When Redskins left tackle Trent Williams was hauled off the field in the first quarter of the Week 3 game against the Cincinnati Bengals, he had a familiar twinge of guilt.
He couldn't help his team when they needed him the most.
While the Redskins were able to put up points that day, franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III took his worst beating in the NFL, getting hit 13 times, sacked six times, and forced to rush a career-high 12 times for 85 yards.
With the results of a 31-38 loss being pinned in part on pass protection, Williams rushed his recovery last week to start against the Buccaneers.
"I was surprised I was even able to go," he said this morning. "I could've played a lot better, but I was just surprised I was able to be out there."
With Williams back in the lineup, the protection yielded only two sacks and the offense did not turn the ball over for the second time this season.
Despite the positive progress, Williams was critical of his own performance.
"I'm not very pleased with my performance as of right now," he said. "I'm my own worst critic, so you'll always hear that from me. I need to get better.
"Until I feel like I'm the best, you'll always hear that from me."
Williams' inspired performance this season has pushed him back into the discussion as one of the NFC's best tackles. While he appreciates the accolades, his primary concern is getting better and winning football games.
"To be honest with you, that's not for me to decide," he said. "The coaches and scouts that evaluate the film can tell you a lot more about that. I just want to be the best I can be every snap, every Sunday, and just help my team win."
Williams played only 12 games last year, missing the final four games with an NFL suspension. A fear of letting his coaches and teammates down again is all the motivation he needs to produce.
"That's the driving force behind a lot of stuff I do," he said. "I alienated my team for four games, I wasn't able to be there, even though I was a captain at the time.
"I made a mistake and I use it as a learning experience. This year, I'm trying to prove to them that I've grown up a lot and that's not me anymore."
Even when Williams felt his knee get sore and swollen during Sunday's game in Tampa, he refused to exit the game, keeping Griffin III clean for the final nine minutes.
"Coming out was not an option," he said emphatically. "I had already come too far at that point, and there's no way I was going to come out.
"There was a couple times when I thought, 'I could've executed that block a little bit better with two healthy knees,' but other than that, no way."
Williams was named an offensive captain again for 2012, an honor and trust he had to earn with his offseason dedication to the team.
While linebacker London Fletcher is the emotional leader of the team and Griffin III is the face of the franchise, Williams is content to prove his leadership qualities with his play on the field.
"I try to be a leader by example, and I also have a few chosen words for people when I think the time is right," he said. "But other than that, I feel like I just try to be the best teammate that I can be.
"[I am] showing my teammates that I'm committed to the team, and try to go out there and just leave it all on the field every Sunday."