For Redskins' Williams, Role Tied to Weight Loss

By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mike Williams was the last Washington Redskins player off the field. The 6-foot-6, nearly 400-pound offensive lineman was dripping from the rain that drenched yesterday's organized team activity and the sweat from his ensuing workout.

He jogged approximately 1,000 yards following practice and planned for 30 minutes of exercise after an offensive line meeting. More conditioning was scheduled in the evening. It represented the plan between Williams and the Redskins to shed 40 to 50 more pounds from a frame that recently exceeded 400 and restore the promise that made Williams the fourth overall selection in the 2002 draft.

"Hey, they asked me how much you weighed today!" Redskins Coach Jim Zorn called toward Williams.

"Oh, jeez, I don't know," Williams responded. "I got to go weigh myself."

The best news for Williams is he's "sub now," which is his way of relaying he worked himself below 400 pounds. Williams already has lost 55 pounds. His goal is to enter June's OTAs between 370 to 375.

Williams, 29, has not been on the field for an NFL snap since 2005. His decision to lose weight originally had nothing to do with football. He had retired to Texas, running an oil-field services business, and stopped training. By Williams's own admission, he became too big and lacked energy. He traveled to Durham, N.C., to lose weight at a fitness program at Duke University.

The initiative stemmed from a pact made on a trip to Hawaii with Redskins guard Derrick Dockery, a close friend, to eat healthy upon reaching 30 years old. Williams turns 30 in January. Dockery turns 30 in September 2010.

"It's something we all came up with with our wives," Dockery said. "They wanted to have us around for a long time."

Dockery went back to the Redskins during the offseason after two years with the Buffalo Bills. His wife is pregnant, and Williams's wife came to Northern Virginia to help her in the final weeks of her pregnancy. With the short distance between Durham and Washington, Williams often would visit, too.

By this point, Williams considered returning to football. His steady workout program produced immediate results, and he felt the NFL was attainable.

"My goal was to originally get down to 280," Williams said. "That was already in the process of going on. During the process, I said, 'Hey, I might as well go play football,' because I felt really good."

His agents instructed him to keep the ambitions quiet before getting down to a reasonable weight, pinpointing late May or early June. While training one day in late April, Williams received a call from a reporter in Dallas. An article appeared in the Dallas Morning News on April 23 with an update on Williams. Later that day, Vinny Cerrato, Washington's executive vice president of football operations, dialed Dockery and asked if Williams was interested in a workout.

"Just have to take a leap of faith," Williams said. "If I have confidence in my body, it's not going to matter how much I weigh. They're going to see the potential; they're going to see the feet that I still have."

Zorn said Williams is not a "fat guy" and is mostly lean body mass. He added that Williams's participation in June's OTAs will not be contingent on weight, although Williams will struggle to play consistently at his current size.

"The thing I saw when we worked him out, he can change directions with 410 pounds pretty well," Zorn said. "My charge to him is being able to do that 70 times a game, 16 games and some playoff games as well. We have to get him down just so we can get that."

The Redskins are in flux at right tackle, and Williams says with confidence that he is a candidate to start. He accumulated 47 starts during four disappointing seasons with the Bills, although the three years away from football and his weight provide obstacles.

Despite previous injuries, Williams does not have the wear and tear from football of a typical 29-year-old lineman -- an advantage recited independently by Williams and Dockery. Williams also said he still possesses the attributes that made him a top five pick.

"You have to think about the things that had to happen for this to come together. It's almost like you're watching a movie," Williams said. Dockery "had to get released from Buffalo, get picked up here. Who knows if I even would have come up to Virginia to see him? A lot of things had to happen for this to come true. I'm not going to allow the weight and trying to get down to affect the opportunity I have here to compete for the starting position. Not everyone who gets out can jump right back in."

Redskins Notes: The Redskins signed wide receivers Roydell Williams and Trent Shelton and released offensive lineman Isaiah Ross, wide receiver John Halman, linebacker Ronnie Palmer, tight end Devin Frischknecht and defensive tackle Brigham Harwell. . . .

Veterans Clinton Portis, LaRon Landry, Mike Sellers, London Fletcher, James Thrash, Santana Moss and Hunter Smith were not present at yesterday's voluntary workouts.

Carlos Rogers was in attendance but did not participate.

"His knee's just a little swollen," Zorn said. "He's just sore. I just appreciated him coming out and not just blowing us off and saying, 'See you later.' That was nice."

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