GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — In this corner, cornerback Tramon Williams.
There are times when the Green Bay Packers veteran feels like he should be wearing a pair of boxing gloves instead of a helmet and shoulder pads.
Football has worked out just fine, though, for Williams. But as he has aged, Williams has carved out more time to get into the ring.
Boxing workouts are increasingly part of the 35-year-old Williams’ offseason routine, a regimen that he says helps him keep in shape and ready to go once training camp starts.
“I feel like I missed my calling, you know what I’m saying,” Williams said with a laugh. “I’ve been doing this since, I don’t know — boxing has been a habit since I was young, like before a teenager.”
He might be the elder statesman in the cornerback room, but Williams looks like someone just a couple years out of college. His 12th NFL season begins on Sunday night, when the Packers host the Chicago Bears.
“That’s a tribute to him, to how he’s taken care of his body,” said first-year defensive coordinator and former Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine.“He’s the ultimate professional. He’s very aware of what he puts into his body and his workout regimen.”
The Packers signed Williams as a free agent in the offseason for his second stint with the team. Part of what made Williams a good fit to return was his familiarity with Pettine’s scheme while playing for the Browns.
In Green Bay, Williams provides leadership to a position group that will prominently feature the team’s two draft picks, rookies Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson, as well as 2017 second-round pick Kevin King. Williams tells the younger players to study film and prepare for the opponent.
“He leads by example,” said Alexander, a first-round pick out of Louisville.
Williams can still come up with a big play too. His 32 career interceptions are tied for fifth among active NFL players.
He returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage in Green Bay’s second preseason game, a 51-34 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“You know what’s funny, that’s my first pick-six in Lambeau. I wasn’t even thinking that,” Williams said .
Undrafted out of Louisiana Tech in 2006, Williams was released by Houston after training camp during his rookie year before joining the Packers’ practice squad for the final five weeks of the season.
He impressed in camp enough the following year to land on Green Bay’s 53-man roster. He finished that season as the team’s third cornerback and top kick returner.
Williams was a key player on the Packers team that won the Super Bowl in the 2010 season . His first stint in Titletown lasted nine seasons and 127 games, including 99 starts and 28 interceptions. He left Green Bay following the 2014 season, going to Cleveland for two years before playing last season in Arizona.
“I’ve learned a lot over the past few years from being gone and being in different situations,” Williams said. “I’ve grown from them, and I tried to bring it back here to the young guys and to this team and try to play my part.”
Williams has tweaked his offseason routine to keep things fresh. First off, he’s spending more time away from football - now a two-month break - after the season ends.
Boxing has helped fill that void.
“Pays off great ... My conditioning is up, first of all. Conditioning for boxing as you know is a totally different kind of conditioning. If you’re not used to it, man it will get to you,” Williams said.
The pace in the NFL involves intense busts of physical activity for about a minute, followed by a break of another minute or so. Keep repeating for an entire drive.
It helps with footwork, too, which is another important skill for cornerbacks to learn as they break off the line of scrimmage and position themselves with receivers.
“I’m doing a little bit of everything,” Williams said with a laugh when asked if getting into the ring was part of the routine.
Williams said he didn’t have much access to places to train in the ring while growing up in Louisiana. The opportunities opened when he later moved to the Houston area. His current trainer is a former mixed martial arts fighter.
The workouts pay off when he gets back on the field.
“So whenever I get back to football stuff ... I’m in shape, all I’ve got to do is get right back into it, just doing what I do,” he said. “You know, you’ve got to do some things that you like to have fun in, and I love boxing. I have fun.”
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