Zac Boyer will be entering his third season covering the Washington Redskins for The Free Lance-Star this fall. Make sure to follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates or e-mail him with any questions at email@example.com.
Trent Williams: Offseason training is about improvement, not quieting doubters
There’s no immediate accountability for NFL players in their offseason training because the lockout prevents them from working out at their teams’ facilities or contact with team officials. Teams’ strength and conditioning programs are on hold, so players have to be self-motivated in their workouts.
It stands to reason, then, that a player with a questionable work ethic easily could slack off during this period. In fact, coaches throughout the league have said that the lockout will highlight the divide between players who are dedicated to their craft and those who aren’t.
This was in the back of my mind as I reached out to several Redskins for the story I wrote for today’s paper. Many are diligently working out on their own so they will be in good shape when the Redskins Park doors reopen to them.
Left tackle Trent Williams is one of those players.
You’ll recall the pre- and post-draft analysis cycles last spring when Williams’ work ethic was questioned by everyone from draft analysts to members of University of Oklahoma’s coaching staff (here and here). Even Williams admitted that he didn’t give his “100-percent-all” at times during his college career.
If Williams were lazy, now would be the time for that to show. But he’s working out regularly in Houston with a group of former college teammates highlighted by star Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.
He’s determined to improve on a rookie season in which he showed potential to be a star but struggled at times. His athleticism is elite, but his play also suffered from knee and toe injuries.
“I don’t think nobody’s doing anything different,” said Williams, the fourth-overall pick last year. “You’re basically just working with your trainer a little bit longer until the lockout ends. We’re doing everything that correlates to football, just being ready, trying to be the best you can be.”
Williams’ commitment seems even more significant in light of the open challenge that coach Mike Shanahan issued him at the NFL owners’ meetings earlier this week.
Shanahan pointed to this offseason—the one between Williams’ first and second NFL seasons—as a critical juncture for Williams’ career.
“It’s when they learn how to be a pro, how to get in shape, how to master a system, how to play at a certain level throughout the year,” Shanahan told reporters in New Orleans, per the Washington Post. “He’s got as much talent as anyone that I’ve been around. What he’s got to do, his practice habits, his work ethic, his discipline, his passion for the game have to dictate whether he’s a Pro Bowl player, a Hall of Fame player, or just another player in the National Football League.”
At this stage, at least, Williams appears to be on the right track. However, grinding in Houston this offseason is not about quieting doubters for him.
In fact, he scoffed when reminded of the work ethic questions that dogged him at this time last year.
“People are going to say what they want to say, so I’m really not out here trying to prove anybody wrong,” he said. “I’m just trying to better myself for the Redskins so I can be a vital piece of a championship team.”
Williams made Houston his offseason destination after Peterson found a personal trainer and reached out to some of his former Oklahoma teammates.
“I came down and checked it out and I liked it,” he said.
Among the former Sooners training with them are Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Keenan Clayton, former Carolina Panthers cornerback Marcus Walker and former Jacksonville and New Orleans linebacker Clint Ingram.
“We’re trying to be in tip-top shape for when the lockout ends,” Williams said.
Shanahan will like the sound of that.