BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Browns cornerback Greedy Williams has passed every major medical checkpoint in his comeback from a season-ending injury.
He's still got a big one to tackle — literally.
After missing all last season with a nerve injury in his right shoulder, Williams is again practicing at full speed with the Browns, who are continuing their voluntary offseason program in preparation for next week's mandatory minicamp.
It's been a long, difficult road back for Williams, a second-round pick in 2019. He never could have imagined that making a routine tackle during training camp in July would result in him having to spend the entirety of 2020 rehabbing.
On Wednesday, Williams, whose participation was limited last week, ran around the practice field unencumbered.
“It's a great feeling,” he said on Zoom afterwards. "Just being reunited with the team, going through the drills with them and things like that, it gives you the happiest moments.”
For Browns coach Kevin Stefanski, seeing Williams back at close to 100% was a testament to hard work, dedication and perseverance. Williams came close to returning several times last year but suffered setbacks and never made it.
“Like anybody going through an injury, he had some tough moments there, but when he was in this building he had a smile on his face and he worked really hard in that training room,” Stefanski said. "I can tell you, we are all really excited to see him out on the field going through drills.
"To watch somebody rehab like he did, we are excited about where he is going. He has some more work to do, but to see him back on the field and see No. 26 working is great.”
The NFL isn't a two-hand touch league, so at some point soon Williams will have to test his shoulder by lowering it and making a tackle. Only then will he know what the future holds.
He needs to build back strength and trust in his shoulder.
“It is a process," the 23-year-old said. "Go out to rehab, trusting my people and trusting the guys here just to keep rehabbing and working up to the part where I trust it again. Just having a strong team behind me, and we are pushing it every day to get better and get back out there.”
Williams likened the rehab process to a fight, rounds and rounds of absorbing punches and swinging back. He finally feels as if he's got the upper hand.
His bout isn't over, but he's closer to the end than ever.
"I am just pushing it to the limit of being able to get back out there,” he said.
Williams' injury and the uncertainty about his return may have pushed the Browns toward drafting Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II in the first round this year. He'll compete with Williams for a starting spot opposite Denzel Ward, one of Cleveland's best players and one of the few holdovers from a defense overhauled this offseason.
Not long after Newsome was selected, Williams welcomed his new teammate to Cleveland with a posting on Twitter. To some, the gesture may have been strange considering Williams could lose his job to Newsome.
Williams viewed it differently.
“That is my teammate,” he said. "That is the guy I am going to go to war with each and every Sunday and really every day once we start camp. You have to embrace these guys. You have to make everyone feel like family when they are new coming in.
"That is kind of my role to do that, welcome him in and let him know we are going to get to work.”
NOTES: Stefanski said the Browns will have two joint practices with the New York Giants before their Aug. 22 exhibition in Cleveland. ... Star DE Myles Garrett is not at this week's workouts after attending last week. ... While the Browns had 60 players on hand, they were missing some of their best, including QB Baker Mayfield and WRs Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. Mayfield is hosting some teammates in Austin, Texas, for workouts. Stefanski said he's not communicating with Mayfield and the others about what they should be working on. "As far as it relates to Baker and what is going on down there, my jurisdiction for the offseason program does not extend past Berea,” he said. ... Stefanski joked that a scouting report on his baseball career may be why he's yet to be invited to Landry's charity softball event this weekend.
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