Tramon Williams thought about doing the unthinkable Sunday.
Nursing an ankle injury, the iron man in the Green Bay Packers' secondary said sitting against the Carolina Panthers was in serious consideration. Williams, who left last week's game in Miami early with an injury, tested the ankle for the first time Friday. He went through Saturday's short, brisk practice and felt good.
Playing is almost automatic for Williams. He's missed only one game in his career, playing in 118 of the 119 possible through Sunday. He consulted his wife during the week. Together, they talked about what was the best longterm decision.
"I wasn't going to jeopardize my health if I couldn't go," Williams said, "but I felt like I was able to go."
Williams was open about his motivation. The one game he'd ever been forced to watch from the sideline was in 2011. It came against the Carolina Panthers.
On that day, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton – then a rookie in just his second game – torched Green Bay's secondary for 432 passing yards.
"Yeah, I know," Williams said.
He remembered. Williams, who's played through injuries before, didn't want that feeling again.
"It's hard to keep me out, obviously," Williams said. "Only missed one game in my career, and part of the motivation was the one game I missed was against these guys. I wanted to come back out and face that right there."
Williams said his ankle felt better than he expected. On the field, in the heat of competition, adrenaline took over. He jumped more than one route, finishing with three tackles and a defended pass. He also was called for pass interference in the first half, wiping out linebacker Clay Matthews' high-stepping touchdown off an interception.
Williams shook his head at that play. "Made a good break," he said. Right or wrong, it was a frustrating call. Before kickoff, Williams said Matthews approached him with an idea. With a bad ankle, the linebacker told his cornerback he'd have to tip an interception to him – just like the two did a couple weeks ago against the Chicago Bears.
"He said, 'You don't want to be running on that ankle too much,'" Williams said. "I was like, 'OK.' I said, 'Maybe I'll just tip it to you then, and let you do just like you done the last time.' Sure enough, it happened just like that.
"I was like, 'Wow.' It was a coincidence."
It was no coincidence Williams found his way onto the field and played well through injury, given his history. The cornerback said it was a true game-time decision. Williams didn't want to falsely lead the Packers on, making it look like he was prepared to play throughout the week only to be unable to dress Sunday.
Still, anyone who knew Williams understand the inevitable. Few players in the NFL are so determined to stay on the field.
"I thought Tramon Williams stepped up in a huge way," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "You talk about an old-school pro getting himself healthy, getting back out there. Played well."
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