Williams gets fair shake


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Jan 22, 2006
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Williams gets fair shake

Northwest tackle earns snaps with starting defense

By Rick Dean
The Capital-Journal

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It was a whirlwind week, to be sure, but Steve Williams is used to the turbulence.

It was just a week ago that Williams, a defensive tackle whose decision to have a midseason surgery ended his career at Division II powerhouse Northwest Missouri State, was one of 15 undrafted, unsigned collegians invited to attend the Chiefs rookies mini-camp on a tryout basis.

After five weekend sessions, they were thanked for their efforts and told only that the club might be getting in touch with some of them later.

Williams was one of four who got the call early last week. Signed to a contract and given a spot on the Chiefs' 80-man roster, he came to this weekend's full-team mini-camp with high hopes offset by realistic expectations of getting limited snaps with the fringe players who often aren't around by the summer training camp.

Instead, during Sunday's final session, Steve Williams found himself taking snaps with the Chiefs' No. 1 defensive unit.

"That wasn't by accident,'' said Chiefs coach Herm Edwards. "We felt (Williams) had worked his tail off to the point that he should take some snaps with the first unit, and that's important.

"I've been telling these guys, if you do things correctly and the way you've been coached, you'll get a chance.''

OK, so it was only a May mini-camp session. Starting positions are seldom determined in the spring, and the presence of an MIAA player on the first-team unit of an NFL team in May likely will mean little come September.

Spring also is the time coaches send messages to veterans who report to offseason conditioning workouts in something less than tip-top condition.

Even though Edwards insisted that message sending wasn't his intention, it wasn't especially surprising Sunday to see a pudgy Ryan Sims playing on the No. 2 defense while an undrafted collegian from a Division II school played in his place.

"I'm not worried about that right now,'' Edwards said of Sims' extra girth. "But they need to know that if they're a little overweight now, they've got to get it down by training camp. It would be tough on any guy (to be overweight in camp) because of the speed with which we're going to run our practices. They're all starting to realize that now.''

The only message Williams cares about, however, is that he has been given a golden opportunity to make a good first impression.

"I'm just thankful that this new staff seems to be giving everyone an equal opportunity,'' he said. "They're looking out for their starters, of course, but they also seem ready to give some young guys their shot.

"This has been great,'' he said of his turnaround in fortunes over the past week. "It was always my dream to play in the NFL, and I never got down. I always thought that someone would give me a shot, and now I've got to take advantage of it.''

Williams' NFL dreams were at the heart of the controversy that surrounded his abbreviated final season last year at Northwest Missouri.

One of the Bearcats' five team captains last year, Williams played in five games before electing to have surgery to repair a sports hernia. His decision was made against the advice of the team's medical staff, and Williams consequently was asked to leave the team before its game with Pittsburg State at Arrowhead Stadium.

He missed Northwest's run to the NCAA Division II national championship game, where the Bearcats lost to Grand Valley State. But he played in the Las Vegas Bowl, an all-star game in which he was impressive enough to appear on the personnel radar of the Cowboys and Chiefs.

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