RENTON - Mike Williams is a talker.
Sometimes it’s just nonchalant banter that goes on between players as they walk back to the huddle.
Other times it’s boisterous trash talk that colors the intense, one-on-one battles of training camp.
And the 6-foot-5, 235-pound receiver doesn’t mince words when he tells the likes of rookie safety Earl Thomas that they can’t cover him.
Most times he has been right; Williams has consistently gotten behind the Seahawks secondary for big gains during the first two weeks of camp.
“Earl is one of the most competitive guys I’ve been around in a long time,” Williams said. “And so when I’m out here with him and we make a play on those guys, I know I can count on him to be pissed off.
“And, of course, I’m going to make fun of that.”
Given up as a lost cause and out of the league since 2008, Williams has turned into a reclamation project for Pete Carroll, his former coach at USC and now the head man in Seattle.
The Seahawks were one of the teams attempting to woo talented receiver Brandon Marshall, but ultimately they decided the compensatory draft picks Denver demanded were too much to bear.
Instead, the team took a calculated risk on the 26-year-old Williams, a player with similar skills but with much less of a pedigree than Marshall – considered one of the top receivers in the NFL.
So far the move appears to have paid off. Williams will get his first NFL action in three seasons in Seattle’s first exhibition game against Tennessee tonight at 7 at Qwest Field.
With just 44 NFL catches to his credit, Williams understands he has a long ways to go before he commands the kind of respect Marshall has earned around the league.
“Don’t do it,” Williams said about the Marshall comparisons. “I can count on my hand how many catches I have in this league, and he’s got 500 or so (327 actually), so don’t do it. We’re both from Florida, so that’s the only thing that you can probably put in the mix. And we both know Jeremy (Seahawks offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates), so other than that I don’t even think about it.
“Obviously I would want to do what he did in this offense. But I’m sure he worked his way to the level he’s at, and that’s what I plan to do.”
Williams missed two days of training camp this week with a sprained ankle before returning to practice Thursday, but he continued to jaw and have fun with defenders while watching.
Bates, who coached Marshall while in Denver, took notice of Williams’ absence and noted that no one has locked down a roster spot.
“He can’t be missing practices,” Bates said of Williams. “You’ve got to be out here on the practice field to get better. And he’s just got to find a way. He missed two days, and he came back today (Thursday) and had a strong day.
“But for all of the guys, we still have months, so we’re not naming any starters or who’s made the team. So you’ve got to keep grinding. He’s done a great job, but he has to understand this is still a process, and he’s still competing.”
Bates’ comments were a not-so-subtle reminder of the issues that led to Williams’ falling out of the league. The 10th overall pick by the Detroit Lions in the 2005 draft, Williams went through three teams in three seasons.
Lack of motivation and weight issues were the main culprits. At one point during his final NFL stint with Tennessee in 2008, Williams reportedly ballooned to 270 pounds. But he says the weight issue is under control now.
“Weight is one of those things I don’t really think about,” Williams said. “I don’t wake up anymore thinking about it. I know what I want to eat. I know what I need to eat. And I know how to condition myself. That’s kind of one of the many things I’ve put in my past.”
Someone who can attest to Williams’ growth is Seahawks wide receiver coach Kippy Brown, who coached Williams while both were in Detroit.
“Mike’s always been a terrific athlete,” Brown said. “He’s always been capable. I think Mike has finally made the commitment to do what it takes to be a good football player, and that’s to be in terrific shape.
“He’s in the best shape I’ve ever seen him. And he’s more focused than I’ve ever seen him, so we’ll see where that takes him.”
So, did it take Williams going through some adversity to get to where he is now?
“I’m sure,” Brown said. “Mike’s human. And Mike’s a good person. And you go through things in life – we all do. And I think he reached a point in his life and in his career where he wants to take advantage of his opportunities. He loves football enough to go through what he’s gone through, and I respect him for that.”
Williams understands that Deion Branch, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and second-round draft choice Golden Tate are likely the top three receivers on Seattle’s depth chart right now. Tonight begins his chance of finding a role with this team.
“I’ve got to really make the most of my opportunities when I get them,” he said. “This is preseason, so it’s a little different. But just to get back into the swing of playing and being in a stadium, that’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to it.
“I’m way better mentally in understanding the game. And physically I’m just more prepared and in better shape. And moving forward I’m excited to have my chance.”
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks