While more than 30 Washington Redskins players gather this week to practice, build camaraderie and maybe, just maybe, improve some element of their game that could eventually transfer to the standings, Trent Williams is more than 1,200 miles away.
The franchise cornerstone left tackle is in Houston, where he has been training all offseason. Some of Williams' teammates wondered aloud Wednesday why he hasn't been to any of the team's seven informal practices during the lockout. Meanwhile, he insists he is staying on task - albeit away from the group.
"I'm working just like they're working," Williams said by phone.
About 10 high-profile Redskins have missed all of the team's informal workouts to this point, but Williams, in particular, has stood out. He was the fourth overall pick in 2010, and the Redskins' offense needs him to be more consistent in his second season.
Players such as Donovan McNabb, Albert Haynesworth and Santana Moss have obvious reasons for staying away. McNabb and Haynesworth have fallen out with management. Moss, cornerback Carlos Rogers and right tackle Jammal Brown could be free agents depending on parameters established by a new collective bargaining agreement.
Others facing contract uncertainty, such as quarterback Rex Grossman and linebacker Rocky McIntosh, have regularly participated.
Williams, however, is under contract, presumably has enough loot from his first-round deal to catch a flight and is coming off an uneven rookie season. He also doesn't have the veteran status that allows certain other players to skip these unsupervised, voluntary workouts without grabbing teammates' attention.
Buzz about Williams' absence built Wednesday, and some players privately questioned why he, in particular, isn't working out with them.
Publicly, players took care not to disrupt what has been a feel-good story for a team that has lacked them
"We're not going to be disappointed in anyone not showing up," veteran tight end Chris Cooley said. "All I would say is that I'm benefiting from this. I feel this is making me a better player, and this is preparing me to play this year."
Added quarterback John Beck: "It'd be nice to have as many guys as we could out here, but I'm happy with the guys that have come out. I really feel like we have gotten a lot accomplished."
Williams said he didn't learn of this week's workouts until receiver Malcolm Kelly called him Monday, the day before they began. Those organizing the workouts have spread the word about them through email. "I think they send out emails," Williams said, "and I didn't get an email."
He also was under the impression that this workout was for quarterbacks and receivers. The truth is that 19 offensive players, including five linemen, and 12 from the defense attended Wednesday.
"I found out last-minute on this one," Williams said. "It was a little bit too late for me to pick up and go last-minute."
Perhaps Williams' absences wouldn't garner such attention if he wasn't saddled with questions about his work ethic during the pre-draft process last year. And after the draft, his position coach at Oklahoma and the team's strength coach publicly stated that Williams had room for improvement in that area.
Redskins coaches gave their public stamp of approval to Williams' work habits after his rookie season, but skipping these workouts only amplifies the questions.
When Williams was asked if he would attend another set of workouts if the Redskins hold them later this summer, he said: "I wouldn't be opposed to it."
For those wondering if he is going to show up in Ashburn after the lockout looking like the Pillsbury Doughboy, he said he currently weighs 320 pounds — three pounds less than his playing weight last season.
He has been boxing three times a week "to try to help my endurance and better hand speed," he said.
He downplayed any negative impressions his teammates might be developing about his lack of participation.
"I wouldn't see a reason to feel any certain way about it," Williams said. "I'm trying to play at the top level and help the team get to the Super Bowl."
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