GREEN BAY - Jamaal Williams sees the tweets. He hears the noise. There are doubters out there. He knows how they feel about him.
“The ones who are saying the bad things or the things that ain’t positive for your well-being, you just take those things and make it a personal challenge to prove them wrong,” he said. “Honestly, it’s up to you how you choose to handle it.”
On the one hand, Williams hopes 4.6 yards per carry and his longest run of the season against the Chicago Bears’ second-ranked rushing defense quiets it all a bit. But as he prepares once again to be the Green Bay Packers’ lead running back for the final two regular-season games of 2018, another thought had crossed his mind.
“After you’ve done it, you can go and confront them about it, you could wait for them to come to you and ... say ‘oh, you’re great now,’” he said with a smile. “But in your mind you already screen-shotted tweets and whatever they said about you and you want to show them like ‘hey, remember when you said this?’ Then you feel good tellin’ them go on about your business and let it go.”
He kept his smile.
Williams knows that’s not how it works. What works best is what is done on Sundays.
“At the end of the day it’s still how you feel about you and how you want to play your game,” he said. “Pretty much just play your game, work hard, and the game will show how you plan for it. If you train hard and did your thing, you’ll be good.”
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Which is why the second-year running back out of BYU says he’s in a good frame of mind as the team prepares to head to New York. Williams last carried the bulk of the rushing load in weeks one and two when Aaron Jones was suspended, rushing 31 times for 106 yards (3.4 yards per attempt). Gradually, Williams saw his carries slow to a trickle, getting just one in games against Seattle and Minnesota. Like the rest of the offense, he struggled against Arizona (seven carries, 13 yards) but the last two weeks he has carried 16 times for 72 yards at 4.5 yards per rush.
He also caught four passes for 42 yards against the Bears after Jones left the game with a knee injury, setting season high totals in both categories.
Now with Jones on injured reserve, Williams will likely be the primary option for interim head coach Joe Philbin at the New York Jets and the season finale against Detroit on Dec. 30 at Lambeau Field.
“He’s contributed a lot already to the season, but obviously his role changed on Sunday (against Chicago),” Philbin said. “And I thought he responded well. There were two or three runs I wish he would have made this cut or took that angle, no doubt about it. But he played physical, he played decisive, he went north-and-south, the guy’s a good football player. I thought he did a good job.”
The Packers claimed fifth-year veteran Kapri Bibbs off waivers to add depth to the running back room and may yet promote Lavon Coleman off the practice squad this week. But make no mistake – it’s once again Williams’ time.
And he’s looking to showcase his own explosiveness, like the 20-yard touchdown run against the Bears that tied the game at 14.
“It felt good. It felt good to finally get me a, I call those ‘Aaron Jones runs,’” Williams said. “’Aaron Jones runs’ where you’re just running, you just run, that’s all. He ain’t gotta touch nobody. It was a good run. It felt good. I was so surprised I didn’t even know (I scored). So I just hit my signature. I had a touchdown dance ready but I was like, I don’t think this is the time to hit it. I’m waiting on it, though.”
Williams admitted Sunday was fun, getting the bulk of the carries for the first time since September. It caused a bit of the “good soreness” on Monday. But looking ahead, he’s confident he has done the proper work to be ready for a similar workload to end the season.
“So when the time comes your body isn’t going to be shocked by as many plays as you are getting,” Williams said. “You just gotta keep yourself mentally focused, always ready like you’re going to go every week.”