TEMPE, Ariz. --Cardinals nose tackle
Dan Williams returned to practice Wednesday with a remarkably positive outlook after losing his father,
Thomas Williams, in a car accident before the team's game at New Orleans on Sept. 23.
"I'm doing a lot better," Williams said with a genuine smile that is one of his defining traits. "After seeing the car, I'm thankful for my mom and sister still being here with me."
Williams said his mother suffered bruised ribs and his sister suffered a small fracture in her back, but they are walking and are going to be OK.
Coach Bruce Arians said Williams is expected to start this Sunday when the Cardinals host the
Panthers, and Williams said he is ready for that challenge.
"You get back to your normal life and try to move on," said Williams, who will face off against his college teammate at Tennessee,
Chris Scott, the starting right guard for the Panthers. "My dad was a huge football fan. He would have it no other way."
Cardinals president Michael Bidwill, a licensed pilot, flew eight team members on his private jet Saturday to Memphis, Tenn., to attend the funeral services and then flew them back.
"The biggest thing was just to try to be there for a teammate," said defensive end
Calais Campbell, who attended. "You just put your arm around him and tell him 'we got your back.' It's as simple as that."
When asked how he handled such a tragedy with a player, Arians recalled similar situations while he was the coach at Temple.
"We lost two fathers in a matter of three days that were young men with heart attacks," he said. "I had to tell their sons that their dad passed away -- probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.
"Whatever happens has probably already happened to me. As a coach in those six years at Temple, everything happened.
"I think being in football is the best medicine for healing. I think getting him back here, getting him with the guys, giving him a purpose every day is the best healing for him."
Darnell Dockett has essentially adopted Williams as a little brother. Dockett knows all too well the pain of losing a parent, having come home to find his mother murdered at the family's home when he was 13.
"The sad reality is that's life for everybody on this planet," Dockett said. "At some point, it's going to happen to all of us. We're going to lose a parent. It’s all about how you respond to it.
"Dan's a tough kid, but that will make him grow up and look at life a lot different. It puts some stripes on you."
Dockett said teammates have not spent much time consoling Williams.
"We tell him we're always there for him if he wants to talk about things. You try to embrace him but you try to make football fun," Dockett said. "You don't want to be around him talking about that all day. You want to try to get back into life and into football and in the groove of things."
Williams said he is at peace with the loss.
"It's bigger than me," he said. "I think God just had a different plan for my father."
When asked what memories he would keep of his father, he said this: "Everybody who met my father, he always made a lasting impression. When I had to go and tell people he passed, people cried right in front of me. From the gas station to the local corner store to, of course, his friends and everybody close to him, he touched a lot of people."