Greedy Williams kept repeating the same question in his head as he watched practices and games from the sidelines.
"Why does this keep happening?"
The thought flooded Williams' mind after he injured his hamstring and was placed on injured reserve two days before the Browns' season-opening game against the Panthers. He had added another tally to the unfortunate list of ailments he's experienced over his four years as a cornerback in Cleveland, including when he missed four games in 2019 to a hamstring injury and all of 2020 with a nerve issue in his shoulder.
"It's hard," Williams said. "You're just sitting down and thinking, 'Why does this keep happening to me?' I just carried gratitude with it and realized it is what it is."
Williams missed the first four games of the season but is set to return soon — he was designated for reinstatement Wednesday and will be back at practice this week as the Browns prepare to play the Chargers.
"It feels great, man," Williams said. "Going down with a freak injury is kind of crazy, especially with the start of my career. It was just a crazy thing, but I maintained through it and worked my way back."
Check out the best photos from the Browns game against the Falcons yesterday by the Browns photo team
Williams said the injury happened after he overstretched his hamstring in an attempt to make a play on a ball in practice. Such injuries aren't uncommon for cornerbacks, but for Williams, who is coming off a refreshing and mostly injury-free 16-game season in 2021, the time away because of injuries has never felt easy. This one was no different.
To make matters more stressful, the Browns defense has struggled. Most of the issues have occurred in the fourth quarter, where blown coverages have hit the secondary and led to losses against the Jets and Falcons.
Perhaps the return of Williams, whose two interceptions last season happened in the fourth quarter, will provide the late-game spark the defense needs.
"We've been playing well, but it's just these few plays they've given up in the secondary is what everyone sees," he said. "Everybody's been playing well so far. There's just two or three plays in the game that go for 50 yards. We have to lock in on that. Everything's been crisp so far except for those plays."
Williams will likely fill the second outside position opposite Denzel Ward, which would move Greg Newsome II to the slot role, when the Browns look to use five or more defensive back sets.
The Browns will likely use that package a lot Sunday against the Chargers, who boast the league's top passing offense and leading passer in Justin Herbert. The Chargers pass the ball significantly more than they run — they're fifth in the league with 166 pass attempts and 22nd with 94 rushing attempts — so the Browns will need everyone in their secondary to have a full tank of gas.
Although his return isn't solidified for Sunday yet, the Browns could certainly use Williams, who had arguably his best career performance last year in the Week 5 shootout with the Chargers. He intercepted Herbert on a deep ball attempt for his first career interception and forced a fumble.
"I'm in the film room learning all I can," he said. "I'll go out here and give it a try and see how I feel."
Williams said he has a "high" chance of playing Sunday, and head coach Kevin Stefanski said the Browns will see how he looks in practice before the team makes a decision.
"He's been doing a great job off to the side in his rehab," Stefanski said. "Get him into practice, get him some plays here and see how he responds."
Another comeback is abound for Williams, but it's a challenge he's familiar with — and knows he can conquer again.
"It's another chapter in the book to come back and be better and prove again what I can do," he said.