EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (June 20, 2006) -- Troy Williamson was back on the field, eager to show the Minnesota Vikings they can count on him as the deep threat they drafted him to be.
During a practice on June 20, his first with the team in more than two months, Williamson hauled in a long pass from Brad Johnson. Afterward, Williamson spoke with an exuberance and lightened expression rarely seen last season.
"I'm more comfortable, because I'm not coming in as a rookie and I've been in it for a year," Williamson said. "I know what to expect, and it makes me a little bit more relaxed."
It helps that he can finally run at full speed, too.
After participating in the Vikings' first minicamp in early April, Williamson developed a skin abscess on his left hip -- which stemmed from a childhood accident in which he suffered third-degree burns.
The abscess, which is essentially a boil, required surgery to repair. Doctors cleaned it, cut out a section and left it open for a week to determine the cause. Skin was taken from his thigh and transferred to the hip to patch the wound.
Williamson, who caught 24 passes for 372 yards and two touchdowns in 2005 after being selected with the seventh overall draft pick, was originally on schedule to return to training camp at the end of the July.
But he was cleared on June 16 and allowed to return this week for the last handful of spring practices -- optional workouts called organized team activities.
Now he has to get back in shape and make up for the conditioning time he lost during the recovery. He has been around the building for meetings throughout May and June to absorb as much as possible of the new offense being installed by coach Brad Childress and his staff.
"I feel like that helped me out a whole lot," Williamson said. "Just coming in and seeing what somebody had before the play, what the formation was, and stuff like that. That helped me mentally.
"I'm picking up on more stuff a lot faster."
With a glut of receivers (14 currently on the roster), but nobody who had more than 604 yards last year, the Vikings are counting on Williamson to emerge.
"I feel like I can be that guy to do that," Williamson said. "There's a lot of opportunities for a lot of people, and all we have to do is take advantage of it."
That's good news for Minnesota, assuming it translates to more production this season. His rookie year was quiet, and a sprained shoulder kept him out for two games -- the second absence because coach Mike Tice wasn't happy with the way he handled the injury by pulling himself out of practice.
But Williamson also showed flashes of his fast feet, hauling in two of the longest four touchdown receptions last season -- a 53-yarder against New Orleans and a 56-yarder at Baltimore.
"I think people can screw it down on you pretty good if you aren't able to run by 'em," Childress said. "By the same token, you have to be able to run by people and make a play. Otherwise, it's a long foul ball that doesn't mean anything. You need to get that on tape. You need to be able to show people you have the ability to do that."