DL Leonard Williams
March 18, 2021
Q: Did you know this was always going to happen during negotiations? Did you kind of sense it was leading to this or were you really wondering at times whether you would be back?
A: I wasn’t sure. I was just kind of trying to control what I could control, keep training in the offseason. Obviously, I hoped for a long-term contract to happen. Everybody wants stability. I’m just happy that the Mara and the Tisch families, Dave Gettleman, Coach (Joe) Judge and the whole Giants organization believed and trusted in me and decided to bring me back long-term. I’m happy to be here.
Q: I know that you were originally tagged, but what drew you to this situation long-term?
A: Honestly, I just love this organization. I love the way I’ve been getting coached here under Coach Judge and his staff. I love the way they treat people here. I love the guys that they’re bringing into the building, player-wise. Overall, it just seemed like a good fit. I’m just glad to be back.
Q: Obviously, you had your career-year last year playing for Patrick Graham and Sean Spencer, and the Giants just brought in (Ifeadi) Odenigbo, who has kind of been a breakout candidate the last couple of years. What is it about their coaching that brought out the best in you and kind of brought out that potential?
A: Yeah, that’s what I was saying why I thought it was a good fit for me, just the way the coaching staff coaches. I do well under a coaching staff that pushes you and tries to get the best out of you. That’s definitely what this coaching staff does. They don’t really care about who you are, they’re going to coach you the same. They don’t care if you’re a rookie just now coming in or you’re a guy that’s been in the league a long time. They’re going to try to get the best out of you. I thrive well in an environment that pushes you.
Q: Just to piggyback that a little bit, you did have your biggest year last year, 11.5 sacks. What do you think was the biggest reason why? Was it the system? Talk about why you felt you had your biggest year.
A: Honestly, something that me and Coach Judge, me and Coach Spencer have talked about is there was something about this year that just felt like I was back in college, back in those high school times when you’re not thinking about what the media is saying, you’re not thinking about money, you’re not thinking about anything like that. You’re just thinking about the reason why we play this game is the love for the game. I’m not saying that ever left me. But this year, it was just a lot of fun playing in this system, playing with my teammates, playing with this staff. When I’m out there having fun, I just play my best.
Q: Is the pressure on you different to produce with this contract now in hand? Do you feel any different approaching a season and what your goals are getting paid and having the team show this faith in you compared to trying to earn it?
A: I don’t think so. I think if I allow the pressure to sink in or allow outside noise to start sinking in, then it’s going to take away that fun that I was just talking about that allowed me to play so well. I don’t want to think about what type of pressure or what other people are thinking. I just want to be the best for my team, be a good leader and give this team as much as I can. That’s the reason why they brought me back for that. I don’t want to put too much pressure on it.
Q: One quick follow-up if you don’t mind. Do you think your team needs a number one receiver on offense? Do you think your offense needs a huge upgrade? Do you think Kenny Golladay could be that piece?
A: Honestly, I trust the guys, I trust this team upstairs to bring in the necessary pieces to win. I’m not sure who they’re going to bring in. It’s not my role to bring guys here. But like I said, I trust that they’re going to bring in the right guys to keep winning.
Q: A lot of times, guys get the long-term contract, the big deal, and they never produce like they used to. Do you sit there and say how do you approach next season?
A: I don’t know. That’s kind of sad to hear for me that guys fall off after they get paid or whatever because to me, it’s really not about the money. I wanted a long-term contract for stability. I wanted to be here long-term and I wanted to keep playing for this coaching staff. I have goals outside of making money in this league. I want to just keep trying to achieve and do my best on the field.
Q: If last year was a breakout for you, how much more is there in your game to reach? I know you went into last offseason with a specific plan as to what you wanted to work and where you wanted to take your game. How much more is left in Leonard Williams right now?
A: I’m 26-years-old still. I think I’m still in the middle of my prime and I think I have a lot of game left in this league, obviously. I have a lot of personal goals. I’m not trying to reach any specific stat line or anything like that, but I want to just give it my best and keep playing like the player I am and just keep bringing my best to the table.
Q: I was wondering when you got traded to the Giants from the Jets, did you have expectations that this could be a spot you could spend a lot of time in or did you not even think about that? What was kind of your thought process when you first got here and how has it played out over your two seasons with this team?
A: Honestly, I wasn’t even thinking too long-term at the time. I kind of was just in the moment. No matter where I’m playing, I’m going to give them my all, you know what I mean? Whether that ends up working out to a long-term deal or whether that happens to end last season or whatever. I came in here with no expectations. They traded for me, so I wanted to show them that they made the right choice.
Q: To follow up, what is the next step for you? What do you think you need to improve on? What do you think is the next level you can get to in terms of something that you feel you can do better?
A: There’s always room for improvement, obviously. I think for me, just being that guy in the locker room, being the guy on the field, being that example for new guys coming in of what a Giants player is here. We work hard, we compete, and we put our best forward. I think just bringing good guys and good examples and stuff like that is important. If I want those types of guys around me, I’m going to have to be that type of example as well.
Q: What was your reaction when they first tagged you last week? Did you feel any responsibility to get the long-term deal done because that cap number was obviously going to hamstring this team in terms of trying to get better in free agency?
A: I obviously wanted the long-term deal, like I said, because I want stability. I’m glad that it worked out. Now that it has worked out, we have more room to reach out for other players. Like I said, I don’t really know all the ins and outs going on upstairs. I can’t really control all of that stuff. I’m just happy that it did work out and we’re able to move forward. Like I said before, I trust the guys upstairs to bring in the right pieces.
Q: What was in the Tiffany boxes in the picture? Was that the pen?
A: I’m not sure. I guess they sponsored the signing or something like that. It didn’t go to me. I wish.
Q: Did you even look in the box?
A: No. I just only looked at the contract.
Q: I’m wondering what’s a realistic encore for you now? This past year was, at least numbers-wise, your best year. What is realistic for you going forward?
A: Like I said, I don’t really want to go into it thinking of a specific stat line. Like I said, I just want to keep giving my best. There’s always room for improvement. I want to improve on the field, I want to improve off the field. I want to just be that great teammate to my teammates. I want to be that good model of a guy that people see around the building. I don’t know that, that’s really much it. I want to keep being that great player, but I don’t really have any expectations or anything like that.
Q: I’m curious, what would you have thought if when you got traded here in the middle of the season, you end up having half a sack that year, that a year and a half later or whatever, you were going to sign one of the richest deals for a defensive lineman in football?
A: Honestly, I think it was just a testament to Dave Gettleman for trusting me, the staff for trusting in me, and overall, me trusting in myself. Trying to ignore all of the outside noise and just keep being the good guy that I am, keep working hard, keep playing this game that I love, and eventually it all worked out. I think that’s just what happens when… I didn’t change for anybody. I didn’t listen to any outside noise or try to be a different guy. I just kept playing my game and giving my best. Like I said, I’m really glad that this organization took a chance on me and I’m glad that it’s worked out.
Q: I have two questions if I may and I don’t want to ask them both at once because I know that confuses everyone, including myself. I just think back to when the Jets drafted you and you joined a locker room that included, among many others, Darrelle Revis, Sheldon Richardson, Damon Harrison, there was a lot of leadership there. I wonder if now with the Giants if you see yourself as a guy who has to provide that kind of leadership that you saw from some of those really good, competitive guys?
A: I think that was definitely a big deal coming into the Jets. I had a lot of older, veteran leadership that I was able to learn from, and I actually still keep in touch with a lot of those guys today. I don’t feel the need to have to change or anything like that. Like I said, I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself or change the way I am or be a different guy. They paid me for the guy that I am, they brought me back here for the guy that I am. I don’t want to change too much, I just want to get better. I think being a leader and being an example is definitely an important part of the reason why they brought me back. I think I’m going to have to do a good job of showing the next generation or the new guys coming in that same thing.
Q: I feel like I might have missed this as a question earlier for you so I’m sorry if I’m repeating, but with Dalvin (Tomlinson), what did you enjoy about playing with Dalvin? What now has to be replaced in your mind?
A: I definitely learned a lot from Dalvin. It was fun playing with him. We had a good connection, we had a good relationship. I congratulated him on the next part of his career. We’ll obviously keep staying in touch. He was a good leader. Blue-collar, hard-working type of guy. I learned that from him. He never missed a day, he never showed up late. He was a reliable type of guy.
Q: I wanted to just ask you about Patrick Graham. It looked like he changed up a little bit of what you had done when you first came to the Giants. Can you just speak a little bit about how he helped you unlock your potential and really helped you with that big year?
A: I talked about Pat Graham a lot last year on how he knows his players so well. He’s a really smart guy and he knows this game very well. With that, he knows how to put guys in the right position to thrive. That’s not even just myself. That’s almost every player I’ve seen be a part of this defense. You see young guys like Carter Coughlin, a lot of other young guys, that he put in position to do well. We had a lot of injuries and stuff like that last year that he was able to put guys in that position and do well. I don’t know. I think Pat Graham, he does a lot and I appreciate him for putting me in the right position.
Q: You’ve played your whole career in New York for two different teams. What does it mean to you to continue to play for the fans of New York, specifically Giants fans, and the responsibility that comes with it?
A: I think it’s a big deal. I never would have thought about New York being like a home to me or anything like that before. But after being here this long and going into another three years, I definitely feel like New York is like a part of home to me. It’s a part of me, for sure. I’m glad to still be able to keep playing at MetLife and keep playing for this area. It’s been going well.