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Cowboys' Williams looks to stay under radar after fast start

IRVING, Texas -- Miles Austin passed him on the depth chart, Dez Bryant was drafted to take his place and Michael Irvin trashed him.

So Roy Williams has plenty of motivation behind the way he's playing.

In three games, Williams has caught what would have been the winning touchdown in the opener had a penalty not wiped it out, hung onto two passes despite flattening blows the next week, then had touchdown catches of 15 and 63 yards this past weekend to lead the Dallas Cowboys to their first victory of the season.

Keep it up, and he'll go from bust to someone Tony Romo can trust -- if he hasn't already.

"I want to be a part of this puzzle and show that I'm worthy of everything that I've gotten," Williams said Thursday. "I'm still the same player. I'm still a Pro Bowler. I just want to go out there and continue to do what I'm doing and lay low under the radar."

Williams was a Pro Bowler once, back in 2006 for the Detroit Lions. Midway through the '08 season, Jerry Jones gambled that Williams could be a star again, giving up a bundle of draft picks and a $45 million contract extension to acquire him.

For his first 1½ seasons, Williams not only wasn't a Pro Bowler -- he was barely the second-best receiver on the team. It's widely presumed the only reason the Cowboys brought him back this season was because they had to pay him a $9.5 million bonus in March.

Perhaps the best way to sum up his poor reputation was Irvin saying at the start of the season that when Williams is on the field, "they're playing 10 vs. 11."

But Williams already was working to change that. He caught hundreds of passes per day off a throwing machine this summer and put in extra time with Romo. Williams also lost weight.

"I told you guys in OTAs and in training camp that it's going to pay off during the season, and so far, so good," Williams said. "I think it's just time. It finally got there. Finally."

A big play last Sunday against the Houston Texans showed that Williams and Romo are on the same wavelength.

The Texans put a safety close to the line of scrimmage, expecting a run, and Williams was alone against a young cornerback. Romo noticed, switched out of a draw play and hit Williams on a slant.

Williams turned the short pass into a long gain because his defender fell down. But he didn't simply lose his footing. Williams realized what he and Romo were going to do, so he faked a move to the outside convincingly enough to throw the cornerback, who slipped while trying to recover.

Williams finished the game with five catches for 117 yards, his most since joining the Cowboys. It was just the second time he had topped 100 yards in 28 games, and the first time it came in a victory.

On Thursday, Cowboys coach Wade Phillips gave Williams a game ball in front of the entire team and praised the receiver for how he has handled all the criticism.

"You judge a lot of people on what it takes to get them down," Phillips said. "If it takes everything to get them down, I think that person has a lot of character."

Williams doesn't want to make too big of a deal out of his strong start. At least, not yet.

"I don't think success is measured off one game," he said. "I think it's consistency. I put together three good games. I have put together a good preseason. I have to keep it going.

"At the end of the year, then we can say am I over the hump or it's the same old, same old."

The relationship between Williams and Bryant has been scrutinized ever since the kid was drafted. Things spiked in training camp when Bryant refused to carry Williams' pads, not knowing all rookies were expected to do it.

This week, Williams has been mentioned among the ringleaders involved in a $54,896 dinner bill rung up on Bryant's tab. Williams wanted to make it clear that "I have nothing against Dez; Dez has nothing against me."

"I don't want you guys to bang our heads together and try to make us hate each other," Williams said. "That's not going to work. He didn't take my pads. Whoop-de-doo. ... So don't associate me with being the bad guy with Dez and Dez being the bad guy with me, because that's not what it is."

OK, but Williams still was among the hungry, thirsty diners Monday night.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I was," he said, laughing. "I ain't ate in two days."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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