With stiff back, Williams observes from sideline Print
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Thursday, 31 July 2008 15:15
NFL Headline News

 BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (AP) -Between his wedding and the NFL draft, Chris Williams was busy the past few months. Even so, the last thing he needed was time off.
The 14th overall pick out of Vanderbilt and a possible starter at left tackle on the Chicago Bears' revamped offensive line, Williams has been getting plenty lately because of tightness in his lower back.
``It's real frustrating,'' he said Thursday. ``You've got to sit around and watch all the guys ... continue to practice and you haven't taken a snap.''
Williams signed a five-year, $13 million contract just in time to participate in the first practice last week but left the following day after his back flared, so he's spent the past week observing.
While he recuperates, the Bears are trying to regain their balance after staggering to a 7-9 record last season because of injuries on both sides of the ball and poor play in general.
An offense that ranked 27th last season has an overhauled line, receiving corps and backfield, not to mention a quarterback competition between Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton - assuming Brett Favre doesn't wind up in Chicago.
As for Williams?
``He needs to get back soon,'' offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. ``He needed to get back a few days ago. I'm not saying he can't play because he hasn't been (in), but that position, offensive line, you've got to get work.
``He's got to get a feel for the speed of the game and everything else, all the adjustments. And the only way you can get it is by being out there.''
Second-round draft pick Matt Forte of Tulane and Kevin Jones take over at running back for Cedric Benson, who was released after two alcohol-related arrests and three disappointing seasons. The receiving corps underwent an overhaul, with Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad gone and Devin Hester playing a bigger role on offense.
And then, there's the quarterback competition.
While the Green Bay Packers made it clear they want Favre to stay away, the Bears weren't exactly ready to welcome him, either. Not publicly, at least.
Instead, they voiced their support for Grossman and Orton on Thursday after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported the Packers discussed internally the possibility of trading Favre to a team within the division.
The prospect of landing a likely Hall of Famer has to be enticing for Bears fans, particularly if it comes at the expense of the rival Packers. But it won't matter who's lining up behind center if the offensive line performs the way it did last season.
Chicago allowed 44 sacks, ninth most in the NFL, and averaged a league-low 3.1 yards per carry. It's safe to say the line played a role in that, along with the quarterbacks and running backs. That explains why the Bears will have new starters at three positions.
``I think we've got five great guys and some more guys who can step in if something happens,'' said veteran John Tait, who's moving to the right side from left tackle. ``Everybody's communicating really well and playing together. I thought we had a good line last year with the guys that we had.''
And he likes what he sees from the rookie.
Williams was in on 836 offensive plays last season and allowed one sack while registering 102 knockdowns, including 12 blocks that led to touchdowns. He became just the second Vanderbilt offensive lineman drafted in the first round and the first since Will Wolford in 1986.
Williams alternated between left tackle and guard in 2005 while helping protect quarterback Jay Cutler, the 11th overall pick by Denver in 2006. Then he settled in at tackle and allowed just two sacks his last two years.
When Williams returns to practice, he'll be tested by a defense that could be back among the league's elite if it stays healthy. Staring at him will be former Pro Bowl defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, two-time Pro Bowl alternate Alex Brown and Mark Anderson, the runner-up for defensive rookie of the year in 2006.
Not exactly an easy initiation for a rookie.
``He's got great athletic ability,'' Tait said. ``He seems like he's a guy that wants to learn. Those are great ingredients to be a good player.''
But lately, Williams has been watching after months on the go.
He got married and drafted in April. He got a house near the Bears' practice facility in Lake Forest, and he got a big contract, all in a span of a few months.
``It's been crazy,'' Williams said. ``It's been full-throttle. It's been a whole bunch of life changes all at once, so I look forward to being able to sit down and do nothing at some point.''
For now, though, he'd prefer to be more active.
 

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