NFL: Redskins’ Williams sheds rust after losing pounds

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 3, 2009

Associated Press
ASHBURN, Va. ó Mike Williams lost more than 100 pounds in less than six months in his bid to return to the NFL. After five days of training camp with the Washington Redskins, it’s apparent he needs to lose something else.
“We talk about shedding rust,” he said.
On some plays, Williams still shows the immobility of a 450-pound man, which he was in February. When undrafted rookie defensive lineman Jeremy Jarmon blows past Williams for an easy shot at the quarterback, one has to wonder why the Redskins have been so confident that a player out of football for three years could replace longtime right tackle Jon Jansen.
At other times, there’s progress. During a 2-minute drill over the weekend, Williams held his own against backup pass rusher Chris Wilson.
“The first day you might (stink),” Williams said. “The next day, you might (stink) just a little less. You’ve got to continue to come out here and get better and get better.”
It’s an audacious experiment. Take a former No. 4 overall draft pick, one who hasn’t taken a snap in an NFL game since New Years Day of 2006, and watch his weight drop from 450 to 342 ó then count on him to be a possible solution along an aging offensive line.
Yet front office chief Vinny Cerrato was so bullish on Williams in the spring that he didn’t draft an offensive lineman. The team then released Jansen in May, essentially making the right tackle job a two-man battle between Williams and Stephon Heyer, a third-year player who went undrafted but has started 12 games in two seasons.
“I find it hard to believe that after almost three years that I can still be able to do this,” Williams said.
The offensive line is a significant question mark for the Redskins this season, and the unit hasn’t looked good overall during the first few days of camp. Heyer has been working with the starters, Williams with the second-stringers. Williams says he’s here to start, but so far he hasn’t made a compelling case.
“The run is not over,” he said. “Heck, what day is it today? Haven’t even played a game yet, so let’s not start: ‘Who’s in, who’s out, who’s this, who’s that.’ We’re all competing out there.”
At the start of camp, Williams offered more details of his amazing weight loss. He visualized each pound lost as a pound of bacon ó fat that needed to be discarded. He never eats after 8 p.m. ó which requires quite a bit of discipline when out with friends at a restaurant. He and teammate Derrick Dockery offered mutual support ó it was through his friend Dockery that the Redskins discovered Williams in the first place.
He also made an interesting confession ó that perhaps his heart wasn’t fully in the game when he was underachieving during his four seasons with the Buffalo Bills, the team that drafted him in 2002.
“It might have been a heart issue,” he said. “Now coming back in, I know exactly what I feel in my heart, mentally ready to go and do this. And that’s why I came here, I came in here running.”
In addition to getting his blocking techniques back up to scratch, Williams is having to deal with the stifling summer humidity of northern Virginia. Anyone who loses so much weight in so little time warrants extra attention, and a 29-year-old football player is no exception.
“He’s been dehydrated because of all the weight he’s lost,” coach Jim Zorn said. “He’s getting fluids in him, we’re getting his diet corrected so he can get out here and perform and have a lot of energy.”
Zorn said he’s noticed a little bit of rust in Williams’ performance, but there’s no shortage of enthusiasm.
“He’s got a great attitude. What I like about Mike is he hasn’t let down. He doesn’t have that ‘trout’ look,” said Zorn, opening his eyes wide and pursing his lips like a fish, “like he doesn’t know what he’s doing.”