"I admire two guys (Piccolo and Gale Sayers), who were able to become friends and stay friends through the turmoil and the things that they went through," Williams said. "They were both very hard workers and great people. They were somebody for all of us to look up to."
"Big Cat" is the 10th veteran to win the award, which was originally only given to rookies until 1992.
Williams, named to his first Pro Bowl in 2001 in his 11th NFL season, has started 127 of 128 regular season games for the Bears during the past eight seasons. In 2001 he anchored an offensive line which proved to be the best in the NFL at preventing sacks, allowing a league-low 17 sacks, more than 21 below the NFL average (38.6) and 17 fewer than the team permitted in 2000 (34).
Thomas, the Bears second-round pick in the 2001 draft, established a Bears rookie rushing record with 1,183 yards on 278 carries, surpassing Rashaan Salaam's 1995 total of 1,074 yards. He was named the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year, marking the first Bears player to win the honor since Gale Sayers was recognized as the NFL's top offensive rookie in 195. Thomas also set a Bears rookie record with 188 yards rushing at Cincinnati (10/21), the eighth-highest single game rushing total in Bears history and the top performance by a rookie during the 2001 season.
In Other News: The Bears have to decide whether or not to match the Chiefs four-year $12 million offer to Warrick Holdman. If Chicago doesn't match the offer the team will not receive compensation for the linebacker because of a clerical error.
Chances are Bears GM Jerry Angelo will let Holdman go, which will allow him to extend long-term offers to the Bears three other restricted free agents Rex Tucker, Rosevelt Colvin and Marty Booker.