Orchard Park, NY (WGR 550) -- All things considered, the Buffalo Bills made a low risk deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to acquire wide receiver Mike Williams. Before the deal was agreed upon and Williams started making his way to Buffalo, it had to go through head coach Doug Marrone first.
And the duo certainly has a well-documented history with one another.
Marrone took over the Syracuse University football program in 2009, just a year removed from the wideout’s year-long academic suspension and also his senior season with the Orange. Depending on who you talk to, the story differs as to whether Williams quit or whether he was on the way to getting kicked off the team for a violation of team rules stringing from a car accident.
"They know the whole story...They know I didn't quit,” Williams said at the 2010 NFL Combine after being asked about what he’s telling teams. “Everybody knows I didn't quit."
Be that as it may, 2014 is not about trying to uncover what happened a few hours east on Interstate-90 almost five years ago. It’s about whether the two sides, found in a football relationship yet again, can get back on the same page to help their current stop in Buffalo.
The deal was considered, and Marrone placed a call to Williams.
“Before the trade, I actually talked to Marrone first. We talked on the phone and we got rid of our past and said we're moving forward,” the wide receiver said. “Coach Marrone said to me, ‘the past is the past.’ He said it was his first year of coaching, he made mistakes, I made mistakes. Situations weren't handled how they were supposed to be handled, but, the past is the past. We're kind of looking forward to that.”
Suspended all of 2008 for academic reasons at Syracuse, the “student” side of being a student-athlete never really tickled Williams’ fancy. He admitted as much when speaking with the Buffalo media Monday.
“[Marrone] said to me the other day, if we were in school, if it was at college, he wouldn't have picked up Mike Williams,” the wideout stated. “But now we don't got school, that's his first pick is to pick up Mike Williams. I kind of understood where he was going with that.”
Since leaving the school environment, Williams enjoyed some early success with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and helped transition that into a lucrative contract extension just last year. He was feeling comfortable, and then mistakes were made.
There were separate reports of wrongdoings strewn about a rather quick timeline in Tampa Bay and Williams admitted that maturity needs to take over now that he’s in Buffalo.
“To answer your questions, yes, I do think I need to grow up a little bit more,” he told the media. “I think with me having a son, I think it makes me realize things a little bit more and how important it is and what type of future I have for him and my family. There are a lot of people depending on me, so, you're right, I do have to grow up.”
Even with the self-realization, the wide receiver insisted that he wasn’t at fault and that two of the stories that leaked out about him weren’t factual. He wouldn’t offer up which of those two they were, but maintained that some, though not all, of the evidence against him was unfounded.
“It was somebody just trying to get over,” Williams said. “It was just a situation where I just had to get through. I fell into a wrong mistake and a lot of other people tried to take advantage. You see how it came like back-to-back-to-back-to-back. Two of them were made up and everything has been dropped.”
He believes that one of his most crucial mistakes was attempting to try and help people too much, saying that to him it was due to having too much of a “big heart.”
Leading up to the 2010 NFL Draft, when the Buccaneers selected Williams with a fourth round pick (101st overall) there were still some lingering concerns about him. ProFootballTalk.com published an article in the build up to the 2010 draft that featured a person in the NFL that didn’t buy in on Williams’ explanations to teams.
"He is a great talent but a train wreck as a person," said the ProFootballTalk.com NFL source. "He was horrible in interviews blaming everyone but himself for his problems at Syracuse."
Through that period of time after the draft, however, Williams has flourished, accruing 215 receptions for 2,947 yards and 25 touchdowns in 54 career games. He’s shown he can do it on the field, now the Bills are hoping the off-the-field maturity comes along with it all.
“It was kind of like trouble found me. Somewhere where I didn't think trouble was at,” Williams remarked, speaking of his most recent incident with his brother that reportedly resulted in a knife in his leg. “It's just how I adjust to it. I'm a person that always fall down, get back up. I'm sure you guys know about my career. It's, 'Oh he's down?' I'm gonna get back up. I’m gonna keep on fighting. You're always going to get the great Mike on the field.”
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Williams turns 27 next month. He said he’ll be fully healthy for the start of offseason workouts later this month.
Here is the full audio from his introductory press conference: