ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Receiver Mike Williams acknowledged he has some growing up to do while addressing questions about his troubled past Monday.
For Williams, there’s no place better to start fresh than in his hometown of Buffalo.
”It’s like being drafted all over, especially to my hometown, and get to come back and play in front of the people that know me, where I came from,” Williams said during a news conference three days after the Bills acquired him in a trade with Tampa Bay. ”The people know what type of guy I am.”
Calling the homecoming ”a dream come true,” Williams returns to the place he was a high school star. He went on to a successful yet troubled career at Syracuse, where Williams abruptly quit the team in November 2009 during his junior season.
This is the second – and potentially final – chance for Williams to put behind off-field distractions, which led to the Buccaneers parting ways with their starter in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick. The deal was made a year after Williams signed a six-year, $40 million contract.
The breaking point came two weeks ago, when Williams was allegedly stabbed in the leg by his brother, Eric Baylor, who has since turned himself in to police.
Williams passed his physical in Buffalo and said the injury from the stabbing won’t prevent him from reporting for voluntary team workouts, which begin April 22.
Williams acknowledged making mistakes and vows to do better, saying there are people depending upon him, including his infant son.
”When you get a lot of bad attention or bad this, or bad that, it’s about: Are you going to let the bad attack you? Are you going to fall?” Williams said. ”Or are you going to get up and try again? That’s why I think a fresh start is needed.”
On the field, Williams has displayed the potential as a No. 1 receiver.
A fourth-round draft pick in 2010, Williams led NFL rookies with 65 catches for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns. Though a hamstring injury limited Williams to just six games last year, he has 215 catches for 2,947 yards and 25 touchdowns in 54 career games.
The Bills are in need of an experienced player to complement returning starter Stevie Johnson, who led an otherwise young group of receivers.
It’s off the field where questions have arisen.
The Tampa Bay Times has reported that Williams’ neighbors in Tampa were unhappy with noise issues and damage to the player’s rented home.
Without providing specifics, Williams said two of the numerous accusations were made up. When pressed on which two, Williams said the Bills requested that he not discuss it.
In trading Williams, Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht referred to the deal as something the team ”felt was best for both sides.”
In Buffalo, coach Doug Marrone is willing to provide Williams the benefit of the doubt. Marrone was in his first season at Syracuse when Williams left the team.
Marrone signed off on the trade by saying what happened at Syracuse ”is in the past for both of us.” Marrone went further by picking up Williams at the airport upon the player’s arrival in Buffalo.
Williams said he and Marrone cleared the air by speaking on the phone before the trade was completed.
”He made mistakes. I made mistakes,” Williams said. ”The situation wasn’t handled how it was supposed to be handled. But the past is the past. So we’re kind of looking forward.”
Williams acknowledged that one of Marrone’s concerns at Syracuse was the player skipping classes.
That won’t be an issue now.
”He didn’t think I went to class. But since it’s the pros, he knows I’m going to go out there and do my job on the field,” Williams said. ”You’re always going to get the great Mike on the field.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL