GREEN BAY - Tramon Williams didn’t care whether Tom Brady, Bill Belichick or anyone else knew it: He’s replacing Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at safety.
The Green Bay Packers cornerback said after practice Thursday he has accepted the challenge of playing safety after defensive coordinator Mike Pettine called him earlier in the week and proposed the change.
Clinton-Dix was traded to Washington and Pettine decided to ask Williams to play safety, which he had done three years ago when the two were in Cleveland. Williams doesn’t know exactly how much safety he’ll play, but he has switched his mindset to the new position heading into the New England game on Sunday night.
"Change is always good, but I think it could make a huge difference,” Williams said of the move. “Obviously, we played a really good game against the Rams and things were shaken up a little bit for that game. Now again, arguably one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, it’s something else that’s being shaken up.
“I’m up for the task, I’m excited about it. It’s as simple as that.”
It’s a logical switch for Pettine given the alternatives. He could play Jermaine Whitehead there, but Whitehead is better near the line of scrimmage and is nursing a back injury that could sideline him Sunday.
Josh Jones, a second-round pick in 2017, tried to play regularly last year but made too many mistakes and the Packers can’t afford for that to happen during the toughest stretch of their season. There’s no way Pettine could afford to take that kind of risk with Jones.
So, he dialed up Williams at the start of the week once it was clear Clinton-Dix was headed out.
“I don’t think it was much of a conversation, it was obviously, the business happened, Ha wound up going to Washington. (I) got a chance to communicate with Ha first and foremost. He let us know what his situation he was. Then it went from there.
“We knew that changes were going to be made, but we didn’t know what it was going to be. But it was just a quick call from the coach asking me what I think about the move. Like I said, it really wasn’t much of a conversation. I was willing to do anything for the team. I played this position before so it won’t be that big of a transition.”
Clinton-Dix wasn’t a blow-‘em-up safety, but at 6-1, 208 pounds he’s bigger than the 5-11, 191 pound Williams. Pettine is going to have to figure out a way to keep Williams protected in the run game so he’s not taking on offensive linemen.
The logical thing for him to do is play his other safety, 5-11, 200-pound Kentrell Brice, near the line of scrimmage when it calls for a someone to play in the box. Williams may find himself helping to cover 6-6, 265-pound Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, so his toughness is going to be challenged.
But Williams expects no problem with his assignments.
“One thing that I do (is) study,” he said. “I do study offenses, I do study formations, I do study people. Where they get lined up on the field, it tells you a lot of things.
“So, I better communicate to guys all over the field, which was one of the things that I recognized when I played inside (last week).”
One advantage to the move is that Pettine will have more cornerbacks on the field than normal no matter what personnel grouping. That’s not a bad thing in a pass-happy league. It’s likely this move will allow veteran cornerback Bashaud Breeland to get on the field and keep cornerbacks Kevin King and Jaire Alexander in full-time roles.