Defensive Lineman Leonard Williams
July 28, 2021
Q: What was it like being back on the first day?
A: It was awesome. Going into year seven, it’s a big vet year for me now and just being back out here with the team and seeing everybody come back after a good offseason. Everybody looks to be in good shape right now and ready to compete. It’s a good energy out there right now on day one.
Q: Looking at what you accomplished on the field last year, what are your personal goals this year?
A: I think that’s the most important, is just build on what we did last year good and eliminate what we did last year not so good. That’s the most important part of going into this year and it starts today. You know, we’re doing a good job of watching film from last year and critiquing what we didn’t do so well and continue to build and sharpen our toolbox on what we did do well. I think that’s big.
Q: Is there a point of emphasis that you did do well or didn’t do well that you can point out?
A: I think the biggest thing that I need to work on is that transition from run to pass, reading stuff a little bit quicker. I think that just comes with more recognition of the game, more film study and more experience in this game. Like I said, I’m going into year seven now, I think those things are starting to come to me faster now and just picking up on that recognition to make it that much faster.
Q: With the contract situation out of the way, do you feel freer now?
A: I don’t know. I think last year I wasn’t too focused on it. The coaches and myself did a good job of just focusing on each day, focusing on getting better, focusing on my personal game and not really focusing on the contract or the money or what you gain at the end of the season. I was just more focused on the process and same situation now that [Head] Coach [Joe] Judge is preaching to me and the rest of the team is we have to love the process, we have to love practice, we have to make practice easier than the game, and I think the coaches did a good job of that last year.
Q: Does the big-money contract put more pressure on you?
A: If I was looking at it in a pressure way, it would be the same way last year, like I said about the contract. You know, you try not to focus on money, you try not to focus on a contract or anything like that that you’re involved in or what to expect. You just really want to focus on the grind, focus on your specific task, your specific ability and what you can bring to the team and how you can make the team better.
Q: So the answer is no?
Q: How can you become a better leader for this defense this year?
A: I think just be more vocal. I think I’ve always been a good leader by example, which at this point I think is the easy thing to do. And I think just stepping out of my comfort zone and being more of a vocal type of leader. Leading by example, I always make sure I’m on time, I always make sure I’m running and conditioned well and doing everything right that way, but having some of those younger guys, speaking to some of those younger guys and speaking to the team is something to step out of my comfort zone and be a bit better of a leader.
Q: How much better can this defense be in a second year under [Defensive Coordinator] Patrick Graham?
A: Not trying to relate to last year, but we all love playing under Pat Graham and we love how smart he is and what he brings to the game. He doesn’t put everybody in the same position, he knows what type of tools he has, what type of guys he has, and he puts his players in the best ability to play the best that they can. I think that makes players’ confidence rise and the more confident you are, the better you play.
Q: Are the expectations to build on what you did last year sack-wise and continue to be a double-digit sacker?
A: I mean, I want to continue to improve my ability, I want to continue to put my best foot forward and bring the best I can to this team. I’m not focused on numbers. I’m focusing on just having another great season.
Q: Obviously, COVID-19 is still a big story in the NFL. Have you ever been vaccinated?
A: I got my first shot. I still have to wait to get my second shot and then going forward I think I have to wait another two weeks after that. But overall, I think the team is doing a good job of making sure that we follow all the right protocols and giving everybody their freedom to do what they want to do based on their principles and what they want to do best for their family, and stuff like that.
Q: As a leader, would you encourage your teammates to do it?
A: Yeah, I think I would encourage most people to do it. At the same time, though, everyone has their freedom to do what they want to do. The only reason why I encourage them to do it is because certain protocols hinder us from being together in certain ways. I think it would be better going forward health-wise and not preventing any loss of games, cancellations or anything like that and just making sure everyone is on the same page.
Q: What made you decide to get vaccinated and why did you wait?
A: I’m not sure. I just had a busy offseason training and as soon as I got back, I got it. That’s pretty much it.
