Packers admire 'old school' Tramon Williams' play, if not his choice of music

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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- When Tramon Williams cues up his music, Jaire Alexander admits he sometimes tunes it out.

Not that Alexander, a second-year corner, doesn’t like Williams’ choices -- often Tupac -- but it’s, as Alexander said, “a little old school” for him.

That’s about the only time he doesn’t pay attention to Williams.

The same goes for the rest of the Green Bay Packers' defense.

Williams not only offers his wisdom in meetings but also leads by example on the field. The cornerback, in his 13th season, played all 73 defensive snaps in the Week 1 win over the Chicago Bears. He played the most snaps in Week 1 by any defensive player in the league age 36 or older.

It’s not that players can’t perform in the NFL at age 36; there were 19 players at least that age who appeared in a Week 1 game. But Williams was the only cornerback.

“There’s only a select few people who can do it,” said Alexander. “He’s exceptional.”

Perhaps Williams won’t have to play every snap this week against the Minnesota Vikings. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine would prefer to limit Williams to the nickel and dime packages, but with Kevin King coming off a right hamstring injury, the Packers held King to a part-time role. Williams played on the outside in the base defense and moved inside when King played his 42 snaps.

Williams had one play -- one game-saving play -- that stood out. On a second-and-5 from the Packers’ 28-yard line in the third quarter, Williams found himself in coverage against Bears receiver Allen Robinson down the right sideline. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky made one of his few on-target throws on a fade route. Robinson extended for the catch and landed his right foot in bounds just as Williams shoved the receiver out of bounds at the 3-yard line before he could get any other part of his body down in the field of play.

“He wasn’t able to get the other foot because Tramon had that awareness to shove him out of bounds,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “It was a great, heads-up play by him. We’re really fortunate to have him on our football team. I think he’s well-respected and I think the guys, they all look up to him.”

LaFleur is only three years older than Williams. When Williams broke into the NFL in 2006 as a free agent with the Texans and then joined the Packers’ practice squad later that year, LaFleur was Northern Michigan’s quarterbacks and receivers coach. It was his first full-time job in coaching.

Williams has been in the NFL more than half of the time that Packers starting inside linebacker Blake Martinez has been alive. Williams is 11 years older than Martinez.

“That’s literally almost half my years,” said Martinez, who turned 25 in January.

When Williams left the Packers following the 2014 season to sign with the Browns, there was little reason to think he’d ever be back with the Packers. But when Pettine -- Williams’ head coach with the Browns -- was hired as defensive coordinator in 2018 and Williams was available after a one-year stint with the Cardinals, it was a natural fit.

Last year, Williams played 1,059 of a possible 1,064 defensive plays, and while he might not match that this year, it’s clear that the Packers think he can still play.

Inevitably, a conversation with Williams includes a discussion about his age.

“Look, I get it,” he said with a smile before trying to explain why he has lasted so long. “Genetics. I think my body’s just been preserved well. Obviously, I do things throughout the year, but the fact is a lot of people do things all year but they still get old fast. I think the grace of God preserved my body. Genetics and a little bit of everything else plays into it, but the grace of God preserved my body well, and I continue to find different things in the offseason to try to extend my career or just make sure my body’s where it’s supposed to be.”

Williams is one of only two cornerbacks from the 2006 draft class still in the NFL. The other, 35-year-old Johnathan Joseph, also played all of his team’s defensive snaps -- 65 for the Texans in Week 1.

Williams finished the 184th game of his NFL career last Thursday with three tackles and two pass breakups, including the big one on the sideline against Robinson. Yes, he was penalized twice -- once for pass interference and once for a late hit out of bounds -- but the example he sets is expected to continue to resonate in the Packers’ locker room.

“Just for him to be at that age and still able to function and move and make plays, especially at our position, that’s exceptional,” Alexander said. “That’s stuff that we look up to. That’s stuff we want to be like.”