Williams putting stamp on Rams defense
ST. LOUIS — Gregg Williams kept saying how much fun he was having, how happy he was to be coaching in his home state, how great players have responded to his high-decibel leadership.
The 91-degree heat that pushed St. Louis Rams players Tuesday gave their new defensive coordinator even more reason to smile.
"You need this," Williams said. "We’re going to wish for mild days like this once we get into August in the Midwest."
The 55-year-old Williams is well into his second stint with coach Jeff Fisher and he’s been a vocal presence at workouts the last two weeks. Players, especially the rookies, don’t want to get him riled.
"You need someone that is going to help you chase perfection, knowing that it will never be caught but in the process excellence will be achieved," said cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, a second-round pick from Florida State’s national title team.
"You need people like that in the driver’s seat."
Williams was much more subdued last season when he returned from a one-year suspension as a senior defensive assistant with the Titans. The job description with the Rams restores the voice.
Williams is his own man, announcing the day he was hired that practices would be different. Within the rules, of course, he cultivates the image of outlier.
Reporters were told the rest of the coaching staff had to feel some relief when players arrived earlier this month and he’d move on to "stressing" someone else. He was sure outside linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, who played for him at Tennessee, would assure newcomers that "I’m not as crazy as everybody thinks I am."
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said Williams is "very creative" on play-calling out of fronts that look the same before the ball is snapped. But not a wild man, no.
"I don’t think so," Schottenheimer said. "I think he’s a great football coach."
Fisher wanted Williams back to put his stamp on a defense the franchise has stocked largely with first-round draft picks and high-dollar free agents. The Rams had one of the NFL’s best pass rushes last year but fell short of expectations on defense overall.
"He’s the main voice in the room," Fisher said. "You can see the change, you can see the energy. I’ve had to back him down just a little bit."
It’s tougher to evaluate players when they’re not wearing pads and not hitting.
"Pads are the great equalizer," middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said.
Williams has compensated by making them think on the fly and barking orders and admonishments from the sideline. He believes a good practice should be "organized chaos," with wrinkles thrown in to keep everybody on their toes.
"We constantly are throwing things out at them that we don’t even talk about in meetings," Williams said. "Everybody can con themselves through relaxed states of mind. But you can’t fake stress, and that’s what the games are."
Training camp isn’t until late July, and Williams is already raring to go, ready to lead the Rams into it. Getting forced to the sideline in 2012 remains a driving force.
"There’s definitely a culture shock," Laurinaitis said. "He demands your all-out effort."
Williams arrived at Rams Park with a list of 101 things to do. With two OTAs remaining, he was proud to say every box had already been checked.
"This is fun. Last year was really good and this year will be really better," Williams said. "There’s a lot to get caught up, and the buck stops with me."