Williams' mind kept busy

For rookies, school may be over but class remains in session.

That's the biggest challenge for first-year players. While there's a playbook and plenty to learn in college, the amount of information to digest on the professional level is infinitely greater.

Now imagine you're Corey Williams and you have to learn the defense and the offense.

Williams, a sixth-round pick out of Division I-AA Arkansas State, has the size and athletic ability to play just about anywhere on the defensive line. But the former high school running back and tight end has impressive enough athleticism for Packers coach/general manager Mike Sherman to give him a shot at tight end, as well.

So, after practice early during the June minicamp, it was no surprise to see Williams seated in his locker stall staring at some plays.

"It's hard because I don't have a lot of time to learn," Williams said. "I've got to learn as best as I can, and that's what I'm focusing on now so I can go out and perform."

It wasn't unusual to see Williams lined up at power end or defensive tackle on one snap during 11-on-11 drills, only to throw on a red jersey and be in the offensive huddle a moment later. That had Williams' head swimming, trying to switch his mind from the terminology of the defense to that of the offense.

"Everything's going well. I'm just trying to learn all the things I'm supposed to do technique-wise," said Williams, who took most of his tight end reps playing the Kevin Barry-third-tight-end role. "On defense, I feel like I'm learning everything and doing real good with that. Offense, it's going to take me a while longer to learn the technique and learn all the plays. Defense also, because I've been trying to split time and learn the offense and learn the defense, so I got behind a little bit." In explaining his reasoning, Sherman said Williams showed soft hands during the opportunity sessions. Ask Williams about his hands, and he flashes a modest smile.

"Yeah, they're pretty good," Williams said. "I've got to work at it because I'm a little rusty. Maybe after a little while longer working at it and getting the routes and stuff down, I think I'll be all right."

As a fifth-round pick and the Packers deep along the defensive line, Williams realizes the more he can do, the better his chances of making the team. At the same time, he also realizes Sherman wouldn't have made the move if he didn't think Williams had a legitimate shot at making a roster that includes third-round rookie defensive tackle Donnell Washington.

"It makes me feel real good to know that they feel like they can put me at two positions and that I'm athletic enough to play. The main thing I'm really worried about right now is learning all the plays and the different techniques. As far as athletic ability, I know I've got that. That's not a problem. Once I learn that, I think I can help this team out a whole lot."

Sherman hesitates to say much of anything positive about linemen at this stage because the heavy hitting won't start until training camp begins late this month for rookies and in earnest on Aug. 2. Defensive coordinator Bob Slowik, however, is impressed.

"He's very athletic for his size," Slowik said. "He's a guy that looks like he may be versatile enough to play anywhere along the front."

At Arkansas State, Williams started 34 of 43 games, compiling 136 tackles, 14.5 sacks and had 27.5 tackles for loss. Four of his sacks came in a 2002 game against Tulsa.


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