Each week, we bring you a Q&A with a Ravens player, coach or team executive to help you learn a little more about the team. Today's guest is running back Ricky Williams.
How is the season unfolding for you on a personal level?
It's good. I guess I judge my personal season on the success of the team and my ability to contribute. I haven't had a bunch of chances to contribute, but I've had a couple runs that we really needed. I've taken practice reps and given Ray [Rice] some rest. So I'm feeling good about this year.
For a long time, you were a starter in the league. Are you comfortable with your role as a complement to Ray Rice?
There's times when I wake up and I feel energetic and I feel like I'm 25 again. But in reality, I'm 34, and for me, to have the opportunity to still play in this league, that a team still wants me on their roster, that's what's good. To land on a good team with a lot of veteran leadership and a great organization, I really feel fortunate.
Is there a part of you that desires to be a starter again?
Of course, there’s a part that says that, and then I realize that I’m caught up in the moment. If I had to, I could definitely do it. But at this point in my career, I think more about quality of life. I’ve carried the ball a lot of times in this league, and I’ve taken a lot of hits, and like I said, if I had to do it, I think I could do it. To be in a position to choose to do it, I don’t know if I would make that choice.
By the numbers, your most productive game of the season occurred against the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 4 when you set season bests in carries (16) and yards (76). Have you found your comfort level within the offense?
It's more of a rhythm thing, I think. The fact is, I've been a starter and that's really all I've been for most of my career. My style is to get a feel, to get carries. Most games that I get in the game early, I get a chance to get a feel, and I'm able to be more productive. For me in my career, it's difficult for me to be on the sideline and then run in for two plays and then run out and sit on the sideline for a quarter and then get two plays. I'm not accustomed to that. It's been an adjustment. But when I can get into a game early and get into the flow of the game, then I'm much better.
So how do you adapt both physically and mentally to playing sporadically and at a moment's notice?
It's definitely been an adjustment. I have fewer opportunities to be productive. So I just focus on my technique. When I get in there, the things that I can control as far as my footwork and my keys, I just have to focus extra hard on those things. Sometimes it works, and sometimes I feel like I'm not getting enough opportunities to do that.
Because of the limited number of chances, do you feel more pressure to be especially productive when you are inserted into the offense for Ray Rice?
Not really. I was in the weight room today, and I was talking to "Mother" [assistant strength and conditioning coach John Dunn], and he said, "We're winning and people around here really like you." That really made me think. So I don't feel pressure. If this was a contract year or I wasn't signed for next year and I was insecure about my age and my ability to play football, I think I would feel more pressure. But I feel very comfortable.
Is it important for you to be liked?
I think so. That's very important to me. I think especially when you're on a football team and you spend so much time around the same guys, it's nice not to be a burden on anyone. It's nice that people are able to appreciate you and want to be around you. It's just a good feeling.
In answering a question about you last week, Ray Rice said you were the "best thing to happen to me this season." What does it mean to you when someone says that?
Coming from Ray, it means something different than it would if it came from someone else. That's just Ray. He's young, and he's still learning about the NFL. I think unfortunately for him, when he was drafted, the running back ahead of him went to the Pro Bowl the previous year. And Willis [McGahee] was and still is a great runner. He's having a great year now. And then [former fullback] Le'Ron [McClain] was also running the ball very well. So I think for Ray, there was always this sense of competition for carries. The essence of that statement is that [fullback] Vonta [Leach] is not competing for carries, and I'm not going to compete for carries. I think we both accept our roles, and I think Ray is doing very well in accepting his role as the main guy. I think he just feels more support than he's felt in the last couple of years.
Considering your experiences, how have you tried to counsel Ray Rice?
In my opinion, the best way to try to help young players is to first, try to get to know who the guy is and what you can do to help him. Ray’s his own guy. He’s definitely his own guy. He’s very independent. And so I just step back and if I see something, I’ll make a simple statement, and he knows that if there’s anything he wants to talk about, he can talk to me. But he’s one of those guys where he’s going to do his own thing, and if needs help, he’ll ask for it.