Close your eyes.
Imagine a time and a place where you were a young kid. A time when you most likely acted towards your parents like Johnny Manziel acts towards the NCAA, as a pain.
Picturing that? OK.
Now, there was probably a moment when one or both of your parents said the phrase, “I’m going to count to 10 and then (insert random punishment that sounded a thousand times more inhumane than it really was).”
Like most petulant children you probably wanted to test your limits and waited until you heard the number nine pass off the tongue and through your parents lips before you actually did what was being asked of you.
When you’re three, it’s acceptable. When you are a 23-year-old professional, the behavior becomes questionable.
That is Cardinals running back Ryan Williams. After only participating in the first three days of training camp the third-year back from Virginia Tech has sat out ever since. That is, until Coach Bruce Arians threatened to count to ten.
“He needs to start playing,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians told the media Monday. “I can’t evaluate him unless he plays. You can’t get these reps back. He had an excellent OTAs; he started out with an excellent camp; was cutting, running. And then just put the breaks on.”
Williams didn’t return to practice Tuesday though, he waited until the last second, right before Arians said ‘10’, on Thursday to suit up and prove he could give it ago in Saturday’s third preseason game for the team and the first for the young runner.
It’s good that he is back on the field, but it’s about time he realized that nothing is given in the NFL, it is earned. A true star or starter in the league welcomes all challengers to come and try to take his spot. He uses it as motivation and blossoms — like a flower not like the 1990s TV star — under the pressure. He embraces the call to battle like an ancient warrior, picks up his helmet, straps it on and realizes he’s either coming home wearing his helmet or on it (or in the case of Richie Incognito, having it violently swung at his head).
For Williams the fear of injury is greater than Batman fans’ fear of Ben Affleck. That’s just not a way you can play football, a game based on brutality. The personification of a car crash test track. His fear is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more trepid he plays, the more likely he’ll get hurt.
If he can’t take the pressure of playing, so be it. You can’t fault a guy for knowing his limits and for, as Kenny Rogers said, “know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold and know when to walk away.” The problem is the grey area.
He can’t play the role of little kid waiting to be forced to do something he isn’t willing to. It’s not fair to the Cardinals, it’s not fair to him and it’s not fair to the fans. If he doesn’t step up against the Chargers again and becomes a wallflower again, it may be time for Arians to say ‘10’ once and for all.