The Dallas Cowboys selected the former Texas Tech defensive end in the fourth round of last year's draft and converted him to linebacker in their 3-4 defense. The plan, coaches said, was for Williams to develop into a backup pass-rushing end who could fill in for DeMarcus Ware or Anthony Spencer.
But before the season started, Williams's rookie year was over, thanks to a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee.
"It was so frustrating," Williams said of what it was like to spend his rookie season watching his teammates play without him. "I'm from Fort Worth. It was my first NFL season … and I was watching."
Now, Williams said, he is starting his career for the second time in as many seasons. The knee, he said, is almost all the way back to its original strength.
"It feels pretty good," Williams said, "maybe 85-90 percent. I'm improving what I'm doing every day, and the knee is improving, too."
Williams said that in order for him to call his knee 100 percent again, it's not the power or explosiveness that needs to return. That, he said, is already back.
"It's really about trusting it again — that's the big thing," he said. "I can run and rush the passer and everything now, but we're not at full speed yet. I have to be able to trust it when I'm cutting, or when I have someone leaning on me. That will come."
Williams, who said his most serious previous injury was a sprained ankle, is not wearing a protective brace on his knee, and said he has no intention of wearing one during the upcoming season.
"It's still in the healing process," he said. "It's frustrating that it's taking so long, but I'm working hard. I'm on the field now, and I'll be ready for training camp and ready once the season starts.
Williams admits that the situation in which he finds himself — he has a year's worth of experience on the team, but no NFL playing experience — leaves him somewhere between the young veterans and the rookies trying to make the team for the first time.
"It's kind of like I'm still a rookie," Williams said. "I know what I'm doing, and what we're doing with the defense, so that's a big help. That puts me ahead of the rookies, I guess. But as far as getting out there and doing it, I guess I'm a rookie all over again."
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