As the Buffalo Bills' 2015 season neared its conclusion, and fifth-year safety Aaron Williams returned to practice following a neck injury that limited him to three games, Buffalo's top safety sounded like a player coming to terms with the idea that he might not be playing in the NFL much longer.
"It's all about that first hit," Williams said on December 10. "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."
Williams practiced with the team for the final four weeks of the season, but ultimately did not appear in a game. The team's general manager, Doug Whaley, indicated this week from the Senior Bowl, however, that Williams would have been available to play had the Bills made the playoffs.
"Everything we heard, if we would've made the playoffs today, they would've put him in there and activated," Whaley said Tuesday (via The Buffalo News). "So he's ready to go. So we're excited about that."
That was the second time this month that Whaley had expressed confidence in Williams' long-term prognosis, despite the player's own misgivings expressed the last time he spoke with reporters.
In his five-year career, the 25-year-old Williams has missed 28 games in total, with a variety of injuries that pale in comparison to the neck injury he suffered last September. Buffalo's defense is facing the probability of personnel changes this offseason, with the safety position - which primarily features Williams, $4.68 million veteran Corey Graham, and restricted free agent Bacarri Rambo - a potential starting point for those changes.
If Whaley's confidence in Williams' availability moving forward is well-placed, then the Bills might be in better shape than originally thought at the position entering a pivotal offseason. But if the team has any concern about Williams' health or mindset, they should probably still make upgrading this area a priority.