salary of $9 million a year, is viewed so lightly in the Cowboys' offense.
"I'm happy for a fresh start," Williams told ESPN Dallas on Saturday at a celebrity basketball game in Austin, Texas. "I'm glad that season is over with. I wished we would have won it all, but I'm a team guy first. I don't care about my stats, but at the same time I didn't contribute and I didn't do jack crap last year. I point the finger at me and then at the same time I didn't get many opportunities, so I think if I get more opportunities I can make the plays. It goes back on me."
Williams remains stunned by how the 2009 season ended in the Metrodome. The Cowboys didn't call a single play for Williams in the NFC divisional playoff loss to the Vikings and only one pass was thrown his way.
"That all goes back to me," Williams said. "If I'm not doing my job on the field, you're not going to have a big role. I didn't have a [call] in Minnesota and I had the third and fourth corner on me ... that told me a lot. But at the same time, I have to do my job."
It might seem that Jerry Jones, the man who signs the checks around here, would want a refund on the trade that sent three draft picks to Detroit, including a first-rounder, for Williams.
Instead, Jones and coach Wade Phillips want more from Williams.
They want to get him the ball.
Jones denies there's a trust issue between Williams, Romo and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. Funny thing about trust: Actions speak louder than words. How in the world can you explain not throwing more than one or two passes to Williams in a playoff game?
For that matter, how can you explain Miles Austin surpassing Williams as the Cowboys' primary receiving threat?
Austin is just better?
Williams is no good?
Jones said Williams got double-covered enough times to open the door for Austin to make some plays. Austin was tied with tight end Jason Witten with 124 target throws last year. Austin was third in the league in yards per game at 82.5 and third with 613 yards after the catch.
What about Williams? He averaged 39.7 yards per game, 64th in the league. Williams also had just 92 yards after the catch, 214th in the league.
So how can Jones and Phillips depend on Williams in 2010?
"He demonstrated last year a really impressive work ethic," Jones said recently. "He demonstrated a very [strong] persistence in the face of adversity, in the face of high expectations and lower perceived performance than expectations. He demonstrated a will to keep going, keep working, having some faith his time will come, his catches will come."
On Good Friday, the Cowboys cut left tackle Flozell Adams and safety Ken Hamlin. Adams was stunned by the news, Hamlin not so much. But it was a reality check that the Cowboys have decided they're not playing with underachieving players.
"The thing that bothers me is that people say, 'Hey, are you still on the Cowboys? Hey, are you coming back next year?'" Williams said.
"But that comes with the territory. When you don't contribute or play up to your standards, you will get those questions."