ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Michael Williams paused for a second. He couldn’t quite process what he was just asked. Williams hasn’t played in an NFL game. He hasn’t been on the active roster in his career.
Yet, in his third offseason with the Detroit Lions, the tight end turned offensive tackle is, at least by his position group, a veteran.
"Oh wow," Williams said. "It’s hard for me to even make that come out of my mouth, but that’s the actuality of what we’re doing right now. Three years into it. You’re trying to help and learn at the same time."
All Williams did last season was learn. When he started making the transition last offseason, he knew what it likely meant. He would probably need a year to both gain the necessary weight to make the move as well as learn the nuances of a position he hadn’t played in the NFL.
It probably meant a season on the team’s practice squad after missing his whole rookie season on injured reserve with an injured hand. He spent all of last season on the team’s 10-man taxi squad, picking up pointers from the guys playing Sundays and adjusting to his new position.
Now, in Season 3 and Offseason 2 as an offensive lineman, he knows he needs to show something. As of now, he could end up being Detroit’s No. 4 tackle behind Riley Reiff, LaAdrian Waddle and Cornelius Lucas.
There is an opportunity for more, too, since Waddle’s timetable for return from a knee injury that ended his 2014 season is unknown. How does Williams plan on doing that?
"Just be myself, basically," Williams said. "Keep the injuries away. Keep rehabbing to keep the small injuries out of the way and I feel like my talent will take over at one point sooner or later.
"I just have to stick in there and do and learn like any other young player. It’s a process I think that I’m almost through right now."
The 6-foot-6, 304-pound Williams already adjusted his body. His protections are coming along well also as he enters his third training camp with the Lions, but the first camp that he feels like he knows what he is doing. Lions coach Jim Caldwell said during organized team activities that he believes Williams is getting better with the transition.
It doesn’t mean he’s figured everything out, though. His balance when he’s getting set up is still coming along. So is his initial punch -- although at Wednesday’s open OTA, his work with his hands was noticeably better than it was a year ago.
That, he believes, is the key to figuring everything out and to being a veteran for real instead of being one just based off years with the franchise.
"Trusting your punch," Williams said. "If you don’t trust your punch, then you let them get into your chest and it just doesn’t look good.
"So you have to be able to trust your punch."
That’s the next step in what has been a year-long process.