The defensive line prospect comes off the Seahawks practice field and stops to honor a lone interview request.
Like others new to the team, he’s just fighting for a spot, hoping to earn a role. So he’s busy learning the responsibilities of three different line positions. He’s familiar with football’s axiom: The more you know, the better chance you can help the team.
Sounds like a rookie, right?
Not hardly. It’s Kevin Williams, the most decorated player on the 2014 Seahawks roster.
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Williams is entering his 12th NFL season, having played 11 previously with the Minnesota Vikings in which he was five times named an All-Pro while being voted to six Pro Bowls.
Having been named to the all-decade team for the 2000s, Williams could end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Now, having been picked up as a free agent in June, he’s just trying to fit in with the Seahawks.
“I’m just trying to help out as I can,” Williams said Monday. “Whether it be at the nose, at the 3 (technique), at the 5 (technique). Whatever position they put me in, I want to learn it and know it. The way they play the line here, it’s good to know everybody’s position, you never know where you might be shuffled around and get your reps.”
That attitude is exactly why the Seahawks wanted him. Despite his showy résumé, Williams is a low-maintenance, high-energy, egoless player who is considered one of the all-time great teammates.
“Kevin really is the guy who does bring intangibles,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s a great competitor, been a fantastic leader who has been a great guy in (the Vikings) locker room for years. Everybody speaks so highly of him. He’s got tremendous character, so that kind of wisdom that you bring to a team is always beneficial.”
Having lost that veteran influence on the defensive line with the likes of Red Bryant and Chris Clemons this offseason, the 33-year-old Williams has obvious appeal — particularly as he has been so durable and appears to have more football left in his career.
The ninth overall pick in the 2003 draft, Williams has missed only five games in 11 seasons, having started 171 in the NFL. Not only does he have 60 sacks as an interior lineman, his five interceptions are an NFL record for defensive tackles.
Most impressively, he’s never played fewer than 14 games in a season, and last year he played more than 700 snaps, far more than any defensive lineman on the Seahawks’ rotation.
“He’s an experienced guy who is really intelligent and able to come in and pick up the scheme quickly,” said Travis Jones, the Seahawks’ defensive line coach. “We’re expecting him to come in and contribute to our group. He’s a smart guy … he wanted to know all the spots. He understands that the more you know the more value you are to the team.”
Other teams knew that too, as several sought his services, including New England, which reportedly offered more money than Seattle. But he wanted to join the defending Super Bowl champions, as he had liked what he saw whenever he watched the Seattle defense.
“You could see up front their defense had a lot of fun rolling guys in and out,” he said. “My career in Minnesota was great, but we didn’t have the luxury of rotating guys the way they do. I talked to them about it and thought it was the best fit for me.”
Williams said he could envision playing fewer snaps yet getting more production as a result of being fresh. It could, in fact, be a way to lengthen his career.
When asked about it being his 12th camp, he groaned: “Don’t remind me.” But he’s never missed one via holdout or injury his entire career.
“My biggest thing, since I’m not a big talker, is showing up and doing my work and leading by example,” he said. “I was brought up by a bunch of old guys who taught me you can’t make the team if you’re on the sideline or in the training room.”
With some injuries already hitting the depth at defensive line, the signing of Williams becomes even more important. But how could a team not benefit from having a player with his attitude and experience in the locker room and on the field?
“I’ve been blessed to have a good career and I hope to keep that going here,” he said. “I’m excited to bring whatever expertise and knowledge I can to this group and try to help.”
Whether he ends up being a backup or a rotational guy with a steady role, he’s fine as long as the team can again be a contender.
“I’ve been an under-the-radar guy all my career,” he said. “I just show up and make plays and they can give everybody else the accolades for all I care. I just love playing the game and I’m excited to do it here.”