GREEN BAY – Position coaches defend their players all the time. But not the way Joe Whitt did with Tramon Williams on Wednesday.
The Green Bay Packers cornerbacks coach, who is arguably the most quotable and straightest shooter on a staff filled with them, has clearly heard enough from the peanut gallery about his star cover man, who was playing at an elite level during the team’s 2010 Super Bowl XLV title run, then struggled after suffering nerve damage in his shoulder after being hit there during the 2011 season opener and had some less-than-stellar moments last season, when he bounced back reasonably well from the previous year’s struggles.
Several plays, including a screen pass by the New York Giants on Dec. 4 and a missed tackle against the Minnesota Vikings, were pinpointed by critics as proof that Williams wasn’t willing to be physical anymore because of the shoulder injury that hampered him for all of 2011. He also took on opposing teams’ best receivers as the match-up corner with Charles Woodson having moved to safety.
And so, when asked after the team’s minicamp practice Wednesday about the public perception of Williams’ play last season, Whitt politely and eloquently got a lot off his chest.
“I’m going to give you a long answer, and I usually don’t give long answers, OK?” he began. “But I want to forever get this taken care of so we can move forward. (Last) year, Tramon played very solid. Now, he had some glaringly bad plays. The New York screen looked really (bad). The Minnesota (game), there was a run that came out, which he was not wrong but it looked really bad on him. And the commentators (explained) it wrong. They put it on him. I’m sitting there watching them (explain) it wrong during the game, you know with our TV up there (in the coaches booth).
“So that’s what people hear, even though the commentators are wrong, that’s all they know because those people are supposed to be the experts. Now, did he play as good as he did in 2010? No. I’m going to take some of that for the fact that we asked those guys this year for as much as possible to get up and press, which he can press. (But) he gets the ball better when he’s off. He makes more impactful plays from playing off. Sam (Shields) makes more impactful plays being pressed. So (Williams) plays better (when he’s not pressing) because he can see the ball and go get (it).
“If you go back to 2010, most of his impact plays came from being off. This year, my whole mantra, and I told (defensive coordinator) Dom (Capers), I know we want to press because if you look at our completion percentage, they don’t complete a lot of balls on us. Now, we still gave up too many explosives but they don’t complete a lot of balls on us. We might give up a little more completions, but I’m going to allow them to do what they do, so you might see Tramon and Casey (Hayward) play off. But I have a feeling he’s going to make more of those splash plays .
“Other than (the fact that) he only had two interceptions, his play was not much different than 2010. But he didn’t have the splash plays where I believe he had six interceptions during the year and three more during the playoffs and that was a ‘Wow’ year. And, he had tougher assignments (last year). He matched every week against somebody where the previous year, well 2010, we matched him and ‘Wood.’ This year, Sam’s going to have to step up, Casey’s going to have to step up or (Davon) House is going to have to step up. And so that’s really what happened.
“I hear people saying, ‘Tramon can’t play.’ They’re wrong. They’re wrong. They’re taking a few glaringly bad plays and saying a man can’t play. Where, I’m going to tell you this: There’s few guys that I would take over him (in the NFL). I don’t know if there’s any that I would take over him because when he’s allowed to do what he does best, he’s pretty good, and that’s just what it is.
“I know some people are going to say, ‘He’s protecting his player.’ No, that’s just what it is because after the season I went back and watched every play, over 1,200 plays. The guy can play, and he played physical, too. Let me clear that up, too. You go back and watch the games. Now, did he miss the tackle on the fullback from Minnesota? Yeah, but he went up there and hit it. We’re going to miss some tackles. We’re not going to be 100 percent on backs. I’m going to get into every single play, but he’s going to play fine this year. He’s not what I’m worried about.”
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