Bengals RT Jonah Williams explains now-recanted trade request

CINCINNATI -- Lack of communication from the team's front office led to a now-recanted trade request by Cincinnati Bengals tackle Jonah Williams.

In his first comments since he petitioned for a move, Williams explained why a trade request via text was made in March, after the Bengals signed Orlando Brown in free agency to replace Williams as the team's starting left tackle.

Williams, who joined the team for the first time this offseason, said Tuesday if the team told him it liked Brown and wanted Williams to move to right tackle, it would have been "hard to hear" but was understandable.

"I think in a couple of days, I would've been like, 'OK, let's go, let's do it,'" Williams said Tuesday. "And I just never got that. So, it was never left tackle, right tackle. I know a lot of people made it out to be that. It wasn't that."

Williams skipped the team's voluntary workouts while recovering from left knee surgery to repair a dislocated kneecap that he suffered in the team's wild-card win over the Baltimore Ravens. The team's first-round pick in 2019 missed the rest of the postseason, including the AFC Championship Game loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Williams has started 42 games in three seasons for the Bengals. He is set to make $12.6 million in guaranteed money this season after Cincinnati picked up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract last year.

Publicly or privately, the Bengals hadn't given any indication that Williams was going to be moved from left tackle until signing Brown became a possibility toward the end of the first week of free agency. The former Chiefs left tackle signed a four-year contract with $31 million guaranteed to play the same position in Cincinnati.

Last year, Brown was 18th in the league in pass block win rate as a tackle, an ESPN metric powered by NFL Next Gen Stats. Williams, who fought through a dislocated right kneecap he suffered in Week 5 against the Baltimore Ravens, was 55th in pass block win rate at tackle.

At the time, Williams said his fiancée was days away from delivering their daughter, Pía.

"The main issue for me was the way that I found out, the way the communication happened," Williams said. "Because I'm sitting on my couch. My fiancée is 40 weeks pregnant. Her due date was in I want to say three days, and I'm rehabbing my knee and all that stuff."

But any discontent about wanting to play 2023 elsewhere has subsided. Williams said he was "fired up" to play right tackle, where he started 15 games during the beginning of his collegiate career at Alabama.

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, who also spoke with reporters Tuesday, said he was happy to see Williams returning after the tackle stayed in California during voluntary workouts while recovering from knee surgery.

"Whenever guys have business going on it's always nice to get them back around the guys and see their face," said Burrow, who also declined to get into the details of his contract negotiations.

Williams spent Tuesday's session working out with Cincinnati's training staff inside Paycor Stadium. He said he expects to be 100 percent recovered ahead of the team's training camp, which will begin at the end of July.

Both Williams and Brown said there has been good communication as the two look to help the Bengals play in the Super Bowl for the second time in the past three seasons. Brown, who has also played both tackle spots, understands the challenge facing Williams.

"I'm here to help," Brown said. "That goes for anybody, but especially in this situation. It's never easy switching sides as a tackle or as an offensive lineman, period. It's like someone asking you to fight in an opposite stance. It's difficult with the way your nervous system is set up, your body, the way you think, how comfortable you are and all those different things."

As for the communication issues that prompted Williams initially seeking the trade, he said he still has not received any word from the Bengals about it. However, he is committed to playing for the franchise this season.

"But there's so many things to me that matter that are important about this team and my teammates and my personal life and my family that I can move past it," Williams said.