Meet the richest defensive player in NFL history


Meet the richest defensive player in NFL history

From Comcast SportsNet
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -- New England quarterback Tom Brady might want to watch his back. The Jets' Mark Sanchez, too. After spending the past six seasons harassing quarterbacks for the Houston Texans, defensive end Mario Williams -- one of the NFL's top pass-rushers -- has found new motivation in a whopping contract and a new home in the AFC East with the Buffalo Bills. "I'm ecstatic, very excited. I can't wait for the opportunity," Williams said Thursday after signing a six-year deal potentially worth 100 million. "There's no pressure. I've played against great quarterbacks. And I'm looking forward to playing against these quarterbacks, chasing them down and making things happen." Williams' deal, which includes 50 million in guaranteed money, is the richest ever given to an NFL defensive player. It came after two days of talks, which started when the Bills flew the former top draft pick to Buffalo on a private jet Tuesday, shortly after the NFL's free agency period opened. Terms of Williams' contract were provided by the player's agent, Ben Dogra. "We got a lot better," Buffalo general manager Buddy Nix said, noting that the Bills addressed their highest offseason priority by bolstering what had been an anemic pass rush. "Good things come to the people that wait. So you guys have been waiting, and we've got a good thing here." Though the contract was agreed to shortly after noon, the news conference to introduce Williams was delayed by more than two hours as the two sides worked out the final details. The wait was even longer for Nix, who noted the Bills pro scouts identified Williams as their key target since January. "The No. 1 guy for us from Day 1 was this guy," Nix said. "Obviously, you don't do anything until he hits free agency, but it's been a long process. And it's been fun, especially since it turned out right." After quarterback Peyton Manning, Williams has been regarded as one of the top free agents available this offseason. Williams' addition immediately improves a defense that had difficulty applying pressure since Aaron Schobel was released before the 2010 season. Buffalo managed just 27 sacks in 2010, and 29 sacks last season, 10 coming in one game. Listed at 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, Williams is a two-time Pro Bowl starter and had a franchise-best 53 sacks in six seasons with the Texans. Williams was limited to playing just five games last season as a result of a torn chest muscle. He also missed three games in 2010 after having surgery to repair a sports hernia. Williams said he's healthy, and is accustomed to the playing in the spotlight. The Texans were initially questioned for overlooking running back Reggie Bush by drafting Williams with the No. 1 pick in 2006. "The only pressure and motivation I have is to come in here and do what I need to do with my teammates and for us to succeed," Williams said. Coach Chan Gailey is looking forward to seeing Williams help a line that features two solid tackles in Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus. Kyle Williams is expected to be fully healthy after having surgery to repair a nagging foot injury. Dareus, the third player picked in last year's draft, is coming off a promising rookie season in which he led the Bills with 5-12 sacks. "I can't put a percentage on how much better we are, but I know we're appreciatively better," Gailey said. "A better pass rush makes a better secondary. A better defense makes a better offense. It all works together." Mario Williams was intrigued by Buffalo, and did his homework after getting the sense the Bills might pursue him in free agency. In the past few weeks, he spoke to players familiar with the city, and his Texans position coach, Bill Kollar, who spent two seasons with the Bills. Then he got a chance to learn more about the city over the past two days touring the region, along with his fiance, Erin Marzouki, who arrived in Buffalo on Wednesday. What Williams discovered is that Buffalo reminded him of his small-town home of Richlands, N.C. "It was just like going back," he said. "I couldn't say no, it's a family atmosphere here." He immediately noted Bills fans' passion for football, and how many came up with colorful ways to urge Williams to sign with Buffalo. The best example was seeing pictures of a local pizza place using pepperoni to spell out "Come Mario 90" on its pies, the 90 referring to Williams' number in Houston. The avid outdoorsman, Williams also found a hunting partner in the get-acquainted process, Bills' Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly. Kelly played a role in the recruiting by inviting Williams and Marzouki over to his house in suburban Buffalo. It was during the visit that Williams happened to spot nine deer in Kelly's backyard. More important, Williams believes he can make a difference on a team that got off to a 5-2 start last year before unraveling by losing eight of its last 10. "You saw from the very beginning of last year what is capable here," Williams said. "We're just adding more pieces." And Williams is a big one.

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Not all losses are created equal.

