Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Pat Williams' rotund frame has always been a punch line. Listed at 317 pounds in the team media guide, jokes like, 'You mean his high school media guide?' have become common around here. No one is laughing now.
One of the leaders of the Vikings' defense has missed the first three days of training camp because of weight and conditioning issues, and defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin called the situation 'disappointing' on Wednesday.
With temperatures soaring early in the week, Williams was placed on the active physically unable to perform list after showing up to camp a few pounds overweight and slightly out of shape. But even after heavy rain cooled things off, Williams still was not in uniform.
Coach Brad Childress has reasons to be cautious. He was coaching in Philadelphia five years ago on the day when massive Vikings tackle Korey Stringer collapsed in the sweltering heat in Mankato. Stringer's heatstroke death cast a pall over the franchise and prompted every team to examine how it conducts training camp.
'He isn't where he needs to be,' Tomlin said bluntly. 'It's disappointing for me, it's disappointing for his teammates, it's disappointing for him. We've got one standard here in physical conditioning, in preseason and in anything else. As of right now, he's not up to snuff so he's got some work to do.'
Williams, who struggled in a conditioning test on Monday but did not appear to be much heavier than he usually is, declined an interview request.
Coming off a career season in which he narrowly missed the Pro Bowl, the Vikings need Williams to be the run-stuffing nose tackle in Tomlin's new 'Tampa 2' defense. Tomlin, the former secondary coach in Tampa Bay, envisions Williams as the Vikings' version of Booger McFarland - a disruptive, athletic and powerful force in the middle.
Williams showed he could be just that last season. Playing closer to 340 pounds didn't keep the 10-year veteran from running sideline-to-sideline to chase down running backs, quarterbacks and sometimes even receivers.
He has dealt with weight issues his entire career, and most of his teammates didn't think Williams would have much trouble getting things under control.
'Pat's doing real good,' cornerback Fred Smoot said. 'They're just trying to take special precautions, make sure everything's good. Nothing's actually big about the situation.'
Nothing, that is, except for 'Big Pat.' His teammates endearingly gave the jovial Williams that moniker, though it refers more to his play on the field than the reading on the scale.
More than just a hole-plugger who gobbles up blocks to free up his teammates, Williams led all Vikings defensive linemen with 88 tackles and nine tackles for loss last season.
Perhaps that's why Tomlin was so pointed in his remarks on Wednesday - he knows how important Williams is to the success of his defense, which is predicated on the front four putting pressure on the quarterback and stopping the run.
Playing alongside former All-Pro Kevin Williams, Tomlin thinks the two friends can create the kind of havoc on the interior that McFarland and Warren Sapp did for so many years in Tampa.
Tomlin didn't set a timeline for Pat Williams' return, saying 'that will be determined based on his progress.'
Childress was a little less pointed earlier in the week, when he first placed Williams on the active PUP list, which means he cannot practice or workout with the team.
'He had done just a great job. He had lost 14 or 15 pounds in the offseason, steady coming down, and it got away from him,' Childress said. 'He's as disappointed as I am. You've got to make that call and he's going to have to spend some time here and pull it back together.'
When Pat Williams does get back, everyone better watch out.
'Pat's hungry to get out here,' Smoot said, pardon the pun. 'He wants to get him a piece.'
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Concerned about a potentially dangerous infection that hit five players the past two seasons, the Washington Redskins hired a company to treat their practice facility with a spray that controls the growth of bacteria and mold. New carpeting and a fresh coat of paint were applied to the locker room, weight room, training room and other areas at Redskins Park ahead of last week's spraying, an effort to prevent the spread of MRSA, a form of staph infection that's resistant to many antibiotics. 'I liked the idea. I liked the science behind it,' Redskins trainer Bubba Tyer said Wednesday. 'That's just part of the way you prevent this disease from spreading.' Other preventive measures adopted by the Redskins included removing benches in the locker room and replacing them with individual wooden stools for each player, and taking out a 15-year-old whirlpool bath and adding a new filtering system for the substitute. MRSA is passed person-to-person via skin contact; it's not a bacteria that floats in the air. It can be fatal. 'It's a terrible infection,' Tyer said. 'It can cripple your team.' Three Redskins players contracted MRSA infections last season, the worst case being that of defensive tackle Brandon Noble. Tyer has spoken to other NFL trainers about MRSA, and, he said, 'We're all concerned.' The Redskins are the first NFL team to use this particular spray, which costs about $1.50 per square foot. Other teams used other methods to deal with the problem: The St. Louis Rams, for example, bleached and sterilized every training table, sauna and surface. The antimicrobial system used by the Redskins also has been used for Virginia Tech's football and wrestling teams. 'We're in conversations with at least 10 other NFL teams and about 50' college programs, said Wendy Orthman, a spokeswoman for Coatings Specialist Group, which applied the spray. Cincinnati games Boston New York Tampa Bay Toronto Chicago Cleveland games Detroit Anaheim Minnesota Kansas Oakland games Seattle Texas Atlanta Florida New York Washington Chicago Houston games Milwaukee Pittsburgh Saint Louis Arizona Colorado Los Angeles San Diego San Francisco games Philadelphia Baltimore
