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Greedy Williams ready to 'play at the highest level' in 1st start since 2019

After missing all of 2020 with a shoulder injury, Williams is looking forward to meeting the challenges of his first start since 2019

Greedy Williams has been working 13 months for the opportunity he'll receive Sunday in Minnesota.

That's how much time has passed since Williams, a 2019 second-round pick, felt a pinch in his shoulder and walked off the practice fields during a training camp practice. Both he and the Browns initially thought his shoulder would be fine within a few days. Then it was a few weeks. Then it was a few months.

Then, his season was over.

Williams didn't play at all in 2020 due to the slow recovery needed for the nerve injury in his shoulder, but he's been a key substitute cornerback and special teams player for the Browns so far in 2021. 

On Sunday, he'll make his first start since his rookie season.

"I'll just be playing with no worries," Williams said Thursday to local reporters. "I'm just going to come in and do what I was supposed to do, which is my role and to play at the highest level."

Williams will replace first-round rookie CB Greg Newsome II as a starting corner after Newsome injured his calf last Sunday in the Browns' Week 3 win over the Bears. The Browns have ample trust in Williams, who played in 12 games as a rookie and registered 47 tackles with two tackles for a loss and two passes defensed. He played significant snaps in all three of Cleveland's 2021 preseason games.

"(We've seen) him a lot in practice, and I think he's done a nice job," coach Kevin Stefanski said. "Going all the way back to when he first got back out there, worked through it and got his wind back, I think you just see a guy who is continuing to get better."

Check out exclusive photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Minnesota Vikings

Getting better has been the goal for Williams before the door slowly closed on his 2020 season, and he's been willing to do anything necessary to accomplish it.

Special teams has been one route he's embraced to get there. 

He's played 30 total special teams snaps this season, already more than the 26 he received his rookie season, and has taken any opportunity the Browns have given him to get back on the field and re-acclimate to NFL speed. He's been primarily used as a blocker on kick and punt returns, and he — as well as a few of his special teams teammates — earned special, unprompted praise from Stefanski on Monday for how well they played in Week 3.

"Greedy was outstanding on special teams yesterday," Stefanski said. "Our vice, Greedy, (CB) Troy (Hill), (S) Grant Delpit and (CB) A.J. Green were outstanding."

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer seconded Stefanski's statement Thursday. He said Williams and the rest of the bunch earned game balls for creating a wall against the Bears, and he believes Williams is well-suited to rise as a starting player for Week 4.

"He came into the year with a positive attitude," Priefer said. "Once he got healthy, he said, 'Coach, whatever you need me to do, I will do.' He's put himself in position to help us on special teams, and now — this week — on defense."

The Browns cornerbacks room has commended Williams for how hard he's worked to return and continue to grow. He's still just 23 years old and among the youngest players on the Browns despite being a three-year veteran, and the Browns have no doubt Williams is prepared to help them build yet another strong defensive performance after a historic showing in Week 3.

"Greedy is a starting corner in this league," Hill said Monday. "We don't have to worry. He's been a starting corner in this league, and that's nothing new. We know he's going to come out there and do his thing."

The challenge Sunday, though, won't be anything easy for Williams.

The Vikings boast one of the top receiving duos in the NFL in Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, who have combined for 435 yards and six touchdowns through three games. Kirk Cousins, their quarterback, has yet to throw an interception through his first 119 pass attempts. The Vikings boast the eighth-best offensive in the league and scored 30 points last week against the Seahawks. 

Even the best cornerbacks have struggled to contain the group, but Williams is welcoming the challenge.

"They just make us want to go harder," he said. "We just want to stay dialed in and complete the task."

Williams believes he'll be able to block out any emotions that could come when he takes the field as a starter. The last 13 months — filled with countless hours of rehab, patience and curiosity over how long he'd have to wait to return as a starter on the defense — are finally in the past.

Now, a new challenge awaits Williams, and he's not going to flinch.

"I don't let emotion get the best of me," he said. "I take it day by day, and as the time comes and the game approaches, my mind is clicked in. I'm mentally prepared for anything."

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