by Tom LaMarre

Tyrell Williams knows he still has a lot to prove to Raider Nation.

The 6-4, 205-pound Williams, signed to a four-year, $44-million free agent contract by the Raiders last year, was expected to step up and be quarterback Derek Carr’s top receiver after troublesome Antonio Brown was released.

However, in the fourth game of the regular season, Williams sustained a painful right foot injury which was diagnosed as plantar fasciitis and it hampered him for the rest of the year.

“I have a lot of confidence in myself, so I don’t let it bring me down or carry over,” Williams said of the injury. “It is what it is. I want to make those plays. Everybody wants me to make those plays.

“ … It has just been a lot, with the injuries that have built up. I’m not feeling like myself. That’s the biggest thing, just trying to get over that.”

Williams finished the season with 42 receptions for 651 yards, a 15.5-yard average, and six touchdowns, but he had a scoring catch in each of his first four games before being injured and then wasn’t much of a threat to score the rest of the way.

Perhaps trying to do too much to make up for lost time, he also had several crucial drops.

Coach Jon Gruden saw what Williams was going through in the training room and the practice field virtually every day and never got down on him.

“We have to go back and I watch him in training camp and Week 1 when he was healthy against Denver, and he’s a talented guy,” Gruden said of the speedy Williams, who was a track star at Cascade High School in Salem, Ore. “But it’s hard to play when your feet are on fire and his feet were hurting bad. It’s a credit to him to play through it.

“I’m really proud of him. What you don't see sometimes is what these guys go through to just get to the game. … Tyrell has done a good job. … But we think he’s an excellent football player; he’s just got to get right.”

Williams reportedly is close to if not 100 percent after resting his injury before starting to work out during the offseason, and hopes to show that ability that led him to make 69 catches for 1,059 yards and seven touchdowns in 2016 for the San Diego, now Los Angeles Chargers.

After signing with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent out of Western Oregon in 2015, Williams has made 197 catches for 3,181 yards, a 16.1-yard average, and 23 touchdowns. He has 55 receptions of at least 20 yards and 18 receptions of at least 40 during his career.

“Things obviously didn’t go how I wanted (last season), but I believe it will help my career,” said Williams, who should be a mentor for rookie receivers Henry Ruggs III, Lynn Bowden Jr. and Bryan Edwards. “Just getting through a rough season personally, with the injury and all the drops and all that is something I’m working on extensively this offseason. It’s definitely going to make me a stronger player, a better player. I am excited to get next season, where I am healthy and feeling more like myself.

“Playing for the Raiders is awesome and being around Head Coach Jon Gruden is amazing as he is a great coach and leader, along with being a great man. I have really enjoyed my time with this team. … I very much want to win a Super Bowl and get selected to the Pro Bowl, as those are two things I am striving for this season.”

Raider Nation would certainly go for that.