Tyrell Williams wanted to start his career with the Raiders on the right foot, but a plantar fasciitis injury plagued him throughout the 2019 season.
General Manager Mike Mayock and Head Coach Jon Gruden signed Williams last offseason intending to make him the Raiders' WR2 for years to come. Despite his injury, Williams managed to fight through the pain and start in 12 games, totaling 42 receptions, 651 receiving yards, and six touchdowns.
Plantar fasciitis injuries can linger without a specific timetable for recovery, but a restful offseason has Williams feeling back to full strength and ready to hit the 2020 season in stride.
"I feel good coming into this season, compared to how I was feeling last year with my feet and everything," Williams told reporters Wednesday. "I feel a lot better, feel 100 percent. I'm excited and feel fast, I feel back to myself. I'm glad to feel that way finally and kind of be passed that."
The trouble with foot injuries is that there isn't one treatment that necessarily works better than the rest, and as cliche, as it sounds, time is the ultimate remedy. Williams' gradual return to being 100 percent started toward the end of last season, but he's unable to pinpoint exactly what he did to relieve the pain.
"It took a while, took a pretty long time into the offseason to finally start feeling better," he said. "With the virus, I was able to take more time off, which was helpful. I do a lot of daily maintenance stuff before and after practice to make sure that it doesn't come back. Just trying to find different things — I don't know what it was that finally got me over the hump. I've tried a million different things and now I'm trying to add whatever feels good, so I can keep [my foot healthy]."
Head out to Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center for an exclusive look at the Raiders first practice with helmets during 2020 Training Camp.
On top of the distractions of training camp last year, the Raiders experienced a game of musical chairs at the wide receiver position. Round and round, GM Mike Mayock did his best to surround Derek Carr with playmakers at wideout. Williams showed last year he's capable of bearing the load of a WR1, but the inconsistency around him caused the offense to suffer.
"I don't think I really felt a lot of pressure," Williams said when asked about the struggles of last year. "I think it was more of a group, we didn't have an identity with everything that was going on. We had a lot of people coming and going, and now we have a good core group."
Williams' health will undeniably play a role in his success going forward, but his improved chemistry with Carr will be a major contributing factor to his impact this season. It's rare to see a first-year quarterback-wide receiver tandem in lockstep from the jump. Gruden's receivers might have the same route trees, but every player has their tendencies, and entering Year Two, Carr and Williams have a good understanding of one another.
"We've definitely grown," Williams says. "I think he understands how I run routes and I understand what he's looking for on certain coverages. He just has a better feel of how I move and it's easier for him, I think that's the biggest thing. Being a long-striding guy, I'm fast, but I don't really look too fast, so getting used to that for him is big."
Williams might not be the featured receiver on offense, but he's a vital piece of Gruden's unit and his absence last season was felt. If the 28-year-old can remain healthy this season, the Raiders boast one of the best offenses on paper, we'll see how it translates on the field in 2020.