GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers will get an influx of young talent again come spring, and with more than a dozen unrestricted free agents headed for the open market, the makeup of their roster could be vastly different in 2014.
But if Tramon Williams has anything to say about the roster – assuming he’s on it himself – the Packers veteran cornerback would like to see more veterans on it.
“Talent will only get you so far,” Williams said as the Packers players cleaned out their Lambeau Field lockers Monday morning, following the team’s 23-20 NFC Wild Card Playoff loss the day before.
“You’ve got to adjust to the game, adjust to the tactics, prepare well, find a way to prepare and get that edge on the field. Realistically, everyone’s good on this level. You have to find out what it is for you to get that edge, for you to be able to be a step forward from the next guy. That’s what it’s about.
“When you have a young team like this, that’s what you’re challenged with. You’re challenged with coming in and – with young guys, with talented young guys, they play, but the game’s still fast for them because they don’t understand what teams are trying to do. They don’t understand the scheme fully. They don’t understand what the scheme can do for them once they understand it. That’s what you’re faced with.
“A lot of guys thought they know how to prepare when they were in college and whatnot, but then they get into the league and you find out that it’s a different level to preparation. That’s what you’re faced with with young guys.”
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ scheme is a complex one – it boasts possibly the thickest playbook (or the most gigabytes of plays, now that playbooks are on iPads) in football. And to Williams, some of the team’s defensive deficiencies were the result of young players being thrust into positions they were ready for.
With Packers general manager Ted Thompson’s strict draft-and-develop approach – not since 2006, when he signed cornerback Charles Woodson, defensive tackle Ryan Pickett and safety Marquand Manuel, has he been truly active in free agency – an influx of veteran players seems unlikely.
Add to that the number of household names headed for free agency on defense – defensive linemen Johnny Jolly, B.J. Raji, C.J. Wilson and Pickett, outside linebacker Mike Neal and cornerback Sam Shields – who may or may not be re-signed, and the Packers could be relying on young players on that side of the ball again next year.
Not to mention Williams turns 31 in March and has a base salary of $6.9 million and cap number of $9.5 million for next season – when a reporter began a question with “I don’t know if you’ll be back …” Williams quickly replied, “I don’t know, either” -- may have to restructure his deal in order to return.
Williams and Jarrett Bush (29) were the old men in the secondary this season, with fellow cornerbacks Shields (26), Davon House (24), Casey Hayward (24), Micah Hyde (22) and safeties Morgan Burnett (24), M.D. Jennings (25), Chris Banjo (23) and Sean Richardson (23) all age 26 or younger.
“Yeah, it’s a young league but it’s an old league, too, because the old guys make the league go,” said Williams, whose interception – and subsequent violent collision with 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick – ignited the Packers in the second quarter Sunday. “I had the privilege to play with (Charles) Woodson and (Nick) Collins and Al Harris. I understand what chemistry in the secondary can do. That’s what you try to find when you get a good group of guys. You want to get guys all on the same page. You want guys to see things like you see it if you’re the leader of that group. When you can get guys to that point, it slows the game down for everyone in that back end.
“That’s what we’re trying to get. We have a great group of young guys in this room but, like you said, they’re young. They can play, very talented but still, they’re young.”