Williams bouncing back

On the list of Dallas Cowboys from whom major contributions are expected in the upcoming season, second-year linebacker Brandon Williams's name doesn't appear at the top.

But put together a list of players who should make their NFL debuts this season and make an impact on the Cowboys' season, and Williams's does belong near the top. He might be looking up at receiver Dez Bryant, and maybe linebacker Sean Lee, but after that?

Williams missed his rookie season when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee, which he then had surgically repaired. While his teammates played what should have been his rookie season, he worked with the team's trainers and medical staff to rehabilitate his knee. Shortly after the season ended, he was cleared to begin working out again, but the team understandably is being very careful; in training camp, he is practicing no more than once a day.

Williams was drafted last year in the fourth round out of Texas Tech, where he was a star defensive end. Now he finds himself not only battling his way back from injury, but also backing up one of the premier players at any position.

"It speaks for itself, really," Williams said. "DeMarcus Ware — he's a hell of a player, and all I can do is learn something every day."

No player likes to sit and watch while his teammates play, but Williams said that spending his rookie season on the injured reserve list forced him to observe his teammates — especially Ware — and learn from the veterans.

"I think I'm a lot better from last year," Williams said, "because I learned more and I focused on what I need to focus on — knowing the drops and knowing my takeoffs and different things like that."

Williams was asked if the season he missed because of injury had him feeling like a rookie all over again as the Cowboys began training camp again this week in San Antonio. Williams said that while that is a logical conclusion, the welcoming nature of his veteran teammates has alleviated that feeling.

"I do (feel a little like a rookie all over again)," Williams said, "but talking to DeMarcus Ware and talking to a lot of other players, I really don't. It feels the same."

So while he works his way back into football shape, Williams has followed the orders of the team's medical and training staff, easing his way back up to a full work load. In the meantime, of course, he also has to show his coaches that he knows what he is doing to the extent that he deserves a roster spot.

"I think I have done pretty much good," he said, "but I think I can do a little better with my takeoffs and getting to the quarterback a lot faster. From what I've done now, I think I've done [well].

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