Less than 24 hours after the Buffalo News’ Tim Graham reported that the NFL’s highest-paid defender was considering having surgery on his sprained left wrist, Bills head coach Chan Gailey announced the following on Wednesday afternoon:
“The update on Mario is he had a procedure done to relieve some discomfort in his wrist, and we expect him back for practice next week. That’s all I know at this point.”
Williams (right, my photo at OTAs in June) signed a six-year, $100-million contract with the Bills in March. Yet he has not been a high-impact defender through seven games.
He has 3.5 sacks, tied for 32nd in the league. The 6-foot-6, 292-pound pass-rush specialist tallied those sacks in two road games (1.5 at Cleveland, 2.0 at Arizona), meaning he has been held sackless in Buffalo’s five other games, including all three at home.
Can a defensive end be a high-impact player without notching a sack? Yes. Has Williams? In four of seven games (against the New York Jets, New England, San Francisco and Tennessee), no.
The 3-4 Bills have a bye this week, before playing back-to-back games at Houston and at New England.
Now to the curiosities.
Did Bills team doctors diagnose the need for surgery? Did they perform whatever the “procedure” was? Was it done in Buffalo, or in Houston? Was it done Tuesday or Wednesday? And what is the exact nature of the injury?
Gailey on Wednesday claimed he didn’t know answers to any of those questions. Curious indeed.
Now, this must be said. Head coaches in contact sports – especially in the NHL and NFL – usually are about as willing to enlighten us all on their players’ injuries as U.S. presidential candidates are to honestly explain their personal-policy 180s.
A decade or so ago, Toronto Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn introduced the concept of the ridiculously vague “lower body injury.”
And New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin often issues this manner of terse reply when asked to elaborate on an injury, such as a couple weeks ago with regard to wide receiver Hakeem Nicks’ banged-up knee: “It’s a knee.” But what, specifically? “A knee.”
We’re neither suggesting nor expecting that Gailey and the Bills be held to a higher revelatory standard.
What we are flat-out stating, however, is that increasingly – for a month-and-a-half up until Wednesday’s announcement of a “procedure” – Gailey and Williams had not been on the same page with their public pronouncements about the wrist injury.
Gailey had said repeatedly that Williams’ injury was nothing more than the usual aches and pains that all NFL players put up with:
** Sept. 10 (after the opening loss at the New York Jets): “He has been bothered by that wrist a little bit and it probably had some effect. I think that it is becoming smaller and smaller every day.”
** Oct. 3 (after the loss to New England): “He has been getting some treatment, but it has not been a thing that has kept him from ever practising or anything like that. How much it bothers a guy, we have guys with ankles, knees, hips and shoulders. Everything bothers you during a season. How much? Only a player can answer that. But it is not enough for him to not make every rep in practice and do what he is doing.”
** Oct. 10 (after the loss in San Francisco): “He has not missed one day of practice, he has not missed a snap of practice, and he has not missed a game. It is one of those things that everybody has bumps, bruises, kinks and something like that. It is just something you work through.”
** On Monday: “I cannot speak for him. I cannot tell you whether he is being affected by it at all, a little bit or what it is. I cannot tell … I ask him how it is going and he says it is all right.”
Williams, however, has gone out of his way to ensure that reporters know the injury is in no small part to blame for his sub-standard play:
** Sept. 12, after the loss to the Jets: “I had a little freak deal a couple weeks ago. Unfortunately, it was right before the regular season.”
** Sept. 16, after the win against Kansas City in Week 2: “I casted my wrist and just went at it. I wish I did that last week.”
** Oct. 3, after the loss to the Pats: “I have to … (be) able to use my hands and stay healthy. (There’s) just a little deal going on, but we have already mentioned that before and it is just lingering a little longer than expected … I am a hands-on player. It is all about power with my game … It is definitely frustrating for it to happen when it did happen, and not when anything counted. That was the biggest thing. Coming out of the fourth preseason game …”
** Oct. 10, after the loss to the Niners: “My biggest thing is I feel like I need to use my hands better. I need to get my hands, in general, healthy because I am a hands person. I am a power person.”
That Williams had publicly discussed his wrist injury with greater concern, and in greater detail, as criticism over his production mounted cannot be overlooked. He did not mention it following Buffalo’s victories over Cleveland (Sept. 23) or Arizona (Oct. 14).
But, hell, if it weren’t for the fact the NFL investigated both Williams’ injury and the reason the club went weeks without putting it on its injury list, we wouldn’t even know what the ailment is – a sprain.
Neither the Bills nor Williams has been that specific.
For not listing Williams among its injured from the get-go, the NFL last Friday fined the Bills $20,000.
Bottom line, if you believe Williams’ and Gailey’s public comments, the defender apparently was more willing to discuss the debilitating nature of his injury with reporters than with his own head coach.
That’s the most curious thing of all.
J.J. WATT SAYS MARIO CAN’T BE MARIO IF INJURED
J.J. Watt says his former teammate and current Buffalo Bill, Mario Williams, is one of the most powerful pass rushers in the NFL.
That is, if he’s healthy.
“I don’t know what his injury is exactly, but if you’re anything less than full strength, that’s going to be hard to do,” Watt, the Houston Texans defensive, told me in Houston on Friday.
Watt, in his second year, leads the NFL with 9.5 sacks and 10 pass knockdown.
Williams played six seasons in Houston before signing with Buffalo in March.
“He was my lockermate,” Watt said. “He’s a very good football player. I learned a little bit about power (from him). I mean, the guy is one of the most powerful guys in the game.”