Athletes are often superstitious, so the explanation Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Williams offered after strolling into the locker room with a tight-cut new hairdo earlier this week was fitting.
"Whatever it takes to win."
Williams' new 'do may not translate directly into on-field success for the Bucs, but his play of late certainly isn't hurting. The second-year wideout has been very productive in recent weeks, recording his three highest individual receiving yardage totals for the year in the team's last three games, and hauling in two of his three touchdowns on the year over that span.
He's caught at least five passes and tallied at least 80 receiving yards in each of the last three contests but, alas, the Bucs haven't left any of those games with W's. Earlier in the year, Williams issued a public challenge to himself to play better, and while he's risen to that task individually, he says that it matters little in the grand scheme of things.
"When I say answering the call, it's when we're winning," Williams said. "It's when we're going out there, making plays, and we're winning. If we're making plays and we're losing, we've got to make more plays. I still feel like I've got to do more to make our team win.
"I'm really looking to myself to do things where I can see I'm helping the team win, really to get that out of my game plan and come out of games knowing that I helped us win."
Considering his recent output, it's hard to imagine Williams contributing much more to the overall effort. But after a stellar rookie season in 2010, Williams says he's been focusing on continually, and consistently, improving.
After some early bumps in the road in the 2011 campaign, followed by his current streak of outstanding performances, Williams says the jury is still out on whether he's achieved that goal. The good news, of course, is that there are still four games left to determine whether he's taken the next step forward in his career.
"I don't know," Williams said when asked if he'd improved enough since last year. "It depends on how the end of the year plays out, but hopefully I can say yes. Right now, with these last couple games, I'm on the right track of doing that."
Williams' ups and downs this year in many ways reflect the fortunes of the Buccaneers' offense as a whole. There have been bright spots, and plenty of rough patches, but with Josh Freeman seeking to return from injury and resume control of a young, talented group, Williams feels the potential exists for this offense to be particularly potent – both down the stretch and in future seasons.
"We're working together," Williams said. "We started off young and we know we're going to have our mistakes and things like that, but we're in a position where we think we can explode any week and be on our top offense every week."
The Bucs' offense may have a great opportunity to break out this week against a Jaguars secondary that gave up some big passing numbers to Philip Rivers of the Chargers last week.
To Williams, however, the particular opponent he's facing in any given week is almost irrelevant, and any past performances can be thrown out the window. Confident in his own play and eager to continue his hot streak, Williams is looking forward to lining up against the Jags' defensive backs and giving it a go.
"To be honest, my eyes always light up when we get DBs that we look at and we can go out there and make plays on," Williams said. "Hopefully we can go out there and throw for 900 yards."
All jokes aside, Williams says priority number one is to halt the team's losing skid. Perhaps a new haircut – and a new outlook – is all he and the Bucs need to finish the season strong.
"You do anything, and you lose six straight times, I don't care if you're playing cards or you're playing basketball, six straight losses is bad," Williams said. "We know it's a tough time for us, and we've just got to try and flip it over and get a couple wins these last couple games to get a different mindset."