Offensive tackle comes up big despite his ailing knee

ASHBURN -- Every so often Trent Williams noticed a difference. He couldn't obstruct a defensive back. He couldn't reach a lineman sliding to his right.

And he noticed another difference in himself: The fact that he even played represented a change in the third-year left tackle.

"A couple years ago I may have wanted to shut it down and not play through that type of pain," he said. "It was a lot of discomfort."

» The last time Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall and Atlanta coach Mike Smith met on the field it didn't end too well. There was a melee on the Falcons' sideline, and Smith angrily shouted and gestured at Hall. But that was in 2009. They made up after the 2010 season at the Pro Bowl. "Me and Mike are cool," Hall said. "We sat down and talked, hung out. We had a great time at the Pro Bowl, sipping a couple drinks. We won a game. He won some money. I won some money. It was a great time. If that's the storyline going into the game, it's going to be a boring game." Said Smith: "DeAngelo is one of the most competitive guys in the league. Competition and emotion are a big part of being successful in this league, and that's why he's been around for nine years and played the way he's played."
» Cornerback Cedric Griffin (hamstring) and safety Brandon Meriweather (knee), who already has been ruled out for Sunday's game vs. Atlanta, did not practice. Receiver Aldrick Robinson, who suffered a concussion in last week's pregame collision with Meriweather, still must pass some tests Thursday before he can return. Receiver Brandon Banks (hip) and running back Evan Royster (knee) were limited. Receiver Pierre Garcon (foot) and left tackle Trent Williams (knee) participated in the entire practice.

There's a reason he played every snap despite a bone bruise in his right knee, which caused him to limp around Redskins Park most of last week. And it has to do with his four-game drug-related suspension at the end of last season.

Williams was elected captain in 2011 and then players voted that honor for him again before this season. He showed up for a second straight summer in excellent shape and played as well as anyone in training camp. The fact that his teammates voted him a captain -- and that he missed those four games -- pushed him to play.

"Yeah, that's the driving force behind a lot of things I do now," Williams said. "I made a mistake, and I use it as a learning experience. I alienated my team for four games. I was a captain at the time, so it made me feel even worse. This year I'm trying to prove to them that I've grown up a lot and that's not me anymore."

He didn't allow any quarterback hits and the one time a player got around him occurred when he was late off the ball. The Redskins had gone from a cadence count to a silent snap, and Williams admitted he got a late jump.

"I'm somewhat proud of myself, but I still feel I could have played better," Williams said. "I was surprised I was able to go. You guys seen me throughout the week, I wasn't looking very well. I could play a lot better. But I was surprised I was able to be out there."

Still, even on the late jump he was able to protect quarterback Robert Griffin III by recovering to shove the end out of the way.

"It was his best game of the season," Redskins coach Mike Shan?ahan said. "He's in great shape. He looks like he's doing everything you'd want a player to do. He's playing at a high level. He has a lot of work to do, [but] I like his attitude. I like his demeanor. It was big for him to play in that game."

Said Griffin: "He balled out on Sunday. When guys like Trent and Pierre [Garcon] ... perform and put their bodies on the line for the team, it tells us a lot about the character of a man."

The athletic Williams helps move the offense with his ability to create cutback lanes or by getting into the open field and blocking linebackers and defensive backs. Even before his suspension last season, Williams was playing well.

It's what the Redskins expected when they opted for him over Russell Okung with the third pick in the 2010 draft. And his goal is to someday unseat Eagles left tackle Jason Peters (out for the season with an Achilles tendon injury) as the best player at this position.

"I wouldn't strip the title from him just yet," Williams said. "He's what everyone should be shooting for. I know I am."