Last season, New York Giants defensive tackle Leonard Williams battled through a serious neck injury, appearing in just 12 games and playing through the pain during the Giants’ playoff run rather than sitting out.
“I think during the season it was just hard for [my neck] to recover just because every time I made a tackle, I would feel it,” Williams admitted at Giants’ mandatory minicamp in June. “It wasn’t really going to go away till the season ended.”
Well, the good news for both Williams and Giants fans is that the pain in Williams’ neck appears to have dissipated over the offseason.
“I didn’t need surgery,” Williams explained. “I rested it, strengthened it, did a lot of shrugs and neck exercises to try to strengthen around it. Most of all, in the beginning, it just needed rest. The constant banging on it was not letting it go away.”
In order to combat the pain from that constant banging, Williams began wearing a neck roll last season.
“Near the end of the season, I started wearing a small type of roll, but it was hard for me to get used to,” Williams admitted. “I had to change it up a little bit in practice. Sometimes I would get in my stance, try to look up, it was restricting my vision.”
Williams experimented with a few different types of neck rolls and “finally found that sweet spot of something that would protect [him] when [he] makes a hit and something [he] could also see in [his] stance.” As a result, it’s something that the’s planning to use again during the 2023 season.
While he seems to have turned a corner when it comes to managing the neck injury, last year was a difficult one for Williams.
“Last year was also my first year ever missing a game,” Williams explained. “I think that was hard on me. It was hard to, like, sit on the sideline, see my team going at it when I wasn’t able to help out…But that’s part of the game. That’s what we all sign up for. We know it’s possibly going to happen at some point.”
That level-headed wisdom is something Williams has gained in the later stages of his career as he learns how to adapt his style of play and training routine to ensure his longevity in the game.
“Now that I’m getting older, that is something I have to pay more attention to, though, is my recovery and my body.”
Another thing that could help with Williams’ longevity is the Giants’ new depth at defensive tackle of the signings of A’Shawn Robinson and Rakeem Nunez-Roches. That added depth should allow the Giants to dial back on Williams’ snap count and ensure he remains fresh throughout the season.
“D-linemen are usually not taking 100% or 90% of snaps,” Williams explained. “It’s better to have a rotation and keep guys fresh. It’s going to be fun that way when we’re rotating guys, just beating up on offensive lines together.”
However, even with the modifications Williams and the team will put in place for him this season, the 29-year-old still feels like he has plenty of quality years remaining.
“I’m definitely not feeling older,” he said. “We have this chart with our GPS trackers that shows our high-end speed, short 10-yard sprints. I pride myself on always being first on that list…I still have my explosiveness; I still have my power. Honestly, I feel like I’m knowing the game more, I have a lot more years in me.”
That’s music to the ears of both the New York Giants and their fans