After the deep ball that didn't come close in a drill without defenders, the pass that was underthrown in double coverage and the one that went high, wide and out of bounds, Drew Bledsoe must have sensed frustration rising in Terrell Owens. So the quarterback made a pre-emptive strike Wednesday morning. Soon after they went to the sideline, Bledsoe went looking for Owens, walking about 50 yards merely to give him an encouraging pat on the rear. Such an exchange between most quarterbacks and receivers would hardly be noticed, especially during the seventh practice of training camp. However, everything that happens between this receiver and his quarterback is newsworthy. So, T.O., is everything OK between y'all? 'Every day is a day of improvement,' Owens said following the practice and a chat with coach Bill Parcells, which included technical talk about hand placement on a specific type of catch. 'If we take a step back, we go back to the drawing board and we try to correct our mistakes and build on those the next day. Every day is critical, but it's no reason to panic right now.' The early session Wednesday in Oxnard, Calif., was the second straight in which Bledsoe and Owens were out of whack. 'We're getting there,' Owens said. 'We're not there yet, but as I said from Day 1, this is what training camp and practice is all about. We're not going to get it done in one day, a week. The season is yet to get here. Once the season starts, I feel we'll be ready.' Owens' attitude is a good sign for the Cowboys. They've invested $10 million this season alone in Owens being on his best behavior and so far he's showed no signs of the problems that prompted San Francisco and Philadelphia to give up on him regardless of his All-Pro ability. Owens is the only newcomer among Dallas' top four receiving threats. Bledsoe already is comfortable throwing to Terry Glenn, Jason Witten and Patrick Crayton, so part of the problem with Owens right now could be the normal feeling-out process all quarterbacks and receivers must go through. 'That's what those drills are for, No. 1 to get our timing down and obviously for me to get some balls in my hands so I can get familiar with his touch,' Owens said. Parcells wouldn't elaborate on his talk with Owens, but the receiver called it 'a good conversation.' 'At this point, we're just trying to take it day-by-day, camp practice-by-camp practice,' Owens said. 'It's been fun so far.' Owens said they discussed 'a little bit of everything,' from football to diets. 'He's eating healthy these days,' Owens said. 'He's slimmed down. ... I kind of complimented him on his good shape coming into camp.' Meanwhile at Eagles camp, owner Jeffrey Lurie said it was a mistake to sign the outspoken wide receiver. 'I would not do it again,' Lurie said in his annual state-of-the-team address. 'You look back on it - one year great, the second year a disaster. Nobody should be able to be as disruptive and really cut the energy of the team down. 'I think we all learned from that.' Also Wednesday, the Cowboys and star safety Roy Williams agreed to a five-year deal worth $25.2 million, with $11.1 million guaranteed. Williams was entering the final year of his rookie contract. The new deal gives him a raise this season and locks him up for four more years, through 2010. 'I am going to be a Cowboy for life,' said Williams, who came to Dallas as the eighth overall pick in 2002. 'I'm staying here.' Giants The effects of his first concussion left Jeremy Shockey nauseous, sensitive to light, reduced his motor skills and made it difficult for him to sleep, the three-time Pro Bowl tight end said Wednesday. 'Don't get too close, I might get sick,' a soft-spoken and rather subdued Shockey said. 'I am feeling better but I have headaches and I am pretty sensitive to light.' The comments at lunch were Shockey's first to the media since he sustained what the Giants described as a mild concussion in a collision with safety Will Demps late in a training camp workout on Monday night at the University at Albany. 'I have never had a concussion,' said the 25-year-old Shockey, noting that he has taken some big hits to his head before. 'It's just a strange thing.' Chiefs Kansas acquired running back Michael Bennett from New Orleans on Wednesday for an undisclosed 2007 draft pick, but insisted that didn't mean Priest Holmes would retire. Holmes, holder of many Chiefs rushing and touchdown records, is being held out of contact by doctors because of a neck and spinal cord injury he sustained in a game last October at San Diego. 'This is not an indication that Priest is not coming back,' Chiefs president Carl Peterson said Wednesday. Rams St. Louis signed Moe Williams to a one-year contract on Wednesday, addressing the need for a backup running back. With Marshall Faulk out for the season because of a knee injury, the Rams have third-year back Steven Jackson in the starting role. Behind him is Tony Fisher, a fifth-year running back from Notre Dame who signed as an unrestricted free agent. Williams is entering his 11th NFL season after spending the past nine years with the Minnesota Vikings. Cardinals Arizona right tackle Oliver Ross will miss at least three weeks, and possibly as many as 10, because of a right knee injury. Coach Dennis Green said Ross may have torn his meniscus. The club was awaiting test results. Ross, an eight-year veteran, was injured during a blocking drill Wednesday morning during practice at Northern Arizona University.
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