Skip to main content

Mario Williams is Houston's reluctant star

HOUSTON (AP) -Mario Williams isn't comfortable as the face of the Houston Texans. The defensive end is so uneasy with the notion he pretends not to notice.

"I really don't pay much attention to it," he said. "You know I don't watch TV or read newspapers or magazines."

When pressed, he continued: "I don't have to know that. I'm just here to play ball and be part of the team."

Like it or not, last year's 14-sack season has made Williams this relatively anonymous team's biggest star. Now the Texans are waiting to see how the top overall pick in 2006 will follow it up.

Williams made a big jump last season after having 4 1/2 sacks as a rookie while playing through a painful foot ailment. Houston defensive coordinator Richard Smith expects even more in 2008.

"He's a lot more disruptive than a year ago," Smith said. "He finished the year strong, which, I think, means more confidence. And, in turn, I think he's going to have more success than he had a year ago. I'm not just talking about sacks; I'm talking about hurries on the quarterback and disruptive plays."

Smith said Williams is using his hands better and is "playing much more instinctively." His first season, Williams said he struggled with being too mechanical and not following his instincts.

While the expectations from coaches and fans are high for Williams, they don't rival what the player expects from himself. Coach Gary Kubiak calls the 6-foot-6, almost 300-pounder one of the hardest workers and most well-conditioned players he's ever been around.

"The only thing I think about in the past is that it wasn't good enough - no matter what I did," Williams said. "So I don't dwell on it. ... So I just try to go out and be better than what I thought I was before."

Now that he's morphed from a so-called colossal draft gaffe into one of the best young linemen in the league, some worry he'll get frustrated with more double teams and schemes to shut him down. Aside from Williams' performance, the Texans failed to get much pressure on quarterbacks, with the rest of the defense combining for 17 sacks.

"That's our job to try to help him through," Smith said. "What we've also got to do is develop another rusher opposite of him so they can't have that."

Smith added that Williams has gained maturity since his rookie year that will help him deal with those situations. The Texans hope offseason addition Rosevelt Colvin can be used as a situational pass rusher and the development of 2007 first-rounder Amobi Okoye should be key in the improvement of the line.

Unlike most of the Texans, Williams doesn't list making the playoffs as a goal, choosing instead to use the more broad goal of being the best team possible. He does realize the Texans will have to improve on last year's 1-5 AFC South record if they hope to get their first playoff berth. He won't make excuses for the team, even if it does play in one of the NFL's toughest divisions.

"That's something I'm not going to say: 'Oh, our division is so tough, it's not fair for us,"' he said. "No matter who we play, we've got to do better. That's it."

Okoye believes Williams is more relaxed and happy now that he's past constantly having to prove the Texans made the right decision in passing up Vince Young and Reggie Bush to draft him. Williams, ever the contrarian, doesn't believe he had to show those outside the organization anything.

"I don't have to prove nothing to nobody except my teammates," he said. "As long as I know my guys are behind me, I'm behind my guys - that's all that matters."

Who knows if Williams let the negativity of his rookie season get to him, but Smith is convinced Williams as a third-year player will be much more confident than he was as a rookie.

"The better you feel, the better you perform," Smith said. "You are who you think you are and I think he's going to have a much better year than a year ago."

Notes: First-round draft pick Duane Brown sat out the end of the morning practice after getting winded. "Duane got a little gassed, but he's got to catch up with the football team," Kubiak said. "(He's) a little overweight. He had a lot going on with the contract and all that so he's got to catch up." ... G Mike Brisiel wore a splint on his nose Saturday after breaking it in practice Friday afternoon. ... RB Chris Brown arrived at camp Saturday after missing Friday's workouts because of a personal matter.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.