ALAMEDA – Raiders quarterback Derek Carr hit Tyrell Williams streaking across the field to his right. The veteran receiver powered through a tackle, regained firm balance and turned toward the end zone. Williams' path was so free and clear that the normally subdued pass-catcher started high-stepping from 20 yards out.
He cruised into the end zone and opened the scoring in an emotional Oakland Coliseum finale. Williams was, in a word, amped. The emotion wore off and a sinking reality sunk in.
His feet started hurting. Again. A painful, nagging bout of plantar fasciitis just wouldn’t leave him alone, not even for a brief moment in the sun.
“[High stepping] was a mistake,” Williams said. “I probably shouldn’t have done that because my feet were pretty sore after. It was nice to get back in there and get a little bit of positivity going.”
That moment sums up Williams’ season well. One step forward consistently met by two steps back.
Williams was given a four-year, $44 million contract to work opposite Antonio Brown in the pattern. He was widely considered a top tier No. 2 but ended up the top option after AB went nuclear.
The new title, and all the additional coverage that comes with it, didn’t fit Williams well this season. He only has 38 receptions for 569 yards and six touchdowns, with just one score since October. Drops have been an issue, especially in key moments. He had two costly miscues during a fourth-quarter comeback attempt against the Houston Texans, another against the New York Jets and another in a sequence that led to Sunday’s loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“I have a lot of confidence in myself, so I don’t let it bring me down or carry over,” Williams said. “It is what it is. I want to make those plays. Everybody wants me to make those plays. I’m able to get rid of it quickly and move on.
“It has just been a lot, with the injuries that have built up. I’m not feeling like myself. That’s the biggest thing, just trying to get over that.”
Williams knows this season hasn’t gone well but is finding ways to learn and grow from the experience.
“Things obviously didn’t go how I wanted, but I believe it will help my career,” Williams said. “Just getting through a rough season personally, with the injury and all the drops and all that is something I’m going to work on extensively this offseason. It’s definitely going to make me a stronger player, a better player. I’m looking forward to these last two games and the opportunity to put something together to vault me into the offseason.”
Williams has two games left, including Sunday’s rematch with the Los Angeles Chargers in Carson. He’d like to get right against his former team and end things on a high note.
He’s still dealing with foot problems that have plagued him since Week 2 and cost him some games before midseason. Williams isn’t one to make excuses. He never once let on that his feet still impacted him after returning to the lineup even though it might’ve quieted a fan base clearly impatient with his play. Williams has been managing pain all season, with medication on game day and extensive treatment during the practice week.
“There were a couple of weeks where I got down,” Williams said. “I had never really been hurt like that before, and I leaned on guys in the league and family, for sure. Coach Gruden was also great. He challenged me to keep building and keep working. The receiver room always showed confidence in me, so it was about focus and getting healthy and ready to play.”
Now Williams will be focused on finishing strong and getting back healthy for next season with the Raiders. He’s no lock to return, with the team able to void his contract without any dead money against the cap or guaranteed money owed the 27-year old receiver.
Time will tell if he moves to Las Vegas with the team, but Williams is set on improving upon a down year affected by an injury that prompted some lackluster play.
“I am excited to get next year here,” Williams said, “where I am healthy and feeling more like myself.”