PITTSFORD — The intrigue surrounding Mario Williams’ mysterious foot injury reached another level Monday when it was revealed the Buffalo Bills’ defensive end has left training camp to be evaluated by team doctors.
Coach Doug Marrone was short on specifics about Williams’ injury, saying only that he was “off campus,” and that he had not yet heard any report.
Marrone reiterated what he said Sunday night – when Williams took part in individual drills, but sat out the team portion of the first practice of training camp at St. John Fisher College.
“His foot was sore. We’re not going to make any mistakes about it. We’re going to make sure that everything’s fine,” Marrone said “Our doctors are evaluating him. Where he is, where he goes, I’m not going to talk about that.”
Marrone admitted to being nervous about how much information he could share due to concerns about medical privacy laws. When asked whether Williams’ departure from camp signaled more of a concern about the injury than originally believed, he said: “I don’t know. Every time I go to the doctor, there’s always something that could happen. … I leave it up to the layman to put their opinion on it.”
Marrone said he still does not know which foot Williams injured, or how it happened. He was caught off guard by the news that Williams was hurt.
“Yeah, we were all ready to go,” the coach said. “It happens. You go out there for the first time and sometimes you’re sore.”
As for when he would be back at camp, again Marrone was stumped.
“I have no idea. I really don’t,” he said. “I’m waiting for the doctors to get down that chain until it gets to me.
“I can put him on the field when the doctor says he’s cleared. If the doctor says he’s not cleared, he’s off the field. I don’t really try to concentrate a lot on that. … Basically I just ask the doctor, ‘When’s he coming back? Or do we have him for practice?’ Really that’s all I do.
Marrone apologized for not being more forthcoming, but said that was the way he has always approached injuries, as both a player and coach.
“I’m not a doctor, so I don’t know,” he said. “The only thing I can tell you: when the doctor tells me how long he’s out, I’ll be able to tell you.”
It came to light last year after the first game of the regular season that Williams had suffered a wrist injury. What impact that had on his performance became one of the predominant storylines of the first half of the season.
The Bills failed to list Williams on their injury report and were eventually fined $20,000 by the league because of it.
During the team’s bye week, he had surgery, but did not miss any games.
Williams has had a tumultuous offseason.
He sued his ex-fiancée in May to recover a $785,000 engagement ring after the couple broke up.
She in turn filed a counter suit, and text messages Williams sent to the woman, Erin Marzouki, were released that suggested he was having suicidal thoughts, something which he denies.
In June, Williams described defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s philosophy by using the words “kill” and “hurt” in regards to the other team – a no-no in today’s NFL culture. The team and Williams quickly backtracked from those comments.
Williams’ injury coupled with the ongoing absence of Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd leaves the Bills without arguably their two best defenders.
“You guys have to remember, and I hope you appreciate where I am – my focus is on the players that are on the field,” Marrone said. “That’s where my main focus needs to be and my concern. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m heartless or I have no empathy towards people, I obviously do. But the people that are here, I have to get them ready.”
Williams’ absence has created more practice snaps for young players like Jamie Blatnick and Kourtnei Brown, as well as fourth-year veteran Jerry Hughes.
“You get an opportunity and it gives us more snaps to evaluate those players,” Marrone said. “I was happy with the way those guys have stepped up.”