(July 29)—Mike Williams wanted to be able to compete. Following a month of work with a personal trainer, Williams joined the competition on Saturday morning in the first practice of Jaguars training camp.
The Jaguars signed Williams in March, after the former fourth pick of the 2002 draft was cut by Buffalo in February. Immediately, there was hope Williams would resurrect his career in Jacksonville.
It didn't happen that way this past spring. Williams' weight approached 400 pounds and, in the final weeks of spring drills, Williams was excluded from the action. He was clearly at a crossroads in his career when spring drills concluded in late-June.
"I agreed to do that," he said of the Jaguars' recommendation that Williams spend the time before training camp working with a personal trainer. "We did it and the results paid off."
Williams and his trainer went to North Carolina, where Williams ran trails, swam and learned to eat responsibly. When Williams returned to Jacksonville, he left 37 pounds of his former self in North Carolina.
"Obviously, I'm going to play much better; move quicker. You're in camp in shape, not bothered by the heat," Williams told reporters, sweat pouring down his face but his speech showing no strain from the practice or the heat.
"My personal goal was to drop the weight. I knew coming into camp what I wanted to be. My personal goal was to be 345. It's a lot of weight to drop quickly," Williams said. He admitted he has not quite reached his goal.
"I had to change my eating habits. My body was not burning the (calories) the way it should," he added.
All of a sudden, there is hope, again, that Williams will re-claim his career. He's a man of immense size, power and athletic ability. He can give the Jaguars security on their offensive line, but only if Williams can control his weight.
"What we said when we signed him is we'll give him an opportunity," coach Jack Del Rio said. "Coming into camp in shape to compete gives you hope, gives him hope."
Running back Fred Taylor had said he's in the best condition of his life, but Taylor was held out of practice on Saturday after he sustained what is thought to be a minor hamstring strain during a recent conditioning workout.
"We're going to get him through a few practices before he can open it up," Del Rio said of Taylor.
Training camp began with a rather tame practice, as the team works toward the first full-pads practice of camp, scheduled for Monday evening.
"It's crucial to build a foundation in training camp for the whole season," Del Rio said.
Donovin Darius and Brad Meester, both of whom are coming off significant surgeries and recoveries, practiced full speed. The only two players who did not practice on Saturday morning are tight end Brian Jones and undrafted rookie safety Jamaal Fudge, both of whom were ill.