By John Boyle Herald Writer
RENTON — It’s rare that a professional athlete embraces a decrease in playing time, but for the Seattle Seahawks’ newest addition, a slightly smaller work load sounds ideal.
Kevin Williams, the six-time Pro Bowl player who signed with Seattle last week, has been a starter and regular on the field throughout his 11-year NFL career with the Minnesota Vikings. But at this late stage in his career — Williams turns 34 later this summer — he realizes that playing on a defense that rotates linemen heavily could be the best thing for him.
Asked what he thought when he watched the Seahawks in 2013, Williams said “Man, those guys have a nice rotation on defense.”
Indeed the Seahawks do like to rotate their defensive linemen. Last season, the Seahawks didn’t have a single lineman play more than 600 snaps — Michael Bennett led the D-line in playing time taking just over 57 percent of the snaps — while Williams was on the field for 720 in Minnesota.
“I looked at some stats about a month ago. I had like 700 snaps last year and nobody on the D-Line here even touched 650,” Williams said. “It’s an awesome chance to get in and play a limited number of snaps and maximize the ability I have.”
Williams was a prolific pass rusher early in his career, registering 22 sacks in his first two seasons. While those numbers have fallen off despite him still playing at a high level, Williams thinks in a more limited role that he could again be a pass-rushing threat.
“Absolutely, he said. “I think if I’m playing 500 plays versus 700 plays at this age I can definitely still get after the quarterback.”
And Williams’ decision to sign with Seattle of course came down to more than just his role with his new team. Heading into his 12th season, Williams wants to play for a team built to win now, something the Seahawks are obviously set up to do.
On the flip side of that decision, the Seahawks were eager to add another veteran to a defensive line that lost several key players this offseason, including Red Bryant, Clinton McDonald and Chris Clemons.
“We have tremendous respect for the person that he is, the competitor that he is, the leader that he is,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s a big man that plays tough. We want him to play good, physical football for us like he always has. We’re not going to ask him to do anything different than what he’s done.
“We’re asking him to go in his role and see how much he can help us. … We feel very fortunate at this time to add to our team and the things that we’ve accomplished at this point, a guy like Kevin. He just brings a tremendous amount to our club.”
Next up for Williams and the Seahawks is figuring out exactly how he fits in. Carroll talked mostly about Williams playing the three-technique defensive tackle spot, which is where Tony McDaniel started last year. That could mean those two competing for a starting job, but there could also be times that Seattle wants to use them together.
With Bryant gone, McDaniel has been playing some as a five-technique end (Bryant’s old position) during offseason workouts, and Carroll said he liked the idea of having both on the field together when the team wants to go big to stop the run. Williams also worked some as an interior pass rusher with Seattle’s nickel defense Tuesday. A spot is open there with McDonald leaving in free agency.
Williams still has to earn his place on the team. Just last year, former Viking Antoine Winfield, came to Seattle with a Pro-Bowl résumé and didn’t end up on the final roster. But while he’ll face a challenge from players like Jesse Williams and Jordan Hill, a pair of 2013 draft picks trying to come back from injury-plagued rookie seasons, Kevin Williams, especially a more rested version of him, could be a big addition for the Seahawks.
“He said, ‘Maybe in my career it might be time to do that,’” said Carroll on pitching the idea of Seattle’s line rotation to Williams. “ … I think it’s a real natural way for us to utilize his strengths, and obviously he took to it, because he’s here. He had other choices, he had other places to go, other deals to take, and he wanted to be a part of our program.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.