It was late in practice on Tuesday morning, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offense needed a play, or a promising two-minute drill was going to go for naught. Josh Freeman looked for Mike Williams, as he had so often in that sort of situation in 2010. Williams didn't disappoint.
"When we're playing against our defense, man, I hate when they win, because we go in the locker room and they talk about it," said Williams, laughing a bit but also showing the ultra-competitive side that has come out in this year's training camp. "It was fourth down and we needed the catch, so I just tried to do what I do best and make a play."
Rookie safety Mark Barron was trying to do the same thing for the Bucs' defense, and it looked like he was going to pick off the pass. Somehow, it ended up in Williams' hands.
"It was a good back-shoulder throw," he said. "They say if it touches my hands, catch it. That was one of those situations."
Williams had 65 catches for 964 yards and a team single-season-record 11 touchdowns in his 2010 rookie season, when he was Freeman's go-to target in tight situations. Last year, Williams caught another 65 passes but his yards dropped to 771 and his touchdowns to three. He has come back in 2012 with a vengeance, and he had one of the most important plays of the Bucs' preseason-opening win in Miami when he set up a touchdown by turning a short pass into an 18-yard run down to the six. Williams, who says he has a self-imposed rule that he won't be brought down by a single tackler, juked one Dolphin defender to buy extra yardage.
That play was reminiscent of his breakout rookie campaign, when he consistently gained yards out of the catch and looked like one of the league's rising stars at wide receiver. The Bucs would love to see Williams regain that 2010 form, but he actually has his goals set higher than that.
"I want to be at a higher level," he said. "I feel like I've put the work in now, watching extra film, knowing what the coverage is, working with Vincent on extra things. I don't want to get a level I've been at already; I want to exceed that level."