FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Ryan Williams stood and watched as his Arizona Cardinals teammates practiced in the spitting rain on Tuesday.
The wet turf and some soreness in his surgically repaired right knee led to the decision to keep him out of the workout. It is part of the cautious approach Williams and the team are taking 11 months after he ruptured his patella tendon in a preseason game, an injury that wiped out his rookie season.
"Last (Wednesday) was really my first day of practice since the incident," Williams said. "So there are going to be some times when it will get sore, they will like me to take a break and things of that sort. It's just precautionary."
He said he might not play in Sunday's Hall of Fame Game against New Orleans in Canton, Ohio, "just for the simple fact that I know I'm not 100 per cent."
"There's still sort of a mental block that I have to break down facing another team that will probably be 10 times as aggressive as our team (has been on practice)," Williams said. "I want to make sure I'm completely comfortable and mentally comfortable with myself before I get out there."
He said he has talked with coach Ken Whisenhunt about whether to play on Sunday.
"He asked me how comfortable do I feel," Williams said, "and said I'd let him know later on this week."
But the diminutive, dynamic running back says he has no doubt he will be ready for the regular season, when he is expected to give the Cardinals' offence a big-play aspect it will sorely need. He is expected to give Arizona a strong two-back threat along with Beanie Wells, who remains on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from knee surgery. Wells believes he will be back in time for the season opener.
Williams' talent was on full display in the team's Red and White scrimmage last Saturday, when he took off on a 44-yard run, the biggest play of the day for a mostly sputtering offence. Although he has yet to play in a regular-season game, Williams has become a fan favourite, as evidence by his reception from the estimated 14,500 fans on hand.
"I think this is such a tough business, you have respect for players that are gifted, that do things on the field you just go 'Wow,"' Whisenhunt said. "And Ryan does that every once in a while. That's what catches everybody's eye, like the 44-yard run in practice the other day."
Williams said people who have seen him play realize "that I can bring another dimension to the team."
"They're anxious to see that on the field," he said. "I'm anxious to be out there myself."
The Cardinals drafted Williams in the second round out of Virginia Tech a year ago, and he made an immediate impression. His presence was a factor in Arizona's decision to trade running back Tim Hightower to the Washington Redskins in July of last year.
Williams' ability to cut on a dime, combined with tremendous speed and surprising power, gave the 5-foot-9, 207-pound runner an ever-increasing role leading to the 2011 season. But he went down in a preseason game against Green Bay last Aug. 19, and has had to patiently, persistently work on rehabilitating the injury ever since the subsequent surgery.
He said he knows that many players have needed more than a year to come back from the injury, so he feels comfortable with his current schedule.
Williams also said that enduring the injury and the work it took to come back from it has changed the kind of person he is.
"I had a lot of time to myself, just to really sit back and just think," he said. "I felt like I became a better man."