Avery Williams was set to have a major role for the 2023 Atlanta as the team’s high-end punt returner, at least a part-time kick returner, and a versatile reserve on offense at both wide receiver and running back. Unfortunately, injury is going to rob Williams of that opportunity and rob the Falcons of a talented, useful players.
Per ESPN’s Mike Rothstein, Falcons head coach Arthur Smith told the press Wednesday that Williams is set to have surgery after suffering a non-contact injury in organized team activities. Smith seemed to think it’s unlikely Williams will get to play at all in 2023.
Falcons HC Arthur Smith said Avery Williams is having surgery and he's "probably done for the year."— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) June 7, 2023
He's been Atlanta's starting returner.
I’m devastated for Williams, a player who has done everything asked of him since arriving in Atlanta and done it well. A cornerback turned running back turned running back and wide receiver, Williams was also arguably the most productive punt returner in football a year ago, meaning he filled many roles capably for this team. The hope is that he’ll be back and can return to those many roles in 2024, but losing an opportunity to contribute and having to work his way back after a major injury sucks. A lot.
The Falcons are also losing a player they were clearly counting on to fill many niches. On offense they’ll miss his speed and potential at running back and receiver and will likely scour free agency for a suitable, versatile replacement. It will be even trickier to replace him as a returner, given that he had handled punts each of the past two seasons and played a major role on kick returns, as well. Cordarrelle Patterson can take on more kick returns with a smaller role on offense, but punt returner will be a fierce competition between players like Penny Hart, Dee Alford, and Scotty Miller. The Falcons may choose to add to that competition, too.
It’s a tough blow for player and team, in short, and all we can really do is wish Williams well on his recovery and see what the Falcons do to try to move forward without him in 2023.