After Williams' departure from Green Bay, a rocky stint in Atlanta ended after a single season. The Falcons gave Williams signed a five-year, $13 million deal, and Williams started the first four games of 2003 before getting suspended one game by head coach Dan Reeves for conduct detrimental to the team. He played only two more games and was inactive for the final nine contests.
This offseason Williams was not signed as a free agent nor did he attend an NFL training camp. He said he kept in playing condition by working out in Arizona and his native Florida, but wasn't comfortable being away from the game.
"I went to a couple sports bars to watch a couple games," Williams said in a Cowboys' internet report. "I washed my car probably about five, six times. I didn't know what to do. It was very tough. I'd never been away from the game that long, so I see what players go through when they do end their career."
Williams has told the press that he was entangled in a domestic dispute with his wife, causing teams to shy away from him. He's lived his NFL life in the troubled shadows before. In between the end of his Cornhuskers' career and the start of his rookie season in Green Bay, Williams spent 126 days in jail on a misdemeanor weapons charge in Nebraska.
Enter Dallas, never a team to shy away from a player just because of a little controversy. The Cowboys signed Williams to help fix the hole in their secondary left by Pete Hunter's season-ending injury. Hunter, who started the first three games at right cornerback, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the first quarter of that game and had surgery last week.
Inactive for his first week as a Cowboy on Oct. 10, Williams stepped into the starting right cornerback spot last week vs. Pittsburgh. Williams contributed four tackles and a sack of Steelers' QB Ben Roethlisberger for a three-yard loss. Pittsburgh beat Dallas 24-20, but the Cowboys pass defense gave up fewer yards than it had in the previous week's loss at 26-20 road loss to the Giants.
"It's like a new birth to me," Williams said on the Dallas team site. "This is a football team that can do some things. When I watch them on film, they've got a lot of talent but right now they're making some mental errors, but that'll come once everybody starts to mold." The 31-year-old Williams brings a wealth of experience to a Cowboy D which had been starting three rookies in the secondary plus second-year player before he came on board. Williams played 111 of 112 possible games in his seven years in Green Bay, including two Super Bowls. In six years as the Packers' starting right corner, Williams totaled 445 tackles and 19 interceptions.
When the Packers parted ways with Williams in 2002, they coudn't have forseen the Mike McKenzie situation nor the domino effect of a rash of injuries that has left the Packers secondary thin on experience. Would Williams have been a good fit back in Green and Gold?
It's a moot point, because Dallas moved first to fix their own lack of depth. It was a Packer connection that helped seal the deal. According to reports, Dallas coach Bill Parcells had Williams on his short list for a long time. A conversation with close friend and former Packer GM Ron Wolf cemented the deal. Wolf thought enough of the former Husker to pick him in the third round, and must still think enough of him to recommend him to Parcells.
"For (Ron Wolf) to speak to him for me, I have to live up to that."