Defensive Lineman Leonard Williams
September 1, 2021
Q: I think earlier this season you told us you had just gotten the first shot (of the COVID-19 vaccine), are you through now?
A: Yeah, I’m fully vaccinated now.
Q: Does it make life easier?
A: I mean, not much has changed besides not having to wear the mask.
Q: It’s a pretty big topic league-wide, is it something you guys still talk about within the locker room?
A: I mean, I think it’s a big topic worldwide, not just in our league. But at the same time, everyone has their freedom to take it or not. We sometimes encourage guys to do it, but at the same time, everyone has their right to or not.
Q: You said it doesn’t change a lot, but it’s going to change a lot this weekend, right?
A: Oh, this weekend, yeah. I mean, I never really leave on bye weeks anyways. I was probably going to stick around regardless if I was vaccinated or not. It’s a short, three-day weekend and I don’t really like to spend much of it flying, so I’d just rather stay here and rest.
Q: You obviously had a huge sacks year, but other than you, it was three sacks here, four sacks there from your teammates. That I assume is because (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator) Patrick Graham schemed up guys to be open. Is that hard for a defense to do to rely on scheme to get pass rush other than you or not have that other guy like you who got a lot of sacks on his own?
A: I think it all has to play in together. It has to be a combination of scheme and the player doing their job – and not just the player, all the other 10 guys doing their job as well. I rely on those back guys to cover their receivers and their alignments to have time to rush, just as much I rely on Pat Graham to call the right calls in the right situation, just as much as Pat relies on me to beat my one-on-one when the time is right. I think it’s a combination and that’s what makes the game such a team sport.
Q: How much will it help to have (Linebacker) Lorenzo Carter and (Linebacker) X-Man (Oshane Ximines) back as guys who can produce?
A: Yeah, it’ll help tremendously. A lot of the edge guys went down last year, that’s what caused me to play defensive end a lot. I’ll probably still rotate at that position, but Zo’s a great player and X is a great player. I was sad to see those guys go down last year. I’m excited to be able to play with those guys.
Q: Do you think your role will be different at all with (Former Giants Defensive Tackle) Dalvin (Tomlinson) