LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The schedule doesn’t allow time for introspection.
So when Edwin Williams ponders the ride he’s taken, bewilderment washes over his glossy red eyes. He’s not surprised about all this. Then again, he is.
“For a guy to move up the way he has says how he’s performed in our eyes,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “He’s done some good things. When you come in fresh, new -- in the position he came in -- first, you practice on the look squad, and hopefully make people notice you there. Then, you get to move up to the varsity, you can say, which he’s done. Every time we’ve moved him up a little bit, we’ve liked what he’s done. We’ll just keep playing him and seeing how it goes.”
Williams appeared in four games as a rookie last season, starting in two with the Washington Redskins, after the team signed him as an undrafted rookie out of Maryland. Washington waived Williams in August, and the Bears picked him up the next day to place on the practice squad.
Between Aug. 31 and Sept. 27, Chicago claimed Williams off waivers, waived him again, and added him to the practice squad, before finally elevating him to the active roster on the same day he debuted as a Bear against the Packers.
Two weeks later, Williams started his first game for the Bears at right guard, and played a role in the team gaining 218 yards on the ground in a 23-6 win over the Panthers.
“Very impressed,” offensive coordinator Mike Martz said of Williams. “We don’t have backups on this team. We have guys waiting to be starters or waiting for the opportunity. He took his chance.”
Williams seems to be making the most of it, too.
In this Q&A with ESPNChicago.com, Williams discusses his journey from the Redskins to the Bears, in addition to his thoughts on all the shuffling the team has done this season along the offensive line:
You were getting some first-team reps in Washington during the preseason. How did you go from that to being cut, to signing with the Bears practice squad?
Edwin Williams: There was a point in the preseason when I was getting some first-team reps and things like that, but I’m not gonna say or downgrade … the Redskins made their choice, and I think it was the right choice. Obviously, if you’re a good player they’re gonna keep you regardless. But I guess they just felt like I wasn’t progressing at the rate they wanted me to. So they had to part ways with me.
Looks like you bounced back nicely. What’s been the key to you playing well?
EW: It’s been a month, maybe six weeks I’ve been here, and I’m feeling very comfortable with the team. The good thing is it’s not just all on me. Trust me, man. If Olin Kreutz wasn’t in there at center, it could’ve been a whole different story. He puts you in the right positions every time and he’s a good mentor. I’m learning a lot from him. He reads things so well. Things that you don’t even … a simple flinch from a defensive lineman, and he’s like, ‘Yeah, I know what’s about to happen.’ He makes the appropriate call, and we pick it up. He’s really good at stuff like that.
Knowing you’d be signed to the practice squad, what was your expectation when you first got here?
EW: My No. 1 expectation was kind of just learning, you know. I wanted to learn because this was an adjustment. I’d never really been away from home. So I just wanted to get used to the scenery, the people in the locker room, and get the plays down. I wanted to understand what I was supposed to do on each play at the center and guard positions, and I’m not gonna say that’s 100 percent right now. It really isn’t. I still need a lot of things. The biggest thing for me is working on my technique. The mental part is definitely coming along well, but you know, just working on my technique and getting my footwork the way that coach [Mike] Tice teaches it, that’s what I want to do.
When they first moved you up from the practice squad, who gave the news?
EW: You know, it wasn’t a specific person. But I could kind of tell through our practices. They would give me some reps with the field goal team, and I got some reps during team with the first team, even though I was expecting to be in that backup position. It was kind of one of those things that you could just feel coming, but you’re never really sure. I know about the NFL that nothing is guaranteed, so it didn’t really come to me until one of the guys from the staff told me to come upstairs to sign the paperwork to move up. Mr. [Jerry] Angelo spoke to me and said, he’s happy for me and he wishes me good luck and stuff, and that’s he’s proud of what I’d done at that point.
When you came here, did it feel like you were starting over?
EW: Yeah, you could say that. I think anytime you get into a new situation, a new place, you kind of feel like you’re starting over. I feel like every season you’re starting over.
But you went from starting a couple of games in Washington to signing to the practice squad here. That has to be different right?
EW: Yeah, I know. But I think in any situation you just have to be positive about what the outlook could be. When I first came here, you know, I spoke to several coaches and they seemed pretty pleased with some of the stuff I had done at Washington. But at that time, they knew nothing about me. So if they were just to sign me [to the active roster] then, that would kind of not be a good impression on them. That would be bad judgment by them, just to sign a person they don’t know based on what he did with another team. So they had to test me out, see what I was good at, what I was bad at and things like that. I guess I passed that test.
What’s your take on all the shuffling this team has done along the offensive line?
EW: Yeah, it’s a little different. But to be honest, if you look at any offensive line in the NFL, there’s rarely five guys starting 16 games straight. You know? So it’s not new to me that guys are getting shuffled around and things like that. I know this is only my second year, but last year, I was the fifth player to play right guard at that position in just that season. I was the fifth guy in that spot. So it wasn’t like I’d never seen linemen shuffle, guards go to tackle, tackles go to guards, things like that. It’s not uncommon for that to happen. In the NFL, that’s how it is. Nobody wishes for someone to get hurt. We all know though that it’s inevitable in this league. You’ve just got to make sure that when your opportunity comes you play well.
It looks like that’s the way it’s panned out for you so far.
EW: [Laughing] It’s only one game, man.