By Joseph Gunther
Name: D.J. Williams – LB – #58
Weight: 242 lbs.
Hometown: Sacramento, CA
College: University of Miami Florida
Experience: 10 years
The constant leader for the Chicago Bears over the last 13 years was Brian Urlacher. Bears fans also became accustomed to seeing the former Pro Bowler hurt.
The Bears offered the free agent linebacker a modest one-year contract that was refused, and after a while of waiting for an offer from another team, Urlacher decided to retire.
Bears General Manager Phil Emery found a cheaper, younger and just as productive option in D.J. Williams.
“We are happy to welcome D.J. to the Bears and are excited to start working with him,” Emery said in a statement in late March. “This is a great opportunity for D.J. to restart his career after coming off suspension for part of the 2012 season. We see a player that has very good athletic upside who can contribute immediately at linebacker. He is also a versatile player who has played both outside linebacker positions.”
Williams spent the first nine years of his career with the Denver Broncos, where he amassed 824 tackles, including 141 in 2007. Last season, he played in just seven games and totaled 14 tackles.
He missed nine games due to two suspensions. The first was a six-game ban for violating the league’s banned-substances policy after the NFL said he provided a “non-human” urine sample during a drug test. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell added an additional three-game suspension when he was convicted of driving while impaired for an incident in November of 2010. It was his second arrest for suspicion of driving while impaired. The suspensions and off-field incidents caused the Broncos to cut him loose.
“I have never failed a test of any kind – for steroids or illegal substances – during my eight-year pro career. I am proud of my record and proud of the way in which I conduct myself as a professional athlete and citizen,” William said in a statement following the suspension.
Williams put the blame for the failed test on the NFL specimen collector. The suspension resulted from a test taken prior to the 2011 season and after his appeal was heard by the league.
“We proved – conclusively – at the NFL hearing on this matter that the NFL and its specimen collector wholly failed in their duties to safeguard and process my specimen properly,” Williams said at the time.
His lawyer, Peter R. Ginsberg, added that the specimen collector said that Williams properly provided the sample, which would have made it impossible for his specimen to be non-human.
Williams may have initially been the top choice to replace Urlacher, but now it’s not looking so good. Early during training camp the veteran linebacker was carted off the practice field, but the injury was not deemed to be serious and he is listed as week-to-week.
Rookie second round draft pick Jon Bostic stepped into the first team reps when Williams left.
If Bostic runs with the opportunity and becomes the starting middle linebacker, Williams would then move to the outside and battle with James Anderson for a starting spot on the Bears defense, which needs to be ready for the season. They are in arguably the toughest division with offenses based around reigning MVP running back Adrian Peterson, former MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who holds the NFL record for most receiving yards in a season with 1,964.
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Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. His work can be found on Examiner.com.