LAKE FOREST – From the moment the final throw of team practice left Jimmy Clausen's grip, Chris Williams didn't seem to have a chance. The ball was headed too far to the left too quickly for anyone to grab. Some players were already turning to leave.
Then came a tiny blur of blue and orange. The 5-foot-8, 175-pound Williams emerged from a hiding place in the middle of the field to grab the ball with inches to spare before he tumbled and tumbled on the turf.
“Jimmy threw a good ball,” Williams said afterward. “I just came over there and got it.”
It's a single play at the end of a minicamp practice, but for Williams, fighting for his first full-year roster spot in the NFL, these moments are crucial. In fact, he'd like to make it a metaphor for everything he's trying to accomplish right now. He's trying to become more than a blur. In the process, he's hoping to splash onto the NFL scene, grabbing onto a dream that is currently at the edge of his grip.
Williams came to the Bears last December. The following March, when the Bears let star punt returner Devin Hester walk in free agency, the reasoning behind Marc Trestman picking up a former fellow Canadian Football League star seeemed to become more clear. Williams set the Canadian Football League record for return touchdowns in his last season with the Hamilton Tiger Cats in 2012, which then earned him a spot on the Saints. He's a small player who has made it with his feet ever since he clocked a 4.34 in the 40-yard dash prior to the 2009 NFL Draft.
But at Monday's minicamp, Williams wasn't the first or the second guy in line to return punts for the Bears. He was third, behind Micheal Spurlock and Armanti Edwards, who ran with their own footballs during the special teams sequence while the punts kept hitting the roof in the Walter Payton Center.
“We're much looking forward to the preseason and getting some live reps and getting some opportunities to showcase what I can do,” Williams said.
In his words, that's explode and make plays and “anything they need.” Despite his strong 40-time, Williams went undrafted due to knocks on his size. His entire life, he's had to go to a field to dispel the assumptions people make about him off it.
Right now, he's hoping to just get the chance. The Bears will have minicamp the next two days, which Trestman said is the ideal time for Bears brass to determine which players will get to join the team for training camp at the end of July in Bourbannais.
If Williams can stick around that long and into the season, it will be the first time in his short career. The 26-year old has joined the rosters of the Dolphins, Browns and Saints, only to receive temporary practice-squad work.
If Williams sticks around, he plans to show the Bears that the small frame can sometimes be a strength – not only as a punt returner hiding behind bigger blockers but as a wide receiver disappearing from coverages and finding small holes. To make that happen, he knows he'll have to make more plays like the one he had on Monday when Clausen's ball was too far away for Williams to catch up to, and he did anyway.
“I think thats something that's a little underrated in my game,” Williams said. “I'm definitely getting better. I have a long way to go, but I'm getting better every day.”