Texans DE Williams happy spotlight has dimmed

HOUSTON (AP) -Mario Williams feels as though a weight has been taken off his broad shoulders.

A year removed from being chosen first overall in the NFL draft, the defensive end enters his second training camp in Houston happy the spotlight on him isn't quite so bright.

The Texans checked into camp on Thursday and will begin practicing Friday morning.

Williams was under constant and intense pressure last season after the Texans' shocking decision to pass on Reggie Bush and hometown favorite Vince Young in favor of him.

"Those things kind of weigh you down, especially in the position that I was in," he said. "But it's helping out a lot now that I don't have to worry about that. It's a big relief for me right now."

Williams had 47 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season while starting each game of Houston's 6-10 season. But his performance suffered as he was slowed for much of the year by plantar fasciitis in his right foot.

He's healthy now and in great shape. Texans coach Gary Kubiak said he was one of the three hardest workers on the team in the offseason.

Williams said his plan was simple: "Just going out and doing more than what I was doing before."

His intense offseason conditioning program had an unintended consequence though. The 6-foot-6 player dropped almost 15 pounds to 280.

"I've slimmed down a little bit," he said. "I didn't try to. It just came along with doing more stuff."

Williams is expecting a big year with the knowledge gained from his rookie year and the luxury of playing right defensive end exclusively after moving up and down the line last season.

"It's really nice, so now I can just sit here and focus on playing right defense end and just learning things at that position," he said. "You don't want to go backward. The No. 1 thing me and the whole defense have to do is take it to the next level."

Though outside pressure on Williams may have waned a bit, the pressure from Kubiak and the rest of the coaching staff remains intense.

"He's got to be a difference maker for our football team to move forward, and I think he knows that," Kubiak said. "We settled him down, played him in one spot. He has become more of a pro on the field."

While Williams is confident he'll improve in his second season, he refused to make any predictions on how many sacks or tackles he'll have.

"I just want to win," he said. "That's the number one thing. Everything else doesn't matter. We've just got to win games. That's what we expect to do and that's what we're trying to do."

The Texans got help for Williams in the draft by choosing defensive tackle Amobi Okoye with the 10th pick. He might not get to start working with Williams and the group right away as he still hadn't agreed to a contract with the team by Thursday afternoon.

Okoye's agents and the Texans continued negotiations.

"I know we feel good about getting it done," Kubiak said. "He is the only one we have left, and they feel very good about it."

Williams, who signed his contract the night before the draft, hopes Okoye doesn't miss any time because of a holdout.

"I would want to be there if I were him," Williams said.

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