BOURBONNAIS – By now, the rehabilitation process has become boring to D.J. Williams.
That’s how the 11-year veteran linebacker described his latest stint trying to rehab a ruptured left pectoral muscle that ended his 2013 season after six games. Williams, 32, has dealt with a handful of injuries throughout his career, having missed games because of injury in three separate seasons.
Even in his first year as a Bear, Williams, who spent nine seasons with the Denver Broncos, dealt with a nagging calf injury throughout July and August last year. In addition, he caught bronchitis in Week 5 against the Saints before ultimately rupturing his pectoral muscle toward the end of the third quarter against the Giants in Week 6.
“I know I have a lot to prove to a lot of people, especially climbing up in age at 32,” Williams said. “But I’m in the greatest shape I’ve been in a long time.”
Williams said being in great shape involved returning to his rookie weight, where he weighed 250 pounds out of the University of Miami.
Williams also will play at middle linebacker, a position he was brought in for last season and again when he re-signed to a one-year deal. Williams, who has played every linebacker position, said he doesn’t mind and loves playing the middle.
“I don’t want to say our defense is simple, but it highlights what I do pretty well,” Williams said. “It allows me to run sideline to sideline and play defense inside out. We play Cover 2 a lot where guys are breaking and making plays.”
The 32-year-old enjoyed success in his limited time in 2013. Williams earned two sacks, which was still the second most for the Bears’ linebackers despite missing 10 games.
However, not only is Williams out to redeem himself, but he also added the defense is out to make up for the disastrous year they had as a group. The defense ranked 30th in total yards allowed and dead last in rushing yards.
Williams said the team is eager to get out and start tackling opponents. The Bears’ first preseason game is Friday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“Playing one of the opponents that I say personally embarrassed us last season, we’re eager to see how far we’ve come and still see what we have to do,” Williams said. “I want to shut them out. That’s how you approach every game, whether its preseason, regular season or practice.
“I just want to see everybody beat their guy and get to the ball, be energetic and follow the plan,” he said.
Although he wants the defense to succeed, Williams also has to prove himself to his coaches. Bears coach Marc Trestman has stressed that competition has been the theme of training camp and Williams is in one who could be considered in the closest race.
When the preseason depth chart was released, Williams and second-year linebacker Jon Bostic were listed as co-starters for the middle linebacker spot. In camp, Bostic has been the starting nickel linebacker, with Williams taking the first-team reps with the base defense.
“It kind of reminds me of me and [former All-Pro Broncos linebacker] Al Wilson when I first came in the league,” Williams said. “It’s a competition, and I want to play as many reps as possible and know that he does as well.”