Cowboys veterans help CB learn despite injury

IRVING -- Teddy Williams didn't play a down last year, and he was hurt a lot of the time.

But it was not a wasted year.

He said it made him a better pro. Being around Cowboys veterans like Bradie James, Keith Brooking and Terence Newman taught him much about staying focused in the NFL, where he is trying to make it after being a sprinter in college.

"I might have dealt with so much physically, but it didn't hurt me a lot mentally," he said last weekend at the Cowboys' rookie minicamp. "It taught me a lot. It helped me grow up. I got a lot of advice from the older guys who have been through the fire and been through those injury-prone years."

Now Williams hopes it pays off as he tries to make another transition -- from receiver to cornerback.

The Cowboys are going to give the former UTSA track standout another look at corner, hoping he can take advantage of his long frame and speed.

It's a long shot. The 23-year-old from Tyler is far behind in experience, and the Cowboys are stocked at the position -- first-round pick Morris Claiborne, veterans Brandon Carr, Mike Jenkins, Orlando Scandrick and first-year player Mario Butler are all ahead of him, not to mention three other undrafted free agents in the mix -- Justin Taplin-Ross, Isaac Madison and Lionel Smith.

But height is height and speed is speed. The 6-foot-3 Williams was an All-American in the 60-meter dash in college and set the conference record in the event.

Plus, he has something else favored by coach Jason Garrett -- toughness.

"He's got a track background, but different than some track guys, he has a physical mentality playing football," Garrett said. "He just needs to understand how to play football."

Williams didn't play football in college, but he was a receiver in high school. Dallas tried him at cornerback after signing him in July 2010.

The team moved him to receiver in preseason that year and put him on the practice squad. He was called up for the last two weeks but was inactive in both games.

His second year started with bad luck at training camp. He suffered a hamstring injury trying to avoid a sideline collision with receivers coach Jimmy Robinson during a punt drill.

The injury lingered, and Williams spent the year on the practice squad.

Now starting what could be a telling Year 3 with the Cowboys, he's getting another try at cornerback.

"We're going to give him another shot playing DB, specifically corner, and let him use some of that physical ability he has and use the speed, the length, the physical-ness and see if he can learn and understand that position," Garrett said. "But he shows up on special teams a lot. He's demonstrated he can be a good special teams player and compete that way as well as a position player."

Williams knows how he will approach the season. Not only will he put in the physical work, he said, but he will be better prepared mentally because of the lessons from his former teammates.

"If you stay negative, your body will never heal itself," Williams said, thinking about his conversations with Brooking, James, Newman and others. "And I learned that the hard way. I was so hard on myself, I wanted to stay on the field so much, my body wasn't healing the way it should have, and injuries were taking longer to come back from than they should have.

"It's just a learning process. Everything's a learning process around here."

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407

Twitter: @calexmendez

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