BOURBONNAIS — By now, the rehabilitation process has become boring to D.J. Williams.
That’s how the 11-year veteran linebacker described his latest stint of having to rehab a ruptured left pectoral muscle that ended his season after just six games. Williams, 32, has always dealt with a handful of injuries throughout his career, having missed games due to injury in three separate seasons.
Even in his first year as a Bear, Williams, who spent nine seasons with the Broncos, dealt with a nagging calf injury throughout July and August of 2013. In addition to that, he caught bronchitis leading up to the Week Five game against the Saints before ultimately rupturing his pectoral muscle towards the end of the third quarter against the Giants in Week Six.
But Williams sees the light at the end of the tunnel.
“Everyday you just keep grinding and going ahead,” Williams said. “I’m very eager (to get back). I know I have a lot to prove to a lot of people, especially climbing up in age at 32. But I’m in the greatest shape I’ve been in in a long time.”
Williams said being in great shape involved returning to his rookie weight, where he weighed 250 pounds out of the University of Miami.
Williams will also play middle linebacker, a position that he was brought in for last season and again when he re-signed to a one-year deal. Williams, who has played at every other linebacker position, said he doesn’t mind and loves playing the middle.
“I don’t want to say our defense is simple, but it highlights what I do pretty well,” Williams said. “It allows me to run sideline to sideline and play defense inside out. We play Cover-2 a lot where guys are breaking and making plays.”
The 32-year old enjoyed success in his limited time in 2013. Williams earned two sacks, which was still the second-most for the Bears’ linebackers, despite missing 10 games.
However, not only is Williams out to redeem himself, but he also added the defense is out to make up for the disastrous year they had as a group. The defense ranked 30th in total yards allowed and dead last in run defense.
Williams said the team is ready to get out and start tackling opponents. The Bears' first preseason game is Friday against the Eagles.
“Playing one of the opponents that I say personally embarrassed [us] last season, we’re eager to see how far we’ve come and still see what we have to do,” Williams said. “I want to shut them out. That’s how you approach every game, whether it's preseason, regular season or practice.
“I just want to see everybody beat their guy and get to the ball, be energetic and follow the plan."
While he wants the defense to succeed, Williams also has to prove himself to his coaches. Bears head coach Marc Trestman has stressed that competition has been the theme of training camp and Williams is in one that could be considered the closest.
When the preseason depth chart was released, Williams and second-year linebacker Jon Bostic were listed as co-starters for the middle linebacker spot. In camp, Bostic has been the starting nickel linebacker, with Williams taking the first-team reps with the base defense.
“It kind of reminds me of me and [former All-Pro Broncos linebacker] Al Wilson when I first came in the league,” Williams said. “It’s a competition and I want to play as many reps as possible, and know that he does as well.
“But you know, it’s a brotherhood and we consider each other family, It doesn’t matter who’s out there, we’ll both be rooting for each other.”