GREEN BAY — Tramon Williams doesn’t know who the next coach of the Green Bay Packers will be, but he knows this much: Whoever it is, he plans on playing for him.
“That’s the plan,” the Packers veteran defensive back said after the team ended its disappointing 2018 season with last Sunday’s 31-0 loss to the Detroit Lions. “That’s the plan.”
Williams, who returned to the Packers in the spring after two years with the Cleveland Browns and one year with the Arizona Cardinals, will turn 36 in March. But he played in all 16 games this past season, his 12th in the NFL.
Of those dozen NFL seasons, Williams has spent nine of them in Green Bay — after joining the practice squad during the 2006 season, he spent 2007 through 2014 with the team during his first tour of duty, then returned in 2018 — and of a possible 157 games during those nine seasons (including playoffs), Williams has played in all but one.
This past season, Williams not only started all 16 games, he also shifted from cornerback to safety after the Packers sent ex-Pro Bowl safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the Washington Redskins at the trading deadline in late October. Having played for first-year defensive coordinator Mike Pettine for a year in Cleveland, he also helped teach the younger players — including a host of young defensive backs — the ropes in the new scheme.
And when the Packers needed a punt returner, who volunteered? Williams.
“Obviously the year didn’t go like we wanted it to, but I said if I would go down with any team, it would be this one,” Williams said. “Just for the opportunity to be able to come back here and play here alone was more than a dream come true than anything, because it rarely happens that a guy is able to come back after he’s gone from a team. It rarely happens, especially at my age.
“To get to do that, man, I thank the Packers every day for it, for giving me another opportunity. To come back and play here is really a dream come true.”
And Williams, who signed a two-year, $10 million deal with the Packers in late March, plans to keep the dream alive.
His contract paid him a $3.25 million signing bonus and a $1.5 million base salary for 2018, and it calls for him to make up to $4.75 million in 2019: A $1 million roster bonus due on the third day of the league year in March, a $3.25 million base salary, a $100,000 workout bonus, and $25,000 per game roster bonuses that would add up to another $400,000 if he plays in every game next season.
The Packers theoretically could move on from him by not paying the roster bonus in March, but with Williams’ versatility (he played at safety, cornerback and in the slot in nickel and dime packages during the season) and leadership skills (he was a positive influence on young defensive backs Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson, Kevin King and Josh Jones), it would seem like a no-brainer to bring him back.
Then again, if Pettine isn’t back as the defensive coordinator under a new head coach, the team could certainly go in another direction.
“Tramon is that glue,” said defensive passing game coordinator Joe Whitt, who also might not be back next year under a new head coach. “I might have done a little bit of a disservice to him this year with all the moving we had to do with him, but he was the glue that kept the group together.
“That’s what I was (always) thinking: ‘Well, OK, if something happens, we can put Tramon there. We can put him anywhere.’ He’s a vet. He’s a pro. I take my hat off to him the way he’s available all the time. He’s the only guy in the room who hasn’t missed a game, that hasn’t missed a practice.
“He’s always available. He’s super-smart. He’s somebody the guys can come to on a number of different fronts. It’s been a pleasure to work with him. It was a pleasure working with him the first time he was here. I hated to see him go, (and) we stayed in constant contact. He’s one of the favorite guys I’ve coached over my time.”
Williams wound up playing all but two of the Packers’ 1,061 defensive snaps this season, finishing with 54 tackles but without an interception. That was an issue for the entire defense, as the Packers finished with only seven interceptions as a team. Only San Francisco (two) had fewer, and Clinton-Dix wound up leading the team with three — even though he played more games for Washington (nine) than he did for the Packers (seven).
Add to that a 6-9-1 finish, and Williams has plenty to be motivated for in 2019.
“It’s disappointing. It’s very, very disappointing,” Williams said. “It should motivate us to be better next year. If you’re around in the league long enough, there’s going to be seasons like this. Things do change. It’s frustrating right now but I’m always optimistic. A lot of motivation.”
EXTRA POINTS: CBS Sports reported that the Packers will interview New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. for the head-coaching job. The team has already reportedly scheduled an interview with Saints tight ends coach Dan Campbell for Saturday. … The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the schedule for the Packers’ Friday interviews with New England Patriots assistants Josh McDaniels and Brian Flores are set. McDaniels, the Pats’ offensive coordinator, will interview in the morning and Flores, the team’s linebackers coach and defensive play-caller, will interview in the afternoon.