Trent Williams longed to feel normal again, to be back in the fold, alongside his football brothers in burgundy. After five months of rehabilitation and recovery from offseason knee surgery, the Washington Redskins left tackle recently emerged from his self-imposed “cave” and is finally back where he belongs.
And according to Williams, he is “very close” to being himself again.
“I got the go-ahead to kind of do whatever I can without obviously being too aggressive on it,” he said in his first interview since the end of the 2017 season. “I’m extremely blessed. I’ll be ready before camp.”
Lingering knee pain — so severe that doctors were surprised the 6-foot-5, 320-pound offensive lineman was able to play through it — had necessitated Williams’s sporadic absence on the field last season. Then the offseason brought a medical procedure that was far more involved than he had anticipated.
“Just kind of readjusted my tibia bone. Screwed it back down. Tried to align the joints so that my kneecap isn’t out of place,” Williams said in matter-of-fact detail. “And I had a slight microfracture on top of that . . . during that surgery. [They] drilled a little hole in the kneecap to kind of help the body regenerate.”
Williams, who turns 30 next month, said he spent his time training and working on his strength and conditioning. “You don’t really know how football is going to feel until you play football,” he cautioned, “but I’m back to doing pretty much everything I was doing before.”
Coach Jay Gruden confirmed Williams is on schedule for a training camp return, as are several injured Redskins players. “They’ve all worked extremely hard,” he said. “Trent came in here and has shown great progress, great strength. So I don’t see any reason why these guys won’t be ready for training camp. It’s a matter of how much we throw at them early in training camp.
“We might hold them back early in training camp, but for the most part, I think Ty [Nsekhe], T.J. [Clemmings], Jordan [Reed], Chris [Thompson], Trent, those guys are showing great progress, and we have full anticipation they’ll be ready for Week 1.”
Although Williams was forced to be a spectator during the team’s offseason practices, the veteran entering his ninth season already is impressed by Washington’s offensive acquisitions — namely, his new quarterback, Alex Smith. Save for a few encounters at the Pro Bowl, the left tackle didn’t know much about the former Kansas City Chiefs quarterback, whom the Redskins traded for in March. But despite their limited time together in the facility, Williams is certain of one thing.
“He’s a winner,” he said of Smith, who was 50-26 during his five years with the Chiefs. “You don’t win that many games in this league without being a top talent.”
Williams was a staunch and vocal supporter of former Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, who signed a three-year, fully guaranteed $84 million deal with Minnesota in March. But he sees no drop-off in quarterback production. “He’s been at the pinnacle of this sport for a long time,” Williams said of Smith. “We’re lucky to transition from one franchise quarterback and not having any layoff to get another one. As you all know, you don’t win in this league without a quarterback, so us being able to have one and have one right now — it does everything for our team and our attitude and the faith we have to win.”
Williams also praised rookie running back Derrius Guice, who in his brief time on the field has impressed the coaches with his explosiveness, quickness and pass-catching ability. Not only did Williams highlight Guice’s poise, but he also said of the 20-year-old: “Physically, he’s a specimen. . . . It’s not going to take very long before people recognize him as an elite NFL talent, not just an elite college talent.”
The next six weeks will be a welcome break for Redskins players and coaches alike, but Williams is counting down the days until he can rejoin his teammates on the field at training camp. His return to action is a long time coming and a welcome change after he spent the past several months focused on his recovery.
“The last five months, I’ve been in a cave, just rehabbing, trying to get as close to the normal as possible,” he said. “It’s my first time ever rehabbing from the surgery, so I took it extremely seriously. Being back with these guys, it’s definitely uplifting.”