Starting 10th year, Vikings’ Williams not done yet

The Minnesota Vikings accelerated their rebuilding project this

year with an aggressive purge of expensive veteran starters.

Kevin Williams, though, didn’t worry.

Sure, he’s one of only eight players currently on this 90-man

roster who are 30 or older, and he’s set to make a hefty $7 million

this season. But the 10th-year defensive tackle finished 2011 with

a flurry. With five sacks in the final seven games, he showed the

team and the league if not himself that he can still be a

productive if not disruptive player in the middle of the line.

”I’m a Viking until otherwise,” Williams said, when asked

about the offseason turnover that included the release of Steve

Hutchinson, Anthony Herrera, Cedric Griffin and Ryan Longwell. Free

agents Remi Ayodele, E.J. Henderson and Visanthe Shiancoe weren’t

re-signed. ”Whatever happens happens.”

Williams can become a free agent next year. If that is the end

of his employment in Minnesota, a decade after he was drafted in

the first round out of Oklahoma State, well, he’s not sweating

that, either.

”I’m pretty sure I can find a team,” he said.

Williams, cornerback Antoine Winfield and punter Chris Kluwe are

the only three players on the roster who joined the team before

Brad Childress was hired as head coach in 2006. Winfield, who’s 35,

and quarterback Sage Rosenfels, at 34, are the only others older

than Williams. But nobody has a longer tenure with the Vikings, now

that tight end Jim Kleinsasser has retired.

And he earned himself some more time by the way he played down

the stretch last season. He had arthroscopic knee surgery before

the lockout and developed plantar fasciitis in his foot during

training camp. Then there was the two-game suspension he served

after his three-year fight with the NFL over the fairness of his

positive drug test that showed a banned diuretic he insisted he

didn’t know was in the weight-loss pills he was taking.

As if he’s slipping past an opposing guard into the backfield,

Williams this season can finally avoid all those questions about

StarCaps.

”That’s like a blessing,” he said. ”I’m glad we have that out

of the way.”

Williams not only had all five of his sacks last year in those

final seven games, he tallied 11 of his 14 tackles for loss in that

span.

”The foot injury and the issues that he dealt with in the

beginning of the season probably got him off to a little bit of a

slow start, but you definitely saw him pick up some momentum down

the stretch,” defensive line coach Brendan Daly said. ”He still

has the ability to be an explosive playmaker as a `3′ technique,

which is hard to find. He’s done it for a long while, and he still

has those prominent flashes that you’re looking for.”

That makes, as long as he can keep it up, playing defense next

to him and behind him much easier.

”He’s as good of a professional as I’ve ever been around. Great

player, great guy, great teammate,” outside linebacker Chad

Greenway said. ”He’s to me the cog that makes our `D’ front and

our front seven really go. When he’s on, we’re on. He’s just kind

of that guy. Obviously we all have a role in that, but look at the

tape when we’re playing hot football. It’s because he’s really

getting it done.”

Williams wasn’t willing to label his performance last November

and December a resurgence, even though he recorded only one sack

during the period between Nov. 15, 2009, and Nov. 20, 2011.

”A few kinks to iron out, but there’s no excuses. I was still

trying to do my best,” Williams said. ”Maybe it just hit home the

last part of the season and became more evident.”

He’s biased, but his ability has always been evident to

defensive end Jared Allen.

”The guy has so much power. He’s so good on his hands and his

feet. He approaches things kind of the same way I approach them.

That’s why I think we get along so well,” Allen said. ”My goal

isn’t to come out here and win training camp MVP. Our goal is to

get ready for Jacksonville at the home opener.”

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