I had a chance to pull aside Jimmy Williams during the 49ers' recent minicamp. Williams lands in a category with several other players, both rookies and veterans, who were at the minicamp: He's immensely talented but so far hasn't lived up to his potential. Williams, 25, was the 37th overall selection in 2006, but he played only two seasons for the team that drafted him, the Falcons. He did not play in the league last season. Atlanta released him in part because his weight had risen from 213 pounds when they drafted him to 230 pounds at this time last year. Williams apparently has been as heavy as 240 pounds.
You've played free safety in the past but strong safety with the 49ers. Is it a big difference?
JW: Yes and no. Sometimes you're playing in the middle of the field and playing more of a free safety role. But the strong safety is more of a linebacker. It's really like the main guy on the defense because he's calling most of the calls even though the other safety has a lot of calls also. (The strong safety) interacts a lot more with the linebackers, he's more close to the line of scrimmage and gets more chances to blitz. It's a mix of being a linebacker, a free safety and corner.
Does the position require you to be big since you are sort of a quasi linebacker?
JW: I think so. I think it's because in the run game you need to have a little bit more weight to take on the punishment a little bit better than a smaller safety could. I think that's what they want from it.
What are you these days?
JW: I've lost 15 pounds, so I'm down to 225 now.
Is that about where they want you?
JW: Well, coach Singletary ... I want to get down to about 218 before we get into training camp. I'm still working at it.
Won't you lose weight in training camp?
JW: Yeah, but I just want to make them happy. If anything, I want to shock them. It was an issue when I left Atlanta about how I got real big and overweight, which ... well, it was kind of true and wasn't true because when they moved me from corner, I was already weighing 215, 217 then, so I didn't feel comfortable going to safety playing that. I wanted to be like 228, 225. They weren't happy about that, so that's why they put that out there. But I can run. I can still run 4.4, 4.3 if I needed to. That's not the problem. My problem is after not playing (a season), just getting back on the field.
Can you play free safety, too?
JW: Well, coach Sing, Johnnie (Lynn), I think they want me to learn strong safety now. If you can learn strong safety, free safety is easy. Because strong safety is more calls, more down-in-the-box things than free safety. Free safety is usually in the middle of the field, half field or guarding the third receiver.
How much one-on-one interaction do you have with coach Singletary?
JW: For me personally there's been a lot of one-on-one time. Just like I said, me coming off the street last year, I know he's been wanting to be on me, him and coach Manusky, as far as getting me acclimated and making sure I'm ok. I've had a little bit of off-the-field problems. So if I need somebody to talk to, or if he sees something in my body language, he'll just pull me to the side and talk to me. Since I've been here, I've probably met with him eight times.
Do you like that there's someone watching over you?
JW: Oh, definitely. That way you know he cares, that way you know he wants you to be (indecipherable), that way you know that you're not just another guy in his eyes. And that's the main thing. Sometimes you might be on a team and you might not get that interaction with your coach or your head coach and you don't really know where you sit with them. At least I know with coach Singletary and his coaching staff, I know where I'm sitting, I know they're pushing me and I know I've got their support if I need it."
-- Matt Barrows