D.J. Williams felt like the full details of the competition and linebacker situation weren’t adequately laid out for him, including the move of Shea McClellin to linebacker, or he may have pursued other options a little more ambitiously before agreeing to a one-year Bears deal that can max out at $1.5 million with various bonuses.
“There were teams that were interested; I might have looked at other situations,” Williams told CSNChicago.com. “But I’m coming here to fight it out, duke it out.”
Those options may have been problematic, given his age (turned 32 on Sunday) and recent injury history (2011 elbow injury, three games missed; 2012 suspensions, nine games; 2013 pectoral injury, 10 games).
Whether Williams did or didn’t know what he was re-signing on for don’t really matter now, and certainly don’t ultimately matter to the 11-year veteran going into Bears training camp and a head-to-head competition with Jonathan Bostic at middle linebacker.
“Personally, I feel like I’m one of the three best linebackers on this team,” Williams said, “and if I’m healthy, stay focused, do everything I’m supposed to do, I should be in there.”
Williams is in a potentially dicey situation. He is ahead of Bostic as a run defender but Bostic has an edge in pass defense. Unless that Bears go with a system that platoons middle linebackers based on situations, the reality that the NFL is 58:42 percent pass:run ratio and that slightly favors Bostic. Williams has two career interceptions, none since 2007.
But even with Williams missing all of preseason and most of camp with a calf injury, then the last 10 regular-season games with a pectoral injury, the Bears thought enough of his work to commit $100,000 in signing bonus to sweeten the effort to bring him back.
“[In 2013 we] saw a good football player, saw a guy that has legitimately very good burst, saw a player that has good instincts, gets around the ball and plays with a relentless style,” Bears GM Phil Emery said. “We were not displeased with his effort. We were very pleased with where he was going and how he was progressing. Obviously he had some injuries in camp, he had to get his feet back under him and once he did he started producing at a high level.”
If Bostic does win the starting job, Williams theoretically could be tasked with duty on some special teams, as backup linebackers, defensive backs and several other position groups are. Or Bostic could be assigned to special teams, where he collected three solo tackles last season.
Williams isn’t thinking in any of those terms.
“I’m competing for a starting job,” Williams said. “I’m not here play special teams. I’m not here to sit on the bench. It’s just day-in, day-out, a grind. There’s the numbers game, the money game, different ‘games.’ But at the end, whoever puts the best product on the field will be there.
“I’m not a special-teams player. I don’t even think at this point like I would be a good special-teams player. It’s huge difference, different mindset, a lot of sitting around 10-15 minutes waiting. I don’t know how good I would be at it.”