Williams missed the team’s mandatory minicamp in June for reasons that he has never specified. At the time, Gruden said that Williams was unhappy with the timing of a diagnosis of a growth on his head that a friend of Williams’s described as “a scare.” Reports described the scare as a fear the growth might have been cancerous. He is said to be cancer-free.
Teammates have said Williams was speaking up for others who had similar concerns with the team’s medical staff.
But Gruden twice used the word “business” to describe Williams’s absence, giving the impression that the reason Williams is staying away might be a contractual issue. Back in the spring, Gruden seemed to indicate the same before the focus shifted to Williams’s frustration with the medical staff.
Williams is going into the fourth year of a five-year contract extension, signed in 2015, that will pay him a base salary of $11 million this season and $12.5 million in 2020. At 31, with injuries having shortened his past two seasons, Williams might be able to make more in an extension now than in free agency when he is 33.
“Right now there’s some things he has to work out, individually and personally with his agent,” Gruden said. “Professionally, whatever that may be.”
He also said he has not talked “in depth” with Williams.
In the spring, Gruden said Williams wouldn’t have been medically cleared to practice even if he had shown up for minicamp. He had at least one other procedure on his scalp this summer that was described by a person with knowledge of the situation as “cosmetic.” Gruden did not give a medical update on Williams.
One person familiar with Williams’s health said in the spring that Williams has been working out regularly and is in excellent shape.
Williams, who has been named to the Pro Bowl in each of the past seven seasons, is one of the most critical players to the team’s success. With an offensive line that is already thin because of injury and inexperience, the Redskins might be hesitant to play rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins early if Williams isn’t on the field.
The Redskins lost critical depth on the offensive line when backup tackle Ty Nsekhe signed a free agent deal with the Buffalo Bills. They added former New York Giants tackle Ereck Flowers with the hope of converting him to a guard and having him compete for the starting job next to Williams on the left side. The Redskins put that experiment aside and used Flowers at left tackle during offseason workouts, with Williams absent.
Their only other experienced tackle is Geron Christian, a third-round pick last year who played in two games before tearing his medial collateral ligament in a game at Tampa Bay in November but has been cleared to participate in training camp. For a team with a run-first offense and an open audition at quarterback, that’s a lot of uncertainty on the offensive line.
“I think it can affect practice,” Gruden said when asked how much Williams’s absence will impact camp. “We have to adjust. You know, we’ve learned the hard way over the last couple of years that we have to adjust. We have to get guys ready. It’s no different if he’s injured, or what happens. We have to get other guys ready to play. It’s a great opportunity for other guys. Geron Christian, great opportunity for him. Great opportunity for Ereck Flowers. . . . One person’s absence is another person’s opportunity, and those guys will take advantage of it.”