Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams’ injury woes started in training camp — when he missed many of the reps due to a lingering hamstring injury. Williams then spent a chunk of the regular season injured — he was out Weeks 3 and 4 due to a knee injury, then was sidelined Weeks 13 to 15 due to injured ribs.
This week — entering the most important game for the Chiefs in a year’s time — the running back feels differently.
“I feel great,” explained Williams on Thursday. “At the end of the day, you don’t want to have that time off because you don’t want to miss those games. You want to stay in a rhythm. People don’t really look at what you’re doing off the field and behind the cameras — how hard I’m really working and what I’m doing to get back on the field. And being mentally tough and strong to stay into it and keep up on the plays so when I do come back, I can still stay in rhythm with the offensive line and everything just flows.”
Williams returned in Week 16 with 16 carries and 65 yards in the team’s win against the Chicago Bears, then compiled 154 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns in the Chiefs’ playoff bye-clinching win over the Chargers. Last week, in the Divisional round against the Houston Texans, Williams had 68 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns.
The problem has never been Williams’ skill set — it has been staying healthy enough to showcase it.
Take these numbers, for example: in regular-season games in which Williams was able to get into a rhythm (we qualified that as 12 carries or more), he had 85 carries for 520 yards (6.1 yards per carry). In those same games, he had 27 catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns.
Last year, on the biggest stage (the AFC title game against the New England Patriots), Williams had three touchdowns — in part due to Chiefs head coach Andy Reid finding creative ways to play to his strengths.
“He takes away the football person,” Williams said of Reid. “He knows who you are as a person and what you can do as far as on the field, so I feel like he’s good at knowing who I am and what I can do, and he exploits that on the field.”
Williams offers the Chiefs a dual-threat in the backfield — and after a year that saw the Chiefs trying different players at the position depending on the week — some stability when he is healthy. There was no greater sign of the Chiefs’ trust in Williams than the snap-count breakdown from last week: Williams had 55 snaps, while rookie Darwin Thompson and veteran LeSean McCoy saw the field once each.
Williams further explained that he prides himself on both his ability to play-fake and pass-block just as much as what he can do with the ball in his hands.
“The fact [is] that at the end of the day I can protect 15 (Patrick Mahomes),” he said. “I’m great at blocking, I can get out, I can catch, I can run between the tackles. I feel like I can do a lot of things different to kind of disguise what we’re doing as far as running or passing.”
In the Chiefs’ loss to Tennessee back in Week 10, Williams fumbled the football. The Titans were able to scoop it up and take it 53 yards for the touchdown. The Titans took a 13-10 lead in the second quarter in a game they won by three points.
Williams said he still thinks about that play.
“You think about that fumble because they took that to the crib,” said Williams. “I’m a pride type of person, so I take that as that’s on me. I could’ve done better, I should’ve done better. But at the end of the day, you can’t harp on it too much. You can look at the situation, know what type of defense they are. They like to punch at the ball, they like to grab at the ball. So, knowing that when you’re running between the tackles you have two hands on it. But at the end of the day that’s not going to stop me from feeling comfortable and running hard.”
“I can’t have somebody beat up on me and then come to my house and think they’re going to beat up on me again. It’s going to be one of those games where people are looking at them as the underdogs, but I feel like we’re the underdogs right now.
“They already have one up on us. I feel like it’s going to be an exciting, physical game.”