When it comes to friendly fire between a fan base and players within the franchise, very few are treated like a punching bag more than Ravens cornerback Cary Williams has been in Baltimore.
First, let me bite off a piece of humble pie and say I was wrong about Williams. At one point during the season, I was one of his most vocal critics.
But as the season has progressed, I’ve come to the realization that the Ravens defense has a bend but don’t break mentality. Safety Ed Reed isn’t what he used to be, and without that security blanket consistently on the back end, Williams is unable to take too many calculated risks and therein lies the bend.
Keeping that in mind specifically about Williams and being fortunate enough to have access into the Ravens’ locker room has given me an insider’s perspective — a perspective that allows me to dial into the dynamic personalities. Soon thereafter, I’ve learned more about the way the players are wired and the people they are.
Williams is a perfect example. I rarely speak with him but through observation, in that locker room, Williams has made a lasting impression.
Sure, like any player does, Williams has had his ups and downs professionally but he’s also begun to really prove his worth in a thin cornerback unit. At times, he’s been exposed and bullied by offenses, but no matter how he plays, Williams always stands up to reporters and answers questions each and every time I’ve seen him.
After the Ravens played their final regular season game, I participated in the annual media Team MVP and Good Guy balloting. For the Good Guy award, defensive end Arthur Jones ended up winning (my second choice) but I voted for WIlliams, solely based off how he has always stood up to critics.
Most don’t make it to the NFL without being a competitor but Williams takes it to the extreme. His self confidence is off the charts, which is why I’m not shocked he turned down a reported three-year, $15 million contract extension, which he left on the table during the offseason.
It may sound cliché-ish but Williams loves being an underdog and if you’ve familiarized yourself with his life story before he reached the NFL, you’ll understand that he’s been that way his whole life.
On Wednesday, Williams flaunted that self confidence again and it captured my thoughts as I drove home that evening.
Met by the usual crowd of reporters by his locker, as I walked over, Williams said, “People are counting us out, and I like that.”
After that Williams was asked if he was sick of talking about Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning.
“I’m tired of talking about every quarterback every week,” Williams said. “It’s the same questions over and over and through 17 weeks, it’s the same thing. This is the NFL, we play great quarterbacks, we play great wide receivers and it’s great entertainment for people at home.”
“This week is a different mindset.”
Clearly Williams’ mindset was different as the soft spoken player began to show his frustrations and competitive edge as some questioned his chances against a future Hall of Fame quarterback.
“I’m tired of talking to the media, straight up,” he said as the reporters on hand began to chuckle.
However, Williams was dead serious.
“I love y’all but there’s only but so much can be said, you’ve got to go out and play. It’s goes down between the white lines; you can say that I’ve got a chip on my shoulder, yeah.”
It was then that most of the media members began to turn their recorders off and walk away. But with a few still hovering near his locker, Williams continued to talk. He spoke of his frustrations that his team has been labeled underdogs, especially in the confines of their own stadium and how no one gives them a chance.
Williams turned and walked towards some large bins in the middle of the locker room to discard his towel in a laundry pile, and as he did he muttered, “You better believe that 29 will show up on Saturday.”
At a time where many players will say that naysayers don’t affect their attitudes, clearly Williams uses that negativity as fuel to ignite his rage on game day.
Certainly, there will be times where Williams is overmatched in his career.
Yet, each day in that locker room, the Ravens’ oft-criticized corner makes another positive impression upon me. Each day he’s committed, focused and accountable.
And each day he reminds me why I was wrong about Cary Williams.