When former Baltimore Ravens cornerback Cary Williams signed a three-year, $17 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles in March, it was a good gamble for the seventh-round pick in the 2008 NFL draft. Williams had turned down a $15 million offer from the Ravens the year before, and one Super Bowl win later, he got the most from the open market. Part of the reason he turned down Baltimore's earlier offer, Williams said, was that he was thinking about his household.
"It's good money, but my job is to make the most money I possibly can for my family," Williams told the Baltimore Sun last August. "I'm thinking about my daughter and any future children I want to have. I want some kind of security, and the deal we had wasn't like that."
Williams also cited his work ethic in that article, but the Eagles may be wondering if Williams' focus on family isn't cutting into his emphasis on football. In their minicamp report on Friday, the team listed absences and reasons, as is standard, but were very specific about the fact that Williams missed a voluntary team activity to attend his daughter's dance recital. Star offensive tackle Jason Peters was also absent, but his absence was listed as being due to personal reasons -- which is standard operating procedure. Perhaps the Eagles were peeved because Williams was a no-show on Friday, and the team had to call him to get the explanation -- he was attending the recital, which was in another state.
According to Philly.com, Williams also scheduled his wedding for the time normally reserved for spring practices, and attributed other absences to dental work and the construction of a new house.
Again, it should be emphasized that these early practices are not mandatory, but as Keyshawn Johnson once famously discovered, the whole concept of "voluntary mandatory" does speak volumes to teammates when players don't show up for reasons that don't pass muster. Especially when, as Rotoworld pointed out, "opponents threw for 1,000 yards, six touchdowns, and a 91.6 quarterback rating while targeting Williams" in the 2012 regular season. Williams also ranked 79th in Football Outsiders' Adjusted Success Rate metric against the pass, and finished 64th in Pro Football Focus' "Coverage Snaps per Reception" stat. So, a little practice could go a long way in his case.
Receiver Jason Avant, who is trying to make tracks in a new Eagles offense run by head coach Chip Kelly said that he wished Williams didn't miss so much time, "because at some point, you're going to need that person and you want them to be able to know what to do and be accountable when the season starts."
Avant, however, stopped short from questioning Williams' devotion to a team that is rebuilding on both sides of the ball.
"If you sit down with Cary, he's definitely committed," Avant said. "Guys in the locker room know the guys that are committed to their craft, and Cary is definitely one of those guys."
Sure, but actions speak louder than words -- especially when you've just signed a fairly rich contract.