National Football League
Rookie Leonard Williams no 'fish out of water' with Jets
National Football League

Rookie Leonard Williams no 'fish out of water' with Jets

Published Jun. 11, 2015 4:04 p.m. ET

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Leonard Williams hauled a few practice trash bins from the field to the sideline, one of the dirty jobs of an NFL rookie.

The New York Jets defensive lineman has gotten pretty good at carrying veterans' helmets to the locker room, too.

He has also been tasked at times with getting up in front of the meeting room to try to make the rest of the players - a tough crowd, for sure - laugh at some jokes.

''I'm definitely rolling with it,'' a smiling Williams said after completing his first pro minicamp Thursday. ''I know my role.''


The Jets certainly have a few roles in mind for the No. 6 overall pick from Southern California. Williams was considered by some to be the best overall player in the draft, and New York plans to make use of his versatility and athleticism.

Williams worked all over the line during the three days of minicamp, from left end in the Jets' 3-4 base defense to nose tackle in the sub package to defensive tackle in a four-man front. Coach Todd Bowles thought Williams ''held his own'' against the first-team offensive linemen.

''The big thing is going to come in pads, when you can get hands on people and shoulder pads, and you can really show your strength,'' Bowles said. ''From an assignment standpoint, he wasn't a fish out of water.''

Well, not at first.

Williams is a physical presence at 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds, along with an impressive puffed-out mane that has earned him the nickname ''Leo'' - like a lion. But, he acknowledged that he had some jitters when he first got to the facility.

''Obviously, I have a lot of confidence in myself and my ability to play football,'' he said. ''At the same time, going into anything new, I feel like that would make anyone nervous.''

No longer the big fish in college, Williams had to learn a new playbook, pick up a new defense and fit in with a whole new set of teammates and coaches. Just like all the other rookies and draft picks.

''I wouldn't call it tentativeness,'' he said. ''It was more like being nervous, being anxious and stepping into a new system. I would definitely say it's all gone now. I'm a lot more comfortable with all the guys and all the coaches.

''I'm just ready to roll now.''

That's good news for the Jets, who already boasted one of the league's top defensive lines before Williams got here with Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Damon Harrison making things miserable for opponents up front.

While it might appear the Jets would be set as far as starters, Bowles likes to mix things up so Williams will likely see some significant playing time. Williams wasn't concerned that he was stepping into a situation where the other defensive linemen might look at him as someone who could potentially take their jobs.

''I'd actually rather go into a program that has guys that I can learn from who are veterans, rather than going into a program where I'm going to be that guy,'' he said. ''I feel I can learn easier where I'm coming in as a rookie and I have guys in front of me that I can learn from.''

Williams has huddled up with the veterans, such as Richardson giving him tips about how offensive linemen position their feet and how to beat them. He plans to go back to California and work out at USC and study his playbook throughout the break before training camp in late July.

While there, he's aiming to get his weight down to about 312 pounds after playing in college between 305 and 310. He's also looking to get his first driver's license.

''I already know how to drive,'' said Williams, who turns 21 on June 20. ''I just don't have a license. I'm going to do that now that I have a break.''

Maybe he'll get a new jersey number at some point, too. He's currently wearing No. 62 - and odd number for a defensive lineman - after being No. 94 in college. That's Harrison's number, so it won't be that with the Jets.

''It's definitely been weird,'' he said, laughing. ''We had to get fitted for pads yesterday and when they asked me for my number, they asked me if I was an O-lineman. But that's another part of knowing my role. I've just got to wait it out, keep working hard and eventually get a (different) number.''

NOTES: The Jets released OT Sean Hooey. ... WR Brandon Marshall (stubbed toe), CB Darrin Walls (toe) and TE Zach Sudfeld (left knee) didn't participate in practice. Bowles said Sudfeld was having additional tests, so it appears it's ''more than a minor injury.'' ... RB Stevan Ridley, coming back from torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee, hopes to be ready for Week 1 of the season, but doesn't want to set himself up for ''false hope'' with a timetable.


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