When Trent Williams ran into Kory Lichtensteiger on the third play of the Washington Redskins' Thanksgiving Day victory over the Dallas Cowboys, the pain was overwhelming. The left tackle suffered deep left thigh bruise but refused to come out of the game.
He was at 60 percent the rest of the game and hasn't practiced since, but Williams will more than likely be in the starting lineup when the Redskins face the New York Giants and the likes of Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka.
"It's a must," Williams said. "I'll be out there."
That's not just because Williams is a captain and quietly one of the Redskins' leaders. That's because Washington needs him against the Giants' front four in its biggest game of the season.
"I just feel like for me to be a huge asset to this team I have to play hurt, and I have to be able to finish games," Williams said.
Williams is the anchor of an offensive line that has played almost every snap together this season. Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, center Will Montgomery, right guard Chris Chester and right tackle Tyler Polumbus have missed no time, and Williams only missed part of one game with a bone bruise in his knee.
Even without tackle Jammal Brown, whose career is in doubt with a left hip injury, the Redskins have been able to pile up yards on offense in part because of a stable offensive line.
"It goes back to OTAs working together," Chester said. "We've just been building that chemistry and it helps in our communication, which is huge for an offensive line to know what someone's going to say and know what they're going to do and just have a feel about how they're going to play."
The offensive line as a unit has opened space for quarterback Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris, who's 18 yards short of 1,000, but Williams has earned special acclaim.
"I think he's coming into his own as far as being one of the premier left tackles in the league," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. "He's very athletic. He's a strong, athletic guy. A lot of the teams give their lineman a lot of help and I haven't seen the Redskins give him much help."
Williams doesn't need much help. St. Louis Rams tackle Ryan Kalil is the leading Pro Bowl vote-getter, but Williams shouldn't be far behind.
That's why Griffin is more than willing to help Williams be ready to face the Giants.
"I already told him that if he needs me in the training room with him, I'll be there. I'll rub on his leg, whatever he needs me to do," Griffin said with a laugh. "It's paramount. He's one of our leaders. He brings a certain attitude to the game as well and it completes that offensive line that's played pretty well all year."
Williams heard from Griffin about that offer but gently declined.
"I told him he can keep that because I didn't want people to get the wrong perception," Williams said, smiling. "He has not rubbed my leg. At no time will he touch my upper thigh."
That offer was tongue-in-cheek, but Williams' value to the Redskins is no joking matter. When Jordan Black replaced him against the Cincinnati Bengals, the line struggled.
"Trent has a tremendous amount of talent and ability," Chester said. "If there's a chance for him to be out there, it's in our favor."
With no margin for error between keeping the season alive and falling out of the playoff hunt, the Redskins not only need Williams to play but expect him to.
Said Lichtensteiger: "I'm sure he'll probably play, yes."
© Copyright 2015 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.