When I encountered new Chicago Bears receiver Roy Williams after practice Sunday night, he was calm. His voice projected at normal volumes. He wasn't trying to make anyone laugh or find his way into the headlines or otherwise be the life of the party.
It's too easy and would be cliché to suggest Williams was humbled by three unproductive seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. But I do think he fully understands how fortunate he is to have landed with the Bears, a team that doesn't need him to be the star of its offense but which offers a scheme that coaxed his best two seasons in the NFL.
"This is the best scheme in the country for me," Williams said. "It's the best scheme, hands down."
In two seasons under offensive coordinator Mike Martz, when both were with the Detroit Lions, Williams caught 146 passes for 2,148 yards and 12 touchdowns. In the other six seasons of his career, Williams has totaled 210 receptions for 3,060 yards and 30 scores.
For that reason, the Bears wasted no time inserting Williams into their first-team offense during training camp drills this week. The move displaced their top-yardage man from last season, Johnny Knox, and in the end it demonstrated how much the Bears valued a different-sized body among their receivers.
"I know Jay [Cutler] was begging for a big guy," Williams said. "I know I fit the mold of a big guy. I'm not a Brandon Marshall, who is nine-feet tall. But I'm a big guy who can go across the middle, make the catch and try to keep the chains moving."
Williams' classic 6-foot-3 frame suggests his performance should transcend scheme, but it obviously hasn't during his eight-year career. Why did Williams perform so well for Martz in Detroit? Part of it, to be sure, was Martz's pass-happy play-calling at the time. Someone had to get the yards. But I also think that despite his frame, Williams' athleticism and footwork get him to the precise point Martz demands of his receivers in a way normally reserved for much smaller men.
Williams referred to the Bears' receiving group as "The Smurfs" because Knox, Earl Bennett and Devin Hester are all under six-feet tall. But normally, receivers built closer to the ground are quicker in and out of their cuts than longer, loping wideouts.
For whatever reason, Williams had no problem executing in Martz's scheme with the Lions. During the Bears practices I watched this week, his long arms and reach were an important contrast to those of his teammates. Cutler now has his go-up-and-get-it receiver.
Knox, on the other hand, was particularly upset about the quick demotion. But with all due respect, it wouldn't make sense to have three receivers of the same size on the field when there is a viable alternative, and it was unlikely that Cutler favorite Earl Bennett was going to get pushed down the depth chart.
"[Knox] is upset," Williams said. "Everybody is a competitor in this league. You have to be a competitor, but at the same time you have to know what's going on. I would be upset if a guy just came in and got in front of me. That's the nature of this business. There is nothing wrong with what he did. Nothing wrong with what he did. He had an exceptional season last year. If anything is to happen to me, or I go down, he's a great guy to come back in."
In truth, I would consider 2011 an enormous success for Williams if he finishes with the same kind of production -- 51 receptions for 960 yards and five touchdowns -- that Knox did last season. Williams boasts two years of experience in this system, and his arrival will give Knox an opportunity to be a package-focused playmaker as opposed to one expected to make tough catches on third-and-6.
Which brings us to the larger question: Can Williams be trusted with a starting role? I can tell you this much: He couldn't have landed in a better spot to answer that question.
"I know how this thing works," he said. "I know how it works."