Did Cary Williams Just Author the New ‘Practice’ Sound Bite?

Did Cary Williams Just Author the New ‘Practice’ Sound Bite?

Eagles cornerback Cary Williams would like everybody to know that we’re talking about practice – not a game, but practice.

One of the franchise’s top free agent additions from this offseason, Williams was not only expected to come to Philly and start in a rebuilding secondary. Signed away from the Baltimore Ravens for three years/ $17 million, he is being counted on to bring a championship-caliber attitude and effort to the club as well.

Yet prior to this week’s mini-camp beginning on Tuesday, Williams had committed much of his time away from organized training activities at the NovaCare Complex. While the programs are completely voluntary in name, the unwritten rules of NFL coaches call for as close to full participation as possible.

There was Williams’ wedding and subsequent honeymoon, although it was tough to begrudge him that. He was also missing while checking in on the construction of his new home, and to have some dental work done. The latter excuses seemed a bit more unusual.

Most recently Williams skipped last week’s OTAs to attend his daughter’s recital, which is when Jeff McLane finally decided to take him to task. The Eagles beat writer for the Inquirer pointed to Chip Kelly’s staff laying the groundwork for their new defensive schemes at these practices, adding Williams’ absences did not put the team first.

That was last Saturday. Williams had the chance to respond to criticisms for the first time following day one of this mandatory camp.

Per reports, Williams also reflected on his own childhood, acknowledging that he grew up in a household without two parents, and that he is proud to be there for his daughter. It’s not the first time he’s admitted family comes before football.

You have to hold a certain amount of respect for that point of view from a father, but he didn’t stop there. When pressed about the feeling of Eagles fans that he should have participated in these practices, Williams seemed to question the very significance of a full NFL offseason schedule.

We’re talking about practice – voluntary practice at that.

First of all, I’m not sure there even was much of an outcry from the fans to begin with on the subject of players missing OTAs. Even if there was, Williams is right to a degree. If he is ready to play at a high level come September, will anybody care or even remember this story?

As a result of missing so many reps, Kelly did bust Williams down to second-string at some recent practices. However, the head coach has reiterated many times that there is no depth chart in any meaningful sense of the term at this stage of the year, as evidenced by his experimenting with varying “first-team” looks.

According to reports, Williams was back running with the starters on Tuesday. That further meshes with his outlook, which essentially boils down to being ready to do the job when the time comes. Via the Inq’s Zach Berman last week:

"It's just one of those things where I missed a couple of weeks, guys have been here, and Coach has given them an opportunity. And that's fine. OTAs are OTAs. When we get the pads on, it's a different thing."

"Once we get the pads on," Williams said, "the cream will rise to the top."

Ideally Williams would attend every OTA, as would every player on the roster, and I tend to agree with McLane that some of these work diversions could have been scheduled so as not to interfere with team activities. But giving a man grief for attending his daughter’s recital? That seems harsh.

At the end of the day, we’re talking about practice.

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

NEW YORK -- John Wall had 29 points and 13 assists, scoring Washington's final four points in the last 32 seconds as the surging Wizards beat the New York Knicks 113-110 on Thursday night.

Otto Porter Jr. made six 3-pointers for the second straight night and added 23 points, but the Wizards needed big plays from Wall down the stretch to win their fourth in a row.

He made two free throws to put Washington back on top after New York had rallied to take a 110-109 lead, then rebounded Carmelo Anthony's miss and left all the Knicks in his dust as he raced down the floor for a dunk with 13.7 seconds to play.

Anthony finished with 34 points but Wall stole the ball from Brandon Jennings to prevent the Knicks from attempting a 3-pointer that could have tied it (see full recap).

Leonard scores 34 to lead Spurs over Nuggets
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points, rookie Dejounte Murray added a season-high 24 and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a pregame injury to Pau Gasol in beating the Denver Nuggets 118-104 on Thursday night.

Denver's three-game winning streak was snapped despite a career-high 35 points from Nikola Jokic.

Leonard had his fifth straight 30-point performance, right after learning he will start for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season.

The Spurs were unexpectedly without Gasol, Tony Parker and then coach Gregg Popovich. Gasol and Parker were both late scratches due to injury, and Popovich was ejected for the first time this season.

Gasol broke the ring finger on his left (non-shooting) hand by jamming it against Kyle Anderson's shoulder during pregame warmups while attempting a running hook. The 16-year veteran center immediately clutched his hand and left the court.

X-rays revealed the break, and the Spurs said there is no timeline for Gasol's return.

Irving, James lead Cavs over Suns
CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving scored 26 points, All-Star teammate LeBron James had 21 points and 15 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked more like themselves at home in a 118-103 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

The Cavs were back in Quicken Loans Arena following a six-game road trip (their longest of the season) that concluded with an embarrassing 35-point loss at Golden State. But on their home floor, they had better offensive balance and ball movement while improving to 30-11 -- the same record Cleveland had at the halfway point of its 2016 NBA championship season.

Channing Frye scored 18, Iman Shumpert 17 and James Jones 14 while filling in for star forward Kevin Love, still bothered by back spasms.

Tyson Chandler had 22 points and 16 rebounds, but the Suns lost for the fourth time in five games (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist to lead the Washington Capitals to a 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Jay beagle, Brett Connolly, Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams also scored, and Alex Ovechkin and Daniel Winnik each had two assists to help Washington earn at least a point in its 12th straight game (10-0-2) for an NHL-best 66 points.

Braden Holtby bounced back from his roughest outing of the season with 22 saves. Holtby was pulled after giving up a season-high five goals on 26 shots in an 8-7 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Monday. He improved to 22-8-4 and 5-0 lifetime against St. Louis (see full recap).

Grabner scores 2 goals, Rangers top Leafs
TORONTO -- Michael Grabner scored two goals against his former team, helping the New York Rangers snap a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei and J.T. Miller added goals for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves following a series of rough outings.

Tyler Bozak and Zach Hyman scored for Toronto, which had a three-game winning streak stopped. The Maple Leafs had earned 21 of a possible 26 points in their previous 13 games (10-2-1). Frederik Andersen gave up four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).

Tavares leads Islanders to shutout of Stars
NEW YORK -- Getting a new coach this week didn't change things much for the Islanders -- and oddly enough, that's a good thing for New York.

John Tavares narrowly missed out on his second hat trick in a week, Thomas Greiss got his second straight shutout and the Islanders beat the Dallas Stars 3-0 on Thursday night in their first game since firing longtime coach Jack Capuano.

New York canned Capuano in the middle of his seventh season Tuesday, replacing him on an interim basis with Doug Weight (see full recap).

Niederreiter, Wild dodge letdown, edge Coyotes
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nino Niederreiter had two power-play goals and an assist, including the go-ahead score for the Minnesota Wild with 7:06 remaining in a 4-3 victory over Arizona on Thursday night after the Coyotes came back from a two-goal deficit.

With Shane Doan in the penalty box for hooking, Niederreiter knocked in a nifty redirect of Mikael Granlund's slap shot for the winner. Devan Dubnyk stopped 20 shots for the Wild, who are 18-2-2 in their last 22 games.

Louis Domingue made 21 saves for the Coyotes, who lost their fourth in a row and fell to 2-12-1 in their last 15 games starting with a 4-1 loss to Minnesota in Arizona on Dec. 17 (see full recap).