When Lincoln-Way East suffered a 35-30 defeat in Week 3 to Homewood-Flossmoor, the Griffins took positives away from the loss. They had held a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, battled back from adversity in the second half and had a chance to win the game in the final minute. Even that loss in retrospect appeared acceptable – if there ever was an acceptable loss – as the Vikings are currently 8-0 and in their other seven wins have outscored their opponents by an average of 38 points.

By Week 3 the Griffins were still acclimating to the unique situation of playing at game speed with a host of Lincoln-Way North students who had transferred in the offseason. They had a defense made up almost entirely of first-year starters, and the offense was still rotating quarterbacks Jake Arthur and Max Shafer to figure out how to maximize their talent. By many standards the Griffins went toe-to-toe for 48 minutes with a team also considered to be a favorite for a state title.

The same couldn’t be said for the Griffins’ effort last Friday night in Bradley.

An esteemed program with a 2005 state title and 16 consecutive playoff appearances to their resume, it isn’t often the Griffins are embarrassed on Friday night. But those were the words head coach Rob Zvonar used in his postgame speech to the team following their 38-21 loss to the undefeated Boilermakers.

“We chose to play the game,” Zvonar began. “Which means you play it to the greatest of your ability and you honor each other, God, everybody by your play. And we didn’t do that tonight.”

There were plenty of reasons the Griffins suffered their second loss of the season. That is came in such blowout fashion was the bigger surprise. The Boilermakers found the end zone on their first two possessions, rallying behind a raucous home crowd hoping to see their team go 8-0 for the first time in school history.

The Griffins defense, which had allowed 27 points the previous three weeks combined, were on their heels as the Boilermakers used misdirection and a few trick plays to set up the short touchdown runs.

The Griffins offense moved down the field on their fourth possession, moving inside the Boilermakers red zone looking to get on the board. But Iowa commit Camron Harrell stepped in front of a Griffins screen pass on 4th down and returned it 89 yards for a score. On the final play of the first quarter, with the Griffins moving again, Damien Williams read a route and picked off Jake Arthur, returning it 53 yards for a score to give the Boilermakers a shocking 28-0 lead after 12 minutes.

After a spirited halftime speech from Zvonar, the Griffins came out firing in the second half, scoring on a touchdown run from Nigel Muhammad and a Jeremy Nelson 27-yard reception from Arthur. But the Boilermakers weathered the storm each time Lincoln-Way East attempted a comeback. The Griffins only got as close as 14 points late in the fourth quarter.

“I think we came into this game not ready,” said Muhammad, who finished with 164 yards on 24 carries. “But we’re all a team and we all accept this loss together.”

Added senior Jack Carroll, who finished with a team-high nine tackles: “We have this sick feeling in our stomach right now but the best thing is (next) Friday we can come back and get it out of our stomach. If we lose again in the playoffs then we’ll have that sick feeling in our stomach for the rest of our lives.”

That’s now the reality for the Griffins, and a silver lining if there ever could be one for such a blowout loss. With the playoffs a mere week away – the Griffins defeated Lockport on Friday to finish the regular season 7-2 – the feeling each of them felt getting on the bus back to Frankfort will linger with them and act as a reminder of how quickly things can slip away.

“We’re trying to put this behind us,” said Max Shafer. “We’re going to try to get hot and make a run in the playoffs.”

In a loaded 8A class, the Griffins’ two regular-season losses have already knocked them down in the seeding process. While any loss before Week 9 means little in the long run – the Griffins locked up a playoff berth weeks ago – it also means a more difficult road to Champaign. But that’s the reality for Zvonar’s group, and whether it’s a defense playing faster or an offense avoiding costly mistakes, the Griffins are running out of time to right the ship.

But Zvonar believes such a loss as the team suffered last Friday night can act as the catalyst to doing just that. The Griffins have established themselves as one of the state’s premier programs, and that means not riding the highs too high, and not breaking apart when the lows come. Last Friday night was as low as Zvonar had seen any of his 16 teams, but the silver lining occurred in that his squad now knows what it has to do to avoid it when it’s win or go home.

“What we also think is that the program is built on a solid foundation, so when you take a little hit like that you battle back and you go back to what you believe in and what you know can be successful. And that’s fundamentals and keeping things simple, and the kids have bounced back and they’re not acceptable to them what occurred to them, so very proud of their effort and the way they’re working.

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