Since the close of the 2016 NFL regular season, both the Buffalo Bills and safety Aaron Williams himself have repeated the same message: Williams is fine, he's been cleared to play, and everyone is waiting for the hitting to start to gauge just how ready he is to return to the Bills' starting lineup in the secondary.
There was occasional deviation from that message - Doug Whaley saying that Williams could have played had the Bills made the playoffs, as one example - but by and large, that's what we know. That didn't change on Monday, when Williams was among the many Bills players that reported to One Bills Drive for the start of the team's voluntary offseason conditioning program.
Aaron Williams says he's "fully cleared to play." The big test will be when the pads are on in training camp. pic.twitter.com/QNmvVAL7kP— Tyler Dunne (@TyDunne) April 18, 2016
Williams did admit to reporters that he tried to return to the lineup too quickly last fall; he was injured in a Week 2 loss to New England, missed two games, and then returned in a Week 5 win over Tennessee and played most of that game before landing on IR.
Williams said any time he would hit something last year, it would clench up his nerves.— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) April 18, 2016
The nerve issue was evidently severe enough that Williams underwent a fairly significant surgery to alleviate that symptom, with the safety explaining that two vertebrae in his neck were "shaved" in order to give the nerves a bit more room.
Aaron Williams said doctors "shaved" C4-C5 down in neck to help the nerves. Not a fusion.— Tyler Dunne (@TyDunne) April 18, 2016
Williams won't be doing any hitting until the pads go on in training camp in late July, so for now, it's safe to pencil him in as a starting safety heading into the 2016 season.