GREEN BAY, Wis. — Packers tight end D.J. Williams isn’t satisfied with his performance in his first two NFL seasons. Stuck near the bottom of the depth chart at a deep position on Green Bay’s roster, Williams doesn’t want to spend much longer in a reserve role.
“I want to be the starting tight end,” Williams told FOXSportsWisconsin.com. “I would expect them all (the rest of the Packers’ tight ends) to say the same thing. That’s our room and how it goes.”
Coming out of the University of Arkansas in 2010, Williams had proven that he was one of the best tight ends — if not the best — at the college level. He had the title to prove it too, being named the John Mackey Award winner as the nation’s most outstanding tight end.
Two years into his NFL career, though, Williams has caught a total of only nine passes for 70 yards with no touchdowns. His seven receptions this past season was the same number he had in a single game as a junior in college. The competition is clearly at a different level now, but it’s one indicator that Williams is capable of much more.
“I know how hard it is to get an opportunity,” Williams said. “When it comes, it’s about taking advantage. You have to be patient sometimes. I’ve learned a great deal, things I never thought of. There’s a whole bunch of stuff and all that comes with patience. Once that hits with me, I’ll have a successful career.”
In order for Williams to get his chance, the Packers will have to believe that he’s ready for it and adjust the roster accordingly. At the moment, starting tight end Jermichael Finley is on the roster with one year left on his contract. Backup Andrew Quarless should also be healthy and able to play again after a significant knee injury kept him out the entire 2012 season.
It’s competitive between Williams, Finley, Quarless and fellow tight end Ryan Taylor (and Tom Crabtree as well, before he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), but the group still enjoys being around one another both during practice and off the field.
“As a tight end group, we hope we can stay together, but we understand it’s unlikely for (so many) tight ends on one team,” Williams said. “We have great chemistry, we love our room, and we all hang out. Our relationship in the room is very close.
“But I can see why people on the outside would think what they think (because) there are more guys in the way of playing.”
Williams played only 262 snaps (20.8 percent) this past season. More disappointing than that was that he was a healthy inactive for several games. Williams showed up at his locker ready to put his uniform on only to find out, even with no injury preventing him from playing, that the coaching staff had decided to keep him sidelined that day.
“I expected (to play and contribute) in almost every game,” Williams said. “Me and (running back) Alex Green have lockers by each other, and, if I was active, I told Alex, ‘I have a feeling this might be it today.’ I said it every game. I had to be ready for the occasion. I expected that every Sunday.
“Sometimes I’m out there and do something. Sometimes I won’t. When I’m not active, I don’t worry about it. But I do expect to play. We all should expect that.”
Williams knows he has some areas to improve on in order to become the starter that he wants to be. After extensive work this offseason, the 24-year-old is hoping to show up in Green Bay for training camp in July and prove that he’s gotten better as an all-around player.
“Understanding the offense more and becoming a faster player will be important,” Williams said. “I know I am undersized (at 6-foot-2, 245 pounds), but I have to use that to my advantage with route-running and leverage. It’s all about showing up when your number is called.
“I want to let the organization know that I’m a player that’s willing to sacrifice, willing to work hard to help this team win.”
That’s what Williams continued to emphasize. Yes, he wants to be the Packers’ starting tight end, but not for the personal glory. Being drafted by Green Bay in April 2011 means he missed out on a Super Bowl ring by two months, and he wants one of his own.
“It sucked watching the Ravens win,” Williams said. “That’s all I want to do is win. People talk about the money: ‘Do you want to play good to get a big contract?’ No, I just know how hard it is to win a Super Bowl and that’s why I play. I know if I work hard, I’ll get one.”