For all the talk about Mario Williams, two other players named "Williams" meant much more to the 2015 Buffalo Bills defense.
Safety Aaron Williams (neck) and defensive tackle Kyle Williams (knee) missed a combined 23 games this season and this unit felt the pain, falling from No. 4 in total defense to No. 19. On Monday, general manager Doug Whaley sounded hopeful both will be back.
While neither player spoke Monday, Kyle Williams reiterated to the G.M. he wants to keep playing and Whaley said that the neck injury to Aaron Williams is not career threatening. So as Whaley says that reporters might as well take the first week of free agency off, he likely has these two players on the mind.
The 6-foot-1, 303-pound Williams made it clear a month ago he has no plans to retire.
"As long as the medical stuff checks out," Whaley said. "We're all waiting on that information. Mentally, when I saw him today, he's ready to go. It was a frustrating season for him because he wasn't out there and he's a competitor."
Asked if there's doubt he might not be ready for the start of the 2016 season, the G.M. repeated they still need to meet with the medical staff.
Williams has been a rock up front the last 10 seasons and the team apparently believes he still has something to give. Cornerback Leodis McKelvin made a point to bring up Kyle Williams when asked about Mario Williams last week. He believes the Bills' defense took a major step backward — a bigger step than most probably realized — when a teammate rolled up on Kyle's knee in a 34-21 loss to Cincinnati.
Said McKelvin, "When Kyle went down, everything changed. ... When Kyle went down, things had to change. Mario’s big enough, Mario’s fast enough to where he could do those other things.”
And on Monday, Ryan hinted at what that change was. He said the Bills were set to have a "4-3 presence" with Kyle Williams before he suffered the injury. Both sides may need to find a new salary cap number with Williams, who'll be 33 years old, scheduled to make $7 million next season. The Bills' defensive struggles through December probably do give the player some leverage if the two sides need to iron out numbers.
The loss of Aaron Williams at safety proved to be a costly blow to the secondary.
While Bacarri Rambo had his moments and Corey Graham transitioned from corner to safety, the Bills still allowed 59 pass plays for 20-plus yards, the fourth-most in the NFL. Watching games from afar was visibly painful for Williams, who could only pound a table from a press box on the road.
Yet as scary as his neck injury was, his career apparently is not over. Said Whaley, "From what we've heard, no."
"His has been a longer process and we've been getting periodic updates," Whaley said. "And everything's been positive. But again, we'll get the final update when we meet with the medical staff."
Also, the Bills had a familiar face stop by Monday. Wide receiver Percy Harvin, who was placed on injured reserve with knee/hip injuries Nov. 7, was in the building for his postseason physical.
The Bills didn't exactly outstretch a warm, public hand to the receiver but they left the door open, too.
"We saw him today," Whaley said. "He's going through the medical procedures, the postseason physicals. So we're going to wait to get all that information before we can go down that road and see where he is and where he can be with us."