Even though Reggie Bush and Vince Young have both had their moments under the sun for their respective teams, it’s no longer possible to make the same solid argument that Mario Williams wasn’t worthy of the No. 1 overall draft pick in the 2007 draft. Williams has been one of the NFL’s premiere sack guys in recent years, and quite frankly, has been far more consistent and productive than both Bush and Young on and off the field the past several years. Comparisons aside, Williams and his team have a huge opportunity this coming season to finally break through and make some real noise after year’s of relative futility. Their ultimate nemesis, the Indianapolis Colts, await in Week 1 of the regular season, so it won’t take too long to see if they’re seemingly ready or not to make that next big step forward.
Williams joined The Scott Van Pelt Show on ESPN Radio to talk about how he’s feeling physically, getting past his sports hernia injury, what he’s done to keep fit during the injury, the importance of taking the next step as a team this year and making it to the playoffs, the season opener against the Colts and how they’re ultimately the team they must overcome on their march to the playoffs, how the defense needs to match the tempo of the usually explosive offense, and how he no longer hears all the comparisons and arguments about him being worthy of a No. 1 draft pick like he did earlier in his career.
On how he’s feeling heading into the season after being cleared of his sports hernia injury:
“I’m doing pretty good right now. I’m pretty much taking it day by day, doing a lot of treatment, strengthening all the muscles around that area, and just being smart with the things I do throughout the week. It’s one of those things where you have to go out and get a look at the opponent for the next week, so I’m just going out taking it day by day, and letting it all out on Sunday, letting it all go.”
On how big and important this year is for the Texans as they try to finally get over that proverbial hump and make it into the playoffs:
“It’s huge. This year is unbelievable for us, you know. This is my fifth year and we haven’t made it over that hump yet. We came in and won some games, but at the end of the day, if you’re not in the playoffs playing for that right, nothing really matters. That’s pretty much what it is. So it’s very important for us to take it game by game and focus on the task at hand and get it done. Going through training camp it’s been brutal with this heat here, so that’s one thing you’ve got to take. So we’re already going to be mentally tough, we’ve just got to go out and execute and play ball. We’ve got a pretty good preseason schedule being that we face Arizona and then the champions from last year. So we’re seeing and everything.”
On starting the season against the Colts, the one team that Houston has been unable to get past:
“It’s huge, it’s the biggest game of the season not just because we have to get through them to get where we want to be, but because it is the first game of the season. So we have to focus all our power, all our attention to them. And the biggest thing for us is we’ve got to finish. That’s been our Achilles Heel – not just that game against the Colts, throughout the season we’ll be up and all of a sudden we’ll let it go. We’ve got to put our foot on the throat and pretty much finish the game. And like you said, when it comes down to the Colts, when you’re playing against Peyton Manning, the game’s never out of reach. So we’ve got to make sure we finish it, we’ve got to make sure we close the door.”
On the importance of the defense matching the performance of the offense:
“Definitely. It’s very important for us to match them. Because being that we have one of the elite passers in the game, and then the best wide receiver in the game for sure, it’s one of those things where even if you get a 3 and out, guess what, you’re going to be back in the game pretty quick because they’re probably going to score pretty quick. It’s one of those things where you get a stop and you go sit down and go ah, we’ve got a break, next thing you know you’re right back up. So the biggest thing is we’ve got to match that tempo that the offense is putting out for us.”
On how much he thinks back to all the chitter chatter earlier in his career about him not being worthy of the No. 1 overall pick:
“At first, it was all I heard coming out. At this point, my biggest thing is staying healthy because I know as long as I’m healthy I can be a big part of the team and that’s what I want to be. So my biggest thing is just staying healthy and trying to make that happen. And the number one thing is making sure I count all the sacks that were right there that if maybe I had taken this angle a little better, or maybe if I had gotten a little better get-off. So, my biggest thing is just trying to capitalize on the number of sacks I have because the sky’s the limit, and that’s how I see it, and that’s how my coaches push me. So I know I’ve got to go out and perform.”