Baylor product Terrance Williams catching on to life in the NFL

Terrance Williams chose Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together to sing during rookie initiation night. By the end, despite his off-key voice, the Baylor product had his teammates singing along.

“I can’t sing,” Williams said, “but I did a good enough job to make the team go along with me.”

That’s exactly what the Cowboys hope Williams does for them on offense.

He is raw yet, an NFL receiver on training wheels, but with the Cowboys counting on him as the No. 3 wideout, they need Williams not to play his age.

“He still has a lot to learn about the nuances of our system and route running and how to play the game at this level,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “But he brings it every day. It’s very important to him.… He’s a serious-minded guy who wants to be a great player, and he’s learning every day.”

Williams has taken some hard knocks in training camp. Besides singing, he has been ordered to carry veterans’ helmets, and he has had his butt chewed in public.

Tight end Jason Witten rebuked Williams earlier in training camp, loudly and impolitely telling the receiver to shut up in the huddle. Everyone in Oxnard got the message loud and clear, including Williams.

Earlier this week, Sean Lee cussed out Williams for holding him.

“All the rookies here, they’ve got to understand the high level of intensity you need to play at,” Lee said. “He’s done a good job of practicing hard and getting better, but I think the big step up from college to the pros is the intensity you have to play at every day. That’s how most of us play, and we feed off each other.”

The veterans’ tough love is part of life in the NFL for any rookie. Williams understands that and respects the growing pains he is going through.

“They do it because they want what’s best for me,” Williams said. “They just want to see me do good, so I don’t take it personal.”

The Cowboys let third receiver Kevin Ogletree walk in free agency, replacing him with Williams. Williams could be the future replacement for starter Miles Austin, whose cap numbers in 2014, ’15 and ’16 are $7 million, $8.4 million and $11.3 million.

But for now, the Cowboys just need Williams to at least be as productive as Ogletree was last year in catching 32 passes for 436 yards and four touchdowns.

Williams makes his preseason debut Saturday against the Arizona Cardinals after missing the first two games with a concussion. He has been sharp since his return earlier this week.

“He’s done good,” Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said. “You can tell he’s got fresh legs, but he’s learned some of the nuances and intricacies that I want, and he’s just improving every week. He’s going to be very important for us this year.”

Williams, a Dallas native, caught 97 passes for a nation-leading 1,832 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior last season. He had 34 catches of at least 20 yards and 16 that went at least 30.

“He has an ability to really put the pressure on the top of the defense,” Cowboys receivers coach Derek Dooley said. “It’s what we loved about him at Baylor, just how he could really generate some explosive plays down the field, because he’s explosive off the ball; he’s fast; and he’s a good target. When he’s on the move, and he’s down the field, he really can apply some pressure, and he’s doing that out here.

“What he has to work on is what every rookie has to work on: Those first 5 yards are really difficult at this level against great corners, so learning how to beat press and then learning how to do it over and over and over again.

“That’s probably the biggest challenge for these guys.”

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram