EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Kevin Williams isn’t a screamer. The big Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle is as understated as they come, his low Arkansas baritone almost never rising to a level that would put even the slightest strain on his vocal chords.
So when Williams talks about sitting on his couch in his suburban Minneapolis home and “yelling at the screen,” you know something must have gone awfully wrong. Watching his team give up 27 combined points in halftime leads to lose the first two games of the season while he was sitting out because of a suspension certainly would qualify.
“It was tough. I mean, I want to be out there with the guys,” Williams said. “Not to be able to is a terrible feeling. So it was real difficult watching, especially the way it unfolded in both of those games.”
He will have a much bigger influence on the outcome of Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions (2-0).
Williams finished his two-game suspension for testing positive for a banned diuretic three years ago and rejoined the Vikings at practice on Wednesday. He will still have to play the next two games essentially for free after the league chose to reduce his suspension by two games but fine him an additional two game checks.
But that is the furthest thing from Williams’ mind right now.
“I thought we were fighting for a good cause and had a good case to fight for, but it didn’t go in our favor, so we move on and play football,” he said of the long court battle that ended in the offseason.
The Vikings held a 10-point lead in Week 1 at San Diego and a 17-point lead last week against Tampa Bay, only to give both away and fall to 0-2.
Not having their six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle in the middle of the line certainly didn’t help things. Last week, Bucs running back LeGarrette Blount seemed to wear down the Vikings defense, popping several big runs through the middle of the line in the second half to take some of the heat off quarterback Josh Freeman.
Blount barreled for 67 of his 71 yards rushing in the second half, including touchdown runs of 27 and 4 yards to lift the Bucs to the victory.
“I think we gave two games away,” Williams said. “In this league we can’t afford to do that. We’ve got to get it going this week.”
Now all that remains to be seen is how effective Williams can be while playing with a painful case of plantar fasciitis in his left foot. He said the two weeks of rest has helped him feel much better heading into this week, but still thinks he will not be at 100 percent all season long.
Teammates say even a slightly hampered Williams will be a welcome sight.
“Even when I was in New Orleans, I knew who Kevin Williams is,” first-year nose tackle Remi Ayodele said. “He’s a great player. He’s a great teammate. He helped me out a lot during camp, making sure I knew all my plays and everything when I got down. A lot of vets don’t do that. They don’t have time for that. You’ve got to learn yourself. He made sure I knew every call before I got down, so I’m really excited to have him back.”
In his first six seasons, Williams earned a reputation as the rare player who is equally effective against the run and rushing the passer.
“He’s wrecked some games that I’ve been a part of on the other side,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “A lot of respect for him as a player. … He’s a guy that’s good against the run, good against the pass, doesn’t have a weak spot in his game.”
His production dipped last season. He had just one sack, though he did notch a career-high nine tackles for loss, in an uncharacteristically quiet year.
Perhaps as important as Williams’ production on the field is his presence in the locker room for a team that is on its heels a little after the slow start. Veterans Steve Hutchinson, Donovan McNabb and Jared Allen all spoke up earlier this week to encourage everyone not to panic.
Even though Williams isn’t the rah-rah type, his words and actions have always carried considerable weight with his teammates. Coach Leslie Frazier said Williams is a player he will lean on to “get certain things done and communicated.”
“He is a quiet guy and his personality is low key, but he’s one of those guys that when he does speak up, the entire room listens because of his credibility and how great of a player he is,” Frazier said. “But also, he’s a very bright guy and has a great feel for people and situations. … Guys really listen and they try to adhere to his suggestions.”
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