The first practice of Ravens training camp isn’t until Thursday, but there’s early positive news.
Quarterbacks and injured veterans reported Friday, and with it came the return of third-year tight end Maxx Williams to the field.
Williams had a rare knee surgery last year, which landed him on injured reserve on Oct. 7 after just four games. More than nine months later, Williams stepped back onto the field in his helmet and jersey for the first time Saturday.
“This was always my goal. I don’t know about anyone else, but my goal was to be out there for the start of training camp,” Williams said. “I’m finally back where I want to be. Now I just have to prove that I can play football again and show why I’m here.”
Williams said the specifics of the surgery are too complicated to explain, but he’s sure that nobody has ever had it and returned to play football. Williams said no player has even attempted it.
“I always joke; someone had to get ACL surgery first and somebody had to get my surgery first. I just happened to be the lucky guy that gets to do it,” Williams said.
“I feel great – better than I did before [the surgery].”
The past nine months have been a “gray area” for the 2015 second-round pick out of Minnesota. He’s just 23 years old and was staring at the possible end of his career.
“I didn’t let myself have that mindset,” Williams said. “I told myself every day that no matter what anyone says, you do what you have to do. That’s what I’ve been working and striving for. Now I’ve just got to make it happen all the way.”
Williams’s career got off to a strong start as he set Ravens rookie franchise records for a tight end with 32 catches for 268 yards and one touchdown in 2015. Last year, however, he didn’t catch any passes in his four games played.
It’s still early in his return, but Williams has a chance to emerge. The Ravens have a lot of uncertainty at tight end this year.
Dennis Pitta was released after a third hip surgery and veteran Benjamin Watson is returning from a torn Achilles. Crockett Gillmore is trying to stay healthy after being plagued the past three years. Darren Waller has been suspended for the entire season. Nick Boyle is the only experienced tight end without a question mark.
“Everyone can be the guy and that’s a good problem to have. I think that’s what we strive for is for all of to be out there. Hopefully we’ll have a tight end-dominated offense and get us all out there on the field.”