GREEN BAY – Tramon Williams isn’t a Transformer and doesn’t have a cool nickname like Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin “Megatron” Johnson.
But the Green Bay Packers shutdown cornerback has undergone a transformation since last season: Now that he’s playing without pain or minimized strength in his shoulder, he’s not the same guy who was part of Johnson’s record-setting pass-catching performance in last year’s regular-season finale on New Year’s Day.
In that game, Johnson set a Packers opponent record with 244 receiving yards on 11 catches. But in the teams’ previous meeting in Detroit on Thanksgiving, Williams had one of his best performances of the season, holding Johnson to three catches for 46 yards before a meaningless 3-yard touchdown catch – charged to safety Morgan Burnett – in garbage time.
Johnson said in a conference call Wednesday that he expects to see a lot of Williams on Sunday at Ford Field, and Williams said Thursday that the challenge of defending arguably the NFL’s best pass-catcher is one he enjoys.
“Obviously he's a big guy and a little guy like me, going up against him, (if) you find yourself trying to get too aggressive, the guy's just too strong,” the 5-foot-11, 191-pound Williams said of the 6-foot-5, 232-pound Johnson. “He just kind of throws you here and there and gets you out of position. You don't want that, so you can't play him that way.
“You know that you have a guy of that caliber, that big, that fast, and you know you've got to be on your ‘A’ game. I just kind of have that focus throughout the week, to put together my game plan and practice it all week with the guys on the practice squad. Those guys are giving me a good look at this point and I'm just going out there and battling.”
Williams said his familiarity Johnson helps in his preparation, but he also has to be ready for the unexpected. For instance, it sounds as if the Lions will line Johnson up in the slot more often than they have in the past, which would get Williams off of him in zone coverages.
“No doubt about it, any time you study the film on those guys, they've been doing some things for a while. But at the same time, they've made adjustments to their offense and they're doing a lot of different things now, so you just can't go off of certain tendencies like you used to,” Williams said. “Those guys are doing a good job of camouflaging what they're doing and keeping you on your toes.”
For Williams, it’s another body part that matters most – his shoulder, which he injured in the 2011 regular-season opener and bothered him all season. He said Thursday it hasn’t been an issue at all this year.
“It's a lot easier. First of all, you don't have that mental burden sitting at the top of your head, obviously,” Williams said of the injury. “It's hard enough by itself to come out and just play these guys. Now you have the mental burden of an injury that's nagging you throughout the year, you can't quite focus like you're used to.
“This year I don't have that aspect to my game. I'm feeling good. Not thinking about much, just going out and playing. So it's definitely a big difference. (Last year), obviously I wasn't as aggressive as I usually am. It kind of showed in my play. Mentally I wasn't where I needed to be. Even though I put all I had into my studies and coming into work every day, I did everything I was supposed to do. But mentally, the mental challenge, that's what wears you down the most. I'm over that hump now.”
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