IRVING, Texas -- Ryan Williams has been with the Dallas Cowboys for a little more than a calendar year but has yet to carry a ball in a regular-season game for them. But something is different about 2014 than 2015.
“I feel like a Cowboy now,” Williams said.
After a productive training camp, Williams spent last year on the practice squad, passing up on a couple of chances to join other teams late in the season. The Cowboys signed him to a two-year deal that included a $240,000 signing bonus in part as a thank you for not leaving. Interestingly, it was a larger bonus than what Darren McFadden received from the Cowboys.
In the Cowboys' search for DeMarco Murray's replacement, Williams has become a fan favorite of sorts who see his second-round pedigree (Arizona Cardinals, 2011) and his 112 yards on 25 preseason carries last year as a precursor of what could be in the regular season.
What is ignored is the fact that he is fourth on the running back list today behind McFadden, Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar. When answering a question about the group, running backs coach Gary Brown did not mention Williams at first and needed prompting.
Jason Garrett preaches the best players will play, and that’s what Williams is relaying on.
“We’ll see how that goes,” Williams said. “It is pretty open. Our bellcow ringer left. He cashed out in Philly; really cashed out in Philly. So we’ll see how it plays out. We have a very talented backfield -- a very, very talented backfield. I don’t know if it’ll be like the best man wins. I don’t know if it’ll be like everybody is sharing. I don’t know how the situation will go. I’m not really worried about it. The only thing I’m worried about is going out there and showing these coaches and everybody what I’m capable of doing and showing them what they brought me to do.”
Since 2011 Williams has had to prove he was healthy. He ruptured his patella tendon in his right knee as a rookie and played in just five games over three seasons with the Cardinals, averaging 2.8 yards per carry.
He has not played in a regular season game since Oct. 4, 2012.
“I’ve been good for three years now,” Williams said. “I’ve had some major injuries, for sure, and statistically having those injuries it’s kind of like ‘x this guy out.’ But I’ve always been one to never put myself in that box of those statistics. I always thought of myself that I can overcome anything I’ve ever wanted to overcome. That patella tendon was that thing for me. It changed my life. But I’m still here, and I honestly feel like I’m better than I was before. I believe in my product, and we’ll see what happens with that.”
Last year the Cowboys did not know what they had in Williams. They were taking a calculated risk in signing him based more on his draft grade than on what he had shown on the field. This year they have made a small investment and hope that it might be able to pay off.
So does Williams, even if a lot of obstacles remain.
“I think everybody will have a great chance to show what they can do, and it’ll go from there,” Williams said. “Really, that’s it. I never had a chance to run behind that O-line last year, so hopefully I get an opportunity this year. I think that’ll help my chance of showing everybody what I’m really capable of doing.”