Williams Looking Forward to Intimidating

New Vikings safety Tank Williams had his career sidetracked by a torn ACL in 2004 and spent last offseason worrying about the injury almost as much as he was worrying about the Titans defense. Now, with a fresh start in Minnesota and a defense he feels will be a great fit for his football reputation, the strong safety is looking forward to rehabbing his persona as a hard-hitting defender.

Safety Tank Williams has finally been getting an opportunity to learn football without thinking too much about an injury that sidetracked his young NFL career.

As a member of Tennessee Titans, Tank Williams was building a reputation as a hard-hitting safety when a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in November 2004 ended his season and slowed his career.

Similar to the comeback safety Willie Offord is attempting this offseason, Williams returned to start all 16 games in 2005, but he admits he had his limitations while making the comeback. But his return to the lineup in 2005 made three of four seasons with the Titans in which he started every game.

Known as a punishing hitter, Williams believes he's a good fit for the Vikings and defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin's "Tampa-2" defense.

"I was definitely interested in this (defense) because me being a Stanford guy, I used to always watch John Lynch down in Tampa, seeing the plays he was able to make," Williams said. "Actually, what sold me, I came on my visit and I was able to meet with Coach (Brad) Childress and then I met with Coach Tomlin over dinner and he just told me what they expected out of us, what kind of defense we were going to go with, what kind of intensity we were going to play with and I just liked what I heard. I knew that they were going to be straightforward, tell you what they expected out of you and expect you to do it. You can see that reflected on the field."

On the day of Williams' signing, Childress explained the Vikings' strong interest in him.

"Those safeties spend a great deal of time playing down by the line of scrimmage, particularly if you find people that are trying to run the football on you. Tank Williams can hit you. He can fill up a hole; he can play by the line of scrimmage. Not that he can't play in a deep half, but somewhere you need strikers coming out of the back end," Childress said

As a former defensive backs coach in Tampa Bay, Tomlin knows that hard-hitting safeties can make a name for themselves in this defense. He saw it happen time and again with Lynch's success.

But no matter the position or player Tomlin is coaching as the Vikings' defensive coordinator, he brings energy that the players respect.

"The thing I like about him is he has energy, but at the same time he's definitely knowledgeable about the defense," Williams said of Tomlin. "If you listen to him, I'm sure you can tell from the sideline, he knows his football. If you pay attention to the coaching points he makes, he's coaching you up. You've got a lot of coaches that just coach and you've got a lot of coaches that are teachers – they teach you something and you're able to apply it on the field. He's one of those coaches that is a teacher. That benefits you as a player because you're soaking up knowledge and that puts you that much closer on the field and you're able to make plays.

"We can go over an issue in two minutes and it's short, concise. He'll give you what you need, you apply it and then you move on to the next."

Tomlin's quick rise in the NFL coaching ranks doesn't surprise Williams' fellow safety, Darren Sharper, who played college football with Tomlin at William and Mary. But Sharper also acknowledged that playing alongside a safety with a reputation for hard hits could be advantageous for a ball-hawking free safety such as himself.

For Williams' part, he likes the reputation he earned early in his professional career.

"I thrive off that because you like to have that intimidation factor, especially being a safety that if somebody comes across the middle you're going to put a lick on them. You know what your strengths are, but you've got to work on your weaknesses," Williams said. "I make plays in the passing game, but I'd like to make more. When you see a guy (like Sharper) who averages around six picks a year, you're like, ‘Let me peak and see what he's doing and let me try and carry that over to my game.'"

Yet Williams knows where his bread is buttered – being an intimidator of receivers across the middle.

"You can see that in a receiver you hit and you can see it from other receivers who saw it on the sideline. Teams definitely need someone that can intimidate receivers and keep them out of the middle. That leads to dropped balls, and dropped balls are key on third down. If they think you're going to be right there and they drop the ball on third down, you're off the field and the ball is back to the offense," Williams said.

For now, Williams is just trying to put it all together in a new defense and recharge a career that was sidetracked for almost a year after his serious knee injury. He says he can still get sore running around on the turf, but his injury is behind him. While he was on the field and playing in 2005, he said his first year back just didn't feel right.

"Now I'm actually working on football stuff instead of rehabbing," he said.

It remains to be seen how much the addition of Williams in the defensive backfield will help rehabilitate the Vikings defense.

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