Brandon Williams was already in full beast-mode one day before the Ravens were scheduled to open their first practice of training camp at the Under Armour Performance Center.
The veteran defensive tackle also had some encouraging words for teammate Michael Pierce, who was asked to leave the practice field during minicamp because he was considerably overweight.
Pierce raised more concerns when he was placed on the non-football injury list last week because he failed his physical. However, he managed to pass the test a few days later and will be a full participant when practice opens July 25.
This is perhaps the biggest season of his career.
Williams was impressed how Pierce handled the adversity and said he appears ready to make an impact.
“If he came in and not looked as good as he does now and passed his conditioning test, then there would have been a problem,” Williams said. “Other than that, he’s ready to go.”
Williams has been one of the league’s top run stoppers and he parlayed that into a huge payday in 2017, signing a five-year, $54 million deal with $27.5 million in guaranteed money. At the time, he was the highest-paid nose tackle in the league.
Last season, he earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl.
Pierce, who was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2016, was hoping to land a similar deal, but the weight issues certainly raised some red flags. Still, he has plenty of time to show he can be a game-changing player before he hits the free-agent market.
Pierce has already bounced back from that day in June when he was asked to leave the practice field. He has the support of his coaches and teammates and appears to have heeded their advice.
“I think what I said to him, and I said it in front of the whole defense, ‘Life is about choices. Just don’t make that choice make your life,'” defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said. “He’s a dominant player, and he has a challenge to get, from here until training camp, to hit a certain stage, and that’s to the trainers and Eric [DeCosta] and ‘Harbs’ [John Harbaugh] on where they want him to be at, and I know he’ll be there. I know he will.”
Pierce finished last season with 32 tackles and was a key cog in the league’s No. 1 defense. However, the Ravens already paid Williams huge money and they will not be in position to offer another defensive tackle a huge contract.
Still, Pierce controls his own destiny to earn his own big payday in 2020. He at least appears to be on the right track.
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