Q: Why did you decide to get it?
A: Just because of the protocols, like I said. I think it’ll be just a little bit smoother and just because of the health reasons, as well. It’s easier going forward with the team, making sure we’re all on the same page and making sure everyone is safe.
Q: Does this feel different sitting here looking at us?
A: Compared to Zoom? Yeah. I mean, I think it’s a little bit better in person. I’m glad that things are starting to come back like that, and I’m excited to see fans back in the stadium and all that type of good stuff. It was always weird doing stuff over a Zoom call, even learning the playbook and stuff like that over Zoom. I’m not that type of guy that can learn through a screen, I’m an in-person type of person, so just seeing everyone back feels good.
Q: Was it strange being out there without [Vikings Defensive Lineman] Dalvin [Tomlinson] next to you?
A: Yeah, I mean I played with him the last two years now. He’s a great player and a great leader. I’m obviously happy for his new contract and where he’s at now. He just got engaged to his girl and I keep up with him. We keep up with each other and we’ll always be friends.
Q: You were a first round pick, so this wasn’t your first big contract, but did this change anything for you outside of football? Did you sense any difference in your life after signing the contract?
A: Not really, honestly, besides people talking about it. That’s the only thing that’s changed. Nobody’s coming up to me anymore asking me about contract stuff anymore. I think nothing in my personal life has changed, it’s just the way people approach me has changed.
Q: Some guys have a big purchase that they make or something. Is there a purchase that you’re going to make?
A: I haven’t yet. You know, I bought my mom a house when I was a rookie. I’m still looking to buy myself a house. I mean, I’m not really a big spender like that, I’m a big outdoors person. I like to be in the water, I like to go hiking and camping. I buy tents and stuff like that more than I buy nice, expensive things.
Q: I saw you take a bite out of a fish’s heart that you posted. What does that taste like?
A: It didn’t taste that bad. It was a little salty, but I go spear fishing a lot during my free time and it was my first time catching a blue fin tuna, so it was part of the tradition.
Q: How frustrating has it been for you never having made the playoffs?
A: Obviously it’s been frustrating. I’m going into my seventh year. Being a competitor and being in the NFL for that long, it’s obviously a goal of mine and I’m looking forward to working towards that.
Q: Is this a playoff team now?
A: I think we have a very high-talented team. I don’t want to make predictions, like I said. It just starts today. We have to come out here and compete. I think we did a good job of that today and we have to just build on that tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll see where we end up.
Q: Sorry if this was asked before, but now that you’re in the second year of this defense, what do you personally think you can do better from last year?
A: I think just being more of a leader and just adapting. I think that’s something that Pat Graham talks about a lot is adapt or die, and it just goes to show the way he coaches and the way he plays his defense. We change our defense mid-game sometimes, we change our defense every week, week in and week out, depending on who we’re playing. We have to learn how to adapt and quickly, and that’s how this league is. I think that’s just what I have to learn, how to adapt faster and elevate my game more.
Q: Do you mean to situations on the field or situations off the field, or everything in general?
A: Just everything in general. I was just talking about picking up on teams’ schemes, watching film a little bit more, being able to learn what my opponent is going to give me before the snap. Just picking up on small little reads and stuff like that.
Q: What is different or defining about how Coach Judge runs training camp compared to other coaches?
A: He doesn’t really care if you’re a star player or anyone else, he treats everyone the same. I think that’s what makes this team grow, I think it keeps everyone on an equal playing field. He’s not going to let one player get away with something that he might not let the next person get away with. It creates a good competition. I love the way Coach Judge coaches us and how hard he is on everyone to get better.
Q: What have you learned about the Giants tradition on defense over the years?
A: I mean, obviously, they’ve had great defensive linemen come through here for years now. Hopefully, I’m going to be a part of that tradition for a longer time now. I’ve been able to talk with Justin Tuck and guys like Michael Strahan and those guys. We’ve obviously had a great defense with the Giants for a long time now, so we’ll continue to build on that.