That’s the reason issued by Williams for participating in the first few periods of individuals at the start of practice but standing by himself on the sideline during 7-on-7 drills and full-team scrimmages while reserves like Nolan Carroll, Curtis Marsh and Roc Carmichael took turns replacing the right cornerback.
“I’ll be back out there as soon as I can,” Williams said. “Chip [Kelly] understands that I work hard, I try to do everything within the system. Today, he just gave me a day off. It’s not a big deal.”
But the timing seemed strangely coincidental.
On Friday, Williams sounded off on the upcoming joint practices with the Patriots, whom he called “cheaters,” and said there’s no benefit to practicing against other teams (see story). The Eagles broke a long drought of joint practices last year when Kelly welcomed the Patriots to South Philly for a few joint sessions before a preseason game.
The Eagles were off Saturday. Before Sunday’s practice, Kelly said he appreciated his cornerback’s insight (see story). The coach then needed a heavy-duty set of pliers to dislodge the tongue from his cheek.
But Williams insisted that his sudden hiatus wasn’t some kind of one-day penalty for his remarks about the Patriots and joint practices.
“No, it had nothing to do with that,” Williams said. “I haven’t even discussed anything with Chip. I don’t think he’s trying any type of … I’m sure maybe we’ll have a conversation, but I don’t know.”
When informed of Kelly’s “appreciate the insight” response, Williams laughed and seemingly went overboard to shower his coach with praise.
“He’s a great dude, man. A great coach, man,” Williams said. “I love playing for him.”
Williams explained that he went through warmups and “couldn’t practice up to the standards of what Chip [wants] nor to myself,” so he informed his coaches that they’d be better off with someone else in the scrimmages.
“I knew I couldn’t give them everything,” he said. “I couldn’t do that. I didn’t want to let my teammates down. I know those guys work hard, just as hard as I do.”
Perhaps the cynic (Who me? Never…) would wonder why Williams would suddenly feel soreness after the team had its scheduled off day Saturday. On the flip side, with the Eagles in pads for the fifth straight practice, conspiracy theorists might point out that several teammates are likely nursing some kind of minor soreness.
Adding to the intrigue, Williams first told reporters after practice that he wasn’t injured and that missing practice time was “part of the process.” He spoke tersely and was quickly whisked away by team officials for autograph signing.
About 20 minutes later, Williams was ushered back in front of reporters by the team’s longtime director of public relations and seemed much more chipper (pardon the pun) and less circumspect.
The reality is, punishment or not, Williams’ absence from practice is only a big deal on a slow news day. Without tackling to the ground, without an actual game until this weekend, storylines at camp tend to gravitate toward the superficial.
Maybe Williams is really sore, maybe he’s not. Twenty-four hours from now, it’s probably an issue.