While a large group of Redskins gathered in Northern Virginia for a series of player run mini-camps this summer, promising young left tackle Trent Williams was nowhere to be found.
In his absence, there were whispers about his level of commitment following a demanding rookie campaign.
Could the young left tackle maintain a top-flight fitness regimen and continue to adjust to the pro game with such an extended period away from football?
Any questions were put to rest as Williams arrived at camp seven pounds lighter and hungry to improve.
“I pushed myself this offseason harder than I’ve ever pushed myself,” he said. “I ended up training seven days a week most of the time.”
Yet the most important element of Williams’ offseason came in the film room. After watching game tape of his matchups against the likes of Julius Peppers, DeMarcus Ware, and a handful of other elite NFL pass rushers, he didn’t like what he saw.
“I had a sour taste in my mouth after last year and I just wanted to get better,” he said. “I wanted to get that out of my mind and just come back a totally different player.”
Those close to the team felt Williams handled himself relatively well in 2010. He certainly experienced some bumps and bruises, but few expected a seamless transition to the NFL while playing at the most pressure-packed position on the offensive line.
However, Williams doesn’t have his sights set on being a good player. He is aiming for greatness. Like most rookies he wasn’t ready for the rigors of training camp in 2010, but several practices into his second season, he told reporters he is already reaping the benefits from his preparation this offseason.
“Last year I was going through so many things before the snap, I’d end up late off the ball and I was sometimes doing the wrong thing,” he said. “Now I know it so when I leave the huddle I know what I’ve got to do. There’s no thinking, [I’m just] getting off the ball and working.
“I feel night and day, and I feel more explosive,” he continued. “My legs are with me during the whole practice, not giving out on me in the middle. I feel great.”
Mike Shanahan used a top-five draft pick on Williams because of his athleticism and now the Oklahoma product is trying to live up to his coach’s lofty expectations. There have been flashes of brilliance, but plenty of untapped potential remains and Shanahan knows he’ll need Williams to maintain the level of focus he’s shown thus far.
“Trent’s a pretty relaxed guy, but I think he handles himself quite well,” Shanahan said. “I did see a great sense of urgency out there in the last couple practices and he’s really worked on his technique and I’m [noticing] an improvement there each day.”
After undergoing what he considered to be a poor season, it’s remarkable to hear Williams candidly evaluate his shortcomings. Most young players don’t have the confidence to do that yet, but Williams almost embraces discussing his body of work.
“One year of experience, it does a lot,” he said. “After playing in this conference, in this division, against the monsters that we go against, I mean you don’t have a choice but to get better.”