Williams looks to salvage frustrating season

Kevin Williams suffered a painful foot injury in training camp, was suspended for the first two games, and has just recently started feeling up to par. The Pro Bowl defensive tackle reflects on a frustrating season and the latter years of his career.

Of all the aspects of the Vikings' season that have gone downhill – from injuries to Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Michael Jenkins to the release of Donovan McNabb and Bernard Berrian – there haven't been many improvements on the team since the start of a season that is bordering on being the worst season in franchise history.

But, one of the rare positives has been the improved play of Kevin Williams. In a season that began with a nagging foot injury sustained during training camp and the league finally imposing its suspension on Williams stemming from the three-year-old StarCaps incident, Williams spent the first three months of the 2011 season just getting healthy and said he's feeling as good now as he had all year.

Williams' play over the last three games has been extremely good, as he has made his presence felt in the middle of the Vikings defense. He said the season has been a disappointment, but he is feeling like he's finally back on his game – something he wasn't sure was going to happen back in September.

"I think everything I could possibly go through happened this year," Williams said. "With the foot (injury) going on and missing the two games (from the StarCaps suspension), it's just been a battle getting healthy. But I think I'm pretty good in that department now and been playing well the last few weeks."

A lot has changed for Williams in the past 24 months. In 2009, the Vikings were the talk of the NFL and riding high atop the conference and among the top two or three teams in the league. Less than two years later, the Vikings are one of the two or three worst teams in the NFL and are playing out the string on the 2011 season when 20 of the league's 32 teams still have a chance to make the postseason.

The one commonality between the last two seasons was that the Vikings got off to painfully slow starts. Teams have ebbs and flows during a season, but when the down moments come early, it can be a problem – as the Vikings and their fans have realized, especially this year. Williams believes the Vikings never got in "panic mode," but never pulled out of their tailspin in either season.

"You don't want to lose early," Williams said. "You get as many as you can and you maybe can lose a couple late. The ones you got a chance to win and are in the games late, you need to try to capitalize and get those wins. That's what we're trying find out, how to finish and do those things. Starting the season, we were scoring a lot of points and up in most of the games and some kind of way it turned one-sided (against us) in the end. We have to put that behind us and keep working."

What made this year so painful for Williams was that he wasn't able to be on the field for the first two games, when the Vikings had double-digit leads in the second half and he was convinced that, when allowed to pin his ears back in those situations and rush the quarterback, he could have made the difference between winning and losing. But he said the problems with finishing off opponents has plagued the Vikings all season – before he returned from his suspension and since.

"You always think you can be the guy who makes the play that changes the game," Williams said. "But it's going to takes a team doing the right things and on the right page to get things going."

The Vikings' D-line has undergone a metamorphosis on the fly this year. Ray Edwards signed away as a free agent and Pat Williams, the other half of the Williams Wall, wasn't re-signed. Kevin said he still talks a couple of times a week to Big Pat and said, while he misses him and the impact he made as the anchor of the Vikings defense, the business of football doesn't take personal friendships into account.

"It's been a huge loss, but you've got to keep moving," Williams said. "We got Remi (Ayodele) here to take his place and he has to do his thing and show why we brought him in here – to make plays. He had a great game on Sunday and hopefully it snowballs the rest of the season."

Williams said he doesn't look at the Vikings as being a spoiler for other teams down the stretch. He also doesn't believe the team is just playing out the string. He is looking forward to the final four games. As a veteran who has been forced to watch from the sidelines during his career and this year, he has become more philosophical – seeing his own playing window starting to close. He's taking the time to enjoy the moment and hopes the final four games, while meaningless in terms of the Vikings' 2011 positioning among teams in the NFC North, can start something positive.

"For me personally, you're playing a game you love," Williams said. "If you can't get excited for that, you shouldn't be doing it. This is a chance to go out and play in the National Football League. You've got four games left to do it. Have fun. This is not permanent. You don't play this game forever. I think that clicked in with a bunch of people and you've just got to roll with it."


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":" Of all the aspects of the Vikings' season that have gone downhill – from injuries to Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Michael Jenkins to the release of Donovan McNabb and Bernard Berrian – there haven't been many improvements on the team since the start of a season that is bordering on being the worst season in franchise history. But, one of the rare positives has been the improved play of Kevin Williams. In a season that began with a nagging foot injury sustained during training camp and the league finally imposing its suspension on Williams stemming from the three-year-old StarCaps incident, Williams spent the first three months of the 2011 season just getting healthy and said he's feeling as good now as he had all year. Williams' play over the last three games has been extremely good, as he has made his presence felt in the middle of the Vikings defense. He said the season has been a disappointment, but he is feeling like he's finally back on his game – something he wasn't sure was going to happen back in September. \"I think everything I could possibly go through happened this year,\" Williams said. \"With the foot (injury) going on and missing the two games (from the StarCaps suspension), it's just been a battle getting healthy. But I think I'm pretty good in that department now and been playing well the last few weeks.\" A lot has changed for Williams in the past 24 months. In 2009, the Vikings were the talk of the NFL and riding high atop the conference and among the top two or three teams in the league. Less than two years later, the Vikings are one of the two or three worst teams in the NFL and are playing out the string on the 2011 season when 20 of the league's 32 teams still have a chance to make the postseason. The one commonality between the last two seasons was that the Vikings got off to painfully slow starts. Teams have ebbs and flows during a season, but when the down moments come early, it can be a problem – as the Vikings and their fans have realized, especially this year. Williams believes the Vikings never got in \"panic mode,\" but never pulled out of their tailspin in either season. \"You don't want to lose early,\" Williams said. \"You get as many as you can and you maybe can lose a couple late. The ones you got a chance to win and are in the games late, you need to try to capitalize and get those wins. That's what we're trying find out, how to finish and do those things. Starting the season, we were scoring a lot of points and up in most of the games and some kind of way it turned one-sided (against us) in the end. We have to put that behind us and keep working.\" What made this year so painful for Williams was that he wasn't able to be on the field for the first two games, when the Vikings had double-digit leads in the second half and he was convinced that, when allowed to pin his ears back in those situations and rush the quarterback, he could have made the difference between winning and losing. But he said the problems with finishing off opponents has plagued the Vikings all season – before he returned from his suspension and since. \"You always think you can be the guy who makes the play that changes the game,\" Williams said. \"But it's going to takes a team doing the right things and on the right page to get things going.\" The Vikings' D-line has undergone a metamorphosis on the fly this year. Ray Edwards signed away as a free agent and Pat Williams, the other half of the Williams Wall, wasn't re-signed. Kevin said he still talks a couple of times a week to Big Pat and said, while he misses him and the impact he made as the anchor of the Vikings defense, the business of football doesn't take personal friendships into account. \"It's been a huge loss, but you've got to keep moving,\" Williams said. \"We got Remi (Ayodele) here to take his place and he has to do his thing and show why we brought him in here – to make plays. He had a great game on Sunday and hopefully it snowballs the rest of the season.\" Williams said he doesn't look at the Vikings as being a spoiler for other teams down the stretch. He also doesn't believe the team is just playing out the string. He is looking forward to the final four games. As a veteran who has been forced to watch from the sidelines during his career and this year, he has become more philosophical – seeing his own playing window starting to close. 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