Buffalo Bills safety Aaron Williams returned to practice on Thursday, and while he won't play on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, his being on the practice field represented a significant step forward in his recovery from a career-threatening neck injury.
"Never been so excited to practice," Williams said on Thursday (via The Buffalo News), "but you know, being gone again for so long, you get that urge, that itch, to get back out there, and it just felt good."
That's not difficult to buy for any NFL player coming off of a lengthy injury recovery, but it's likely especially true for Williams, who required neck surgery earlier this season and had to face the notion that his NFL career may be ending prematurely.
"It was too real – to where I had to start thinking about what I wanted to do afterwards," Williams said. "I didn’t think it would be coming, this time, this soon."
Williams told reporters that his playing again was considered a 50-50 proposition before the surgical procedure occurred. Even now, after his pragmatic, slow recovery over the past nine weeks, the 25-year-old Williams is leaving open the possibility that he won't be playing for much longer.
"It's all about that first hit," Williams said. "When that first hit gets done, that's when I'll know whether or not I should continue playing this game, or it's time to move on to a new chapter."
The Bills have three weeks to decide whether or not they're going to add Williams to the active roster (if they wait the full length of time, he'd return in time for the season finale against the Jets), or if they'll stash him on IR and try to bring him back in 2016. For his part, despite his long-term reservations, Williams sounds thrilled to be back working with the team.
"Honestly didn’t care what the heck I was doing, as long as I was going to be able to do something, help to contribute to the team somehow," Williams said of being back on the practice field. "It just felt good to be back there with my teammates and run around a little bit."