Inside the Ravens with Aaron Wilson

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

D. Williams strengthens to remain healthy

WESTMINSTER --Demetrius Williams already had the ornate tattoo of his favorite superhero adorning his right biceps, an image of Spider-Man with a football caught in his web.

Now, the Baltimore Ravens’ wide receiver has done something else to try live up to his Spider-Man nickname.

Chalk this one up to the equivalent of Spider-Man's Peter Parker character growing tired of being bullied.Through a rigorous weightlifting regimen and a metabolism that finally allowed him to gain some weight, Williams is sporting a bigger, thicker, leaner upper body after gaining roughly 15 pounds. The additional muscle is especially evident in his arms, neck and chest.

Williams is banking on the additional body armor finally transforming him into a durable football player after two years of injuries potentially derailing a promising career.

“I feel like I’m ready for it all,” Williams said Tuesday morning following the Ravens’ opening practice of training camp in Westminster. “I think I’m in the best physical shape I’ve been in for a long time. I’m not worried about anything or being injured.

“I feel like this year I’m healthy and I definitely will be able to make an impact. The biggest thing is not so much gaining weight, but strength to prevent injuries as much as possible. Being frail isn’t going to help you to stay in the NFL for a 16-game season.”

After being limited to seven games last season and 13 receptions for 180 yards and a touchdown due to an Achilles tendon and ankle injury that required surgery, Williams has designs on a healthy season and generating major production.

In three seasons in the NFL, the former fourth-round draft pick from Oregon has only made it through one year without missing a game. And that was during his rookie campaign when he caught a career-high 22 passes for 396 yards and two touchdowns.

Tired of occasionally being overpowered by larger, stronger defensive backs and spending so much time in the training room, Williams did something about it by bulking up to be able to protect himself from NFL bullies and to preserve his health.

“It was a big goal of Demetrius’ to become bigger and stronger,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He wanted to put on a lot of weight, become stronger, build muscle mass around the joints, so he could be more durable.

“I think his goal is to become a durable football player, along with becoming capable of doing all the things he needs to do as a receiver. He looked good out here. There was no indication of the Achilles at all.”

During minicamps, Williams still had a slight hitch in his gait even though he was able to accelerate and catch the football in stride.

Now, he’s smoothly getting in and out of his routes and gaining separation downfield.
Despite the added bulk, the Concord, Calif., native doesn’t appear to have lost any speed after putting on the weight on a gradual basis through proper nutrition and lifting heavier weights.

“He looks good, he looks big, he looks fast,” Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. “He looks ready to go, so we’ll get him out there catching balls in live action and see what he can do.”

When he’s healthy, Williams is capable of achieving quite a lot.

At Oregon, he emerged as the third-most prolific receiver in school history with 162 career receptions for 2,600 yards and 20 touchdowns. As a senior, Williams tied Ahmad Rashad’s school record with 10 touchdown catches.

“I feel like I just bring another receiver that we definitely can count on,” Williams said. “I just want to be one of those guys on the field that the defense needs to worry about.”

Williams earned his nickname at Oregon due to his penchant for making one-handed catches.

Now, he’s trying to rebuild his reputation and shake an injury-prone tag he earned by being limited to 16 games over the past two seasons. Williams was limited to nine games, four starts and 20 receptions for 290 yards before being sidelined for the remainder of the season with a high-ankle sprain. It has been a major strain on Williams’ psyche to be relegated to watching when he’s accustomed to contributing on the field.

“I think with patience, it brings something great,” Williams said. “I’ve been waiting, I’ve been waiting, and I think it’s my time to go out and do something about it. I’ve been sitting around for a few years hurt. I got all that stuff behind me now, so now I’m ready to go out and play.”

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