Tramon Williams learned everything he needed to know about the NFL on his first play from scrimmage.
When the Green Bay Packers opened the 2007 regular season by hosting the Philadelphia Eagles, Williams was one of the last defensive backs on the depth chart. He was just happy to make the 53-man roster after spending the final five weeks of 2006 on the practice squad.
It took all of one quarter before injuries forced Williams into the game. It took all of one play to get picked on. It took just seconds to get burned.
Williams gave up a 37-yard gain from Donovan McNabb to Kevin Curtis on his very first snap.
“That was pretty much the eye-opener right there,” Williams said. “It’s one of those things that you learn from — to always be prepared. You can always go into the game at any time.
“I always remember it.”
It’s fitting that Williams will likely make the first opening-day start of his career against the Eagles on Sept. 12. With cornerback Al Harris still recovering from season-ending knee surgery, Williams has worked with the No. 1 defense throughout training camp. He missed organized team activity workouts during the offseason before signing a $3.043 million restricted free-agent tender and attending mandatory minicamp. Williams was placed among the starters immediately.
No one knows when Harris will return to the field. It is now Williams’ responsibility to play an even bigger role in a defense that struggled against the pass down the stretch.
“I want to be an all-around guy, not just be a guy out there,” Williams said. “Obviously, to play across from (Charles) Woodson you’re going to be labeled as (just) another guy because Woodson’s so great. … I want to be an example of what Wood is doing — be that type of player.”
Williams is going to see plenty of action with teams staying way from Woodson, the reigning defensive player of the year, and Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins.
“That’s something I’m ready for,” Williams said. “That’s what I live for. To come out knowing guys are going to come my way and be up for the task. Make plays when I’m out there.”
The Packers led the NFL with 30 interceptions in 2009. Woodson had nine, including three brought back for touchdowns, and Collins finished with six. Williams had four of his own and added 42 tackles.
Receiver Greg Jennings has watched the evolution of Williams’ game.
“He was a little jumpy — we’re all young, we come in and we’re jumpy at our positions,” Jennings said. “He’s definitely matured as far as his awareness. He’s always been one of those guys that’s very good on transition, breaking on the ball, getting his hands on, good at tackling.
“He loves the fact that he’s going to get opportunities because they’re going to throw at him. They’re going to feel like he’s that weak link. He’s looking at it like they’re going to attack me and I’m going to make them pay.”
Williams’ presence is critical to the Packers’ Super Bowl aspirations. Brandon Underwood and Pat Lee are in a heated battle for the No. 3 cornerback duties, but neither are ready to pair with Woodson. That’s why getting Williams to sign his contract was so critical for a team that was torched through the air against Pittsburgh and in the playoff loss to Arizona.
“For him, it’s just starting out really being the guy,” Woodson said. “Playing with the (No. 1 defense) from the beginning, you can see his confidence continue to grow as a player.
“It’s an opportunity for him. As long as he’s out here, he’s going to do his best to hold onto it.”