Tramon Williams' next start will be his 100th, and he wants to earn it just like the previous 99.
The veteran cornerback came to Cleveland as one of the Browns' highest-profile signings of 2015. With a regular starter from last year's roster, Buster Skrine, gone to the New York Jets, it only made sense for prognosticators to pencil Williams into the starting lineup on the opposite side of Joe Haden.
On Williams' projected roster, the spot presumably reserved for him remains blank.
"There is always competition," Williams said. "Even when I came into Green Bay; I came in and I had to earn my spot. Once I got to that spot, I still had to fight off guys every year, even though everyone else thought it was my spot. I didn't see it that way. I felt that I always had to fight for that spot and that is the same way I treated it every year."
A minor injury for Williams and an excused absence from Justin Gilbert allowed second-year cornerback Pierre Desir to fill Williams' spot with the first-team defense at June's mini-camp. On Thursday's first day of training camp, Williams was back with the ones and drew immediate attention during the first 11-on-11 session. His new teammates let out big yells when the 32-year-old flashed some closing speed and deflected a pass away from a Browns receiver.
Williams has heard plenty about his age in the buildup to his 10th NFL season. He laughed it off Wednesday shortly before he passed his conditioning test.
"The over-30 thing is just what people say when you get there," Williams said. "I have still been productive in this league for a long time and I still have a lot of football to play. Hopefully I can come here and show those guys what I can do."
Asked to identify a newly acquired player who has made an impact within the walls of his position room, Browns coach Mike Pettine quickly named Williams, who has become the "perfect complement" to Haden on and off the field. The Browns coach wanted a defensive back who could not only play at a high level, but also one with the kind of experience, notably in the playoffs, that Williams carries.
Williams is one of three Browns players with a Super Bowl ring in his jewelry collection.
"Tramon Williams has been tremendous for us," Pettine said. "Defensively, we feel real good about where he is and what he's been able to bring to that room."
The balance of mentoring and competing can be a delicate one, but Williams is comfortable enough in his own skin to manage it like a professional.
Gilbert struggled as a rookie but has provided more positive moments than negative ones throughout the offseason. The former No. 8 pick in the 2014 draft has the kind of talent that sticks out to a veteran like Williams, who was undrafted out of Louisiana Tech.
The way Williams sees it, the Browns will be in great hands if Gilbert can beat him out for the starting job.
"I never ran from competition," Williams said. "If I win the spot, I want to win it with the guy being at his best. You're looking to help each other. It's a team at the end of the day. That's the way you've got to treat it.
"Even though I'm a veteran, I still look at the younger guys and try to learn things from them. I'm not here thinking I've got all the answers."