The Mario Williams of Miami looks, and sounds, nothing like the Mario Williams of Buffalo.
Williams’ first training camp as a Dolphin was a holiday from drama. He kept a low profile off the field, and worked hard on it.
Contrast that with his time with the Bills — complicated and, in his final days there, acrimonious.
And the rancor went public.
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It’s beyond rare for a head coach to say what Rex Ryan did about his ex-defensive end to Monday Morning Quarterback in March:
“Do I wish him well? Not really. But, he’s on Miami. If he would have gone somewhere else, maybe.”
Ryan’s saltiness wasn’t without cause — Williams questioned Ryan’s scheme in 2015, and his place in it, hastening his departure after the season.
Now try to square that picture with the Williams who said this after a steamy August practice:
“If everybody is doing what they’re supped to be doing and we all believe in one another, therefore if I believe in you, you’re not going to let me down. And if you believe in me, you’re not going to let me down.”
And how about this from linebacker Koa Misi?
“He practices hard. He’s a good player. A leader-type guy. Somebody that guys can look up to,” Misi continued. “He’s an older vet. Just look at the way he practices. A lot of people say he’s older, but he doesn’t practice like it. Strong. Just some of the things he does in practice is crazy to see how he moves.”
Williams has repeatedly declined requests to discusse the particulars of 2015, and it’s hard to blame him. He was crushed in the press for his attitude and his performance. Williams had just five sacks in his one year with Ryan in Buffalo after totaling 38 between 2012 and 2014. Some wonder if it was a matter of Williams declining physically.
Ridiculous, he would counter. He “for sure” feels as good as ever.
Williams is one of football’s most productive defensive ends of the past decade. (His 96 career sacks are tied for sixth with Elvis Dumervil among all active players.)
But he’s so much more. He’s also the No. 1 pick of the 2006 draft, chosen by the Houston Texans ahead of everyone else. The expectations — and pressure — for the first player taken are huge. Those that don’t live up to them are branded as busts for all time. (Just ask JaMarcus Russell.)
Williams, meanwhile, didn’t see his draft pedigree as a weight around his neck.
“It’s been great, because honestly I haven’t even held onto it,” he added. “I think, especially in this, my 11th year, that’s been something that’s been really good for me, just going out and playing. I’m a regular human being. People can say things from the outside in, but that’s never affected me.”
Williams added: “I never really worry about others’ expectations. Not saying that in a negative way. But something that’s expected more than being the No. 1 pick is the expectation that you have for yourself. If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse. There is no stay the same. There’s always better, and that’s what you have to focus on and preach when it’s 80 degrees and it’s muggy like it’s 100, I’ve got to work. I need this competition. I need the adversity of heat. I need the adversity of, my legs are tired. My arm’s hurting. Whatever. It’s only going to make us stronger.”
That, and perhaps a motivation to silence his old coach in Buffalo.
The Dolphins host the Bills on Oct. 23. Mark your calendar.
You can be sure Mario Williams already has.