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Marcus Williams' future too bright to dwell on 'Minnesota Miracle'

METAIRIE, La. -- Marcus Williams would rather let his play do the talking as he tries to move past the "Minnesota Miracle."

If Friday's practice is any indication, that should work.

The New Orleans Saints' second-year safety broke up a pair of Drew Brees passes on back-to-back plays during full-team drills on the second day of training camp -- again flashing the type of playmaking ability that he demonstrated throughout his breakout rookie season.

But Williams knew that wasn't what he would be asked about most after Friday's practice.

So he was prepared to keep playing defense during his first formal media session of the summer.

"That's in the past," Williams said three or four times -- his automated response when asked about how he has moved on from his missed tackle in New Orleans' playoff loss at Minnesota, which allowed Stefon Diggs to score on a stunning 61-yard play as time expired.

Williams gave similar responses when asked about the subject during some offseason community appearances.

He did expand on his answer once, though, when asked if he tries to ignore and avoid all mentions or highlights of the play -- or if he always wants to remember it to help fuel him.

"You know it's always gonna be in your mind. But you gotta move on," Williams said. "It's a new season, a new team. Everybody's trying to be better than they were last year.

"We don't pick up where we left off last year, we all start over and we start again. Do what we gotta do to make it to the next level."

Williams, who is still just 21 years old until September, did make it clear that he is focused on, "Turning my NIGHTMARE into my MOTIVATION !! !! !!" when he posted a dramatic workout video on social media this offseason.

And teammates and coaches have praised Williams for his attitude and work ethic throughout this summer. Cornerback Ken Crawley says he thinks Williams' confidence has only grown from Year 1 to Year 2.

"In the offseason, he went at it hard," Crawley said. "Even in OTAs, his mentality, a dog-eat-dog mentality, I know we're gonna see him again. And I feel like it's a different ballgame."

Crawley said he and the other defensive backs talked to Williams about how he was doing for a few weeks after the play in their group chat. But players and coaches have all insisted that the subject hasn't come up since then.

"To be honest, we don't really talk about it no more. It was just a play," said Crawley, who said it's similar to a cornerback giving up a touchdown and needing to move on from it. "So I don't really worry about it no more. I mean, his focus right now is, we leave that in the past and we focus on something else this year. Our goal is to get a Super Bowl this year."

Defensive backs coach Aaron Glenn says Williams is "the ultimate warrior."

"He's gonna work no matter what," Glenn said. "And the thing that's also good about him, he's quick to forget bad plays and go onto the next thing. So I know everyone talks about the Minnesota play. But you know what, after it happened he was down in the dumps, but he forgot about it and man, we're going into this year and ready to play."

Make no mistake, Williams is among the Saints' greatest reasons for optimism in 2018.

Although he didn't get quite as much attention as the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara or Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore, the second-round draft pick out of Utah had a stellar rookie season of his own.

Williams had five interceptions and 10 passes defensed, including the postseason -- with the highlight coming earlier in that playoff game at Minnesota, when his interception helped spark New Orleans' second-half rally.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder was known for being a ball-hawking center fielder at Utah, where he had five interceptions in each of his final two college seasons. And he was a big reason why the Saints' much-maligned secondary broke through in 2018.

The Saints ranked second in the NFL in pass defense in Weeks 3-15, behind only the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"I hit a lot of my goals, but it's not up to my expectations. I always want to exceed, be higher than I was last year. I always want to improve, mentally, physically. I just always try to better myself day in and day out," said Williams, who said it has been huge for him to not have to worry about the pre-draft process this year and focus fully on getting better at his craft, especially the mental game.

"You can never stop learning," said Williams, who said his real motivation is "doing all I can to be successful in my life, doing all I can to be the best safety I can be and be the best ever to play."

"That's what motivates me is just being the best," Williams said.