With his 31st birthday approaching and a $6.9 million base salary looming for 2014, Williams faced an uncertain future in Green Bay. After all, he had seen it before for the forever-young Packers.
So, Williams spoke from the heart.
"Talent will only get you so far," he said. "Realistically, everyone's good on this level. Everyone's good on this level. You have to find out what it is for you to get that edge, for you to be able to be a step forward from the next guy. That's what it's about. When you have a young team like this, that's what you're challenged with. With young guys — with talented young guys — they play but the game's still fast for them because they don't understand what teams are trying to do. They don't understand the scheme fully. They don't understand what the scheme can do for them once they understand it. That's what you're faced with. Plus, the preparation. A lot of guys thought they know how to prepare when they were in college and whatnot, but then they get into the league and you find out that it's a different level to preparation. That's what you're faced with with young guys.
"Even though we always say it's a young league, yeah, it's a young league but it's an old league, too, because the old guys make the league go. That's the guys who've been there before, who know how to prepare, who mold the young guys. That's what they're there for. I understand that. I had the privilege to play with (Charles) Woodson and (Nick) Collins and Al Harris. You want guys to see things like you see it if you're the leader of that group. When you can get guys to that point, it slows the game down for everyone in that back end. That's when you start seeing a lot of plays being made out there. Whether it's your play or not, you know where the ball's going and you go in and you make the play. That's what we're trying to get. We have a great group of young guys in this room but they're young. They can play, very talented but still, they're young."
Who knows if general manager Ted Thompson or coach Mike McCarthy took that message to heart. However, Williams is still here. And so is former Pro Bowler Julius Peppers.
"I don't know but we have a good group of coaches and staff upstairs," Williams said. "They consider things that we say. I don't know if it was something that I said or anybody else said but I think they made the move that they had to to make the team better. At the end of the day, that's all that matters."
The signing of Peppers surprised Williams and several of his teammates.
"Truthfully, when I first heard about the signing, I didn't believe it," Williams said. "That's not the Packers' MO. We didn't sign Julius Peppers. I saw it on Twitter and I was like, ‘Somebody's just playing. We didn't sign Julius Peppers.' But then I kept seeing it and kept seeing it and obviously it came out. I was excited. I was smiling from that point on. Obviously, we all know what he can do. To have him here, it's definitely a plus."
Added Clay Matthews: "I was a little shocked. I know we don't make too many offseason acquisitions, especially such a big name. But I'm happy to have him on this side of the ball. I know he's a tremendous threat. Tackles know what he possesses as well as offensive coordinators, so I think it's just going to present new elements to this defense that we've been looking for. I'm excited, I know he is. Looking to make some plays this year."
Peppers, one of the game's premier pass rushers, is an eight-time Pro Bowler. He has won a long list of individual accolades but, after seeing the Packers win the NFC North at Soldier Field the past two seasons, he's ready to be on the winning sideline.
"Obviously, it's a team that wins," Peppers said. "They have a lot of pieces in place — that was important. Guys have a lot of talent, a lot of talent on this team. I feel like I'll blend in well with these guys. Those are some of the things that led to me wanting to be here."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.