After being released by the Seahawks on Dec. 7, Cary Williams held out hope that he’d get another chance to play this season, though he wasn’t necessarily counting on it given the timing.
But then the call came. The Redskins had lost yet another defensive back in Week 17 and needed an experienced player who could contribute right away.
Williams, a 31-year-old with a Super Bowl ring, fit that profile.
“Shoot, I was [at home] taking care of one of my daughters, my smallest one,” he said with a grin. “I got the call and I was elated. I was excited to get back to football.”
Williams has appeared in 97 career games, including 75 starts, spread over eight seasons with the Titans, Ravens, Eagles and Seahawks. Seattle had the signed rangy, 6 foot 1, 190-pound veteran to a three-year, $18 million contract (including a $3.5 million signing bonus) last offseason, but he struggled to adapt to the Seahawks’ defense and was cut after a Week 11 benching.
How exactly Williams will be deployed by the Redskins on Sunday—and how much he'll play—remains to be seen as no one in Ashburn tipped his hand this week. But it’s possible he’ll see ample playing time against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, particularly with rookie corner Quinton Dunbar listed as questionable with a quad injury.
Williams said his experience playing in several schemes over the years has helped him assimilate quickly. It's important to note that he's playoff tested, as well, having started seven of the 11 postseason games in which he's appeared. In February 2013, he helped the Ravens win Super Bowl XLVII.
“There’s a lot of similarities there, no question,” Williams said, comparing the Redskins' scheme to others that he's played in. “Some terminology is the same. That’s the great thing about this situation here is I know some of the terminology and I know some of the defensive schemes that we’ve been practicing thus far this week.”
“I feel comfortable,” Williams added, “so that’s a good thing.”
Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry and his assistants have become experts at integrating free agents on short notice this season, having already converted Will Blackmon and Mason Foster from in-season signings into starters.
“There’s a huge difference between a guy that is on the street, that has limited experience, and a guy that’s on the street that has played a bunch of football,” Barry said. “It’s nice when you do bring those guys in that have played a bunch of ball because they understand. They get it. There isn’t much that they haven’t seen. Cary is definitely in that [category].”
Barry also said he could see Williams playing on either side and, potentially, in the slot, as well.
“You can play him anywhere,” Barry said. “He’s had experience doing both so we’re not going to limit him to just playing him in one spot. He’s a guy that has played a bunch of ball in this league. He’s started a bunch of games. He’s played in a bunch of big games. He’s played high-level football. He’s been great. He’s come in here and gone right to work.”
Although Williams is still learning the playbook, he's already familiar with one player he'll be lining up alongside. Williams and Blackmon spent last offseason in the Seahawks’ camp.
“He and I, we became really close when we both were in Seattle,” Blackmon said. “We’re really good friends. I feel like his adjustment will be fine. You wouldn’t bring a guy in here who wouldn’t be ready. He has postseason experience. He has a Super Bowl ring. We’ll keep it simple for him. We’re not going to try and do anything crazy this week. We’re just going to try and play fast.”
Despite a whirlwind of a week that included just a handful of practice and meetings, Williams said he’s confident that he’ll be ready for whatever the Redskins—or Rodgers—throw at him.
“It’s a great opportunity for me and I’m just trying to make the best of it,” he said. “My expectation is to be the best me I possibly can, man, and contribute as best I possibly can. I’m going to go out there and compete and just be Cary Williams out there on the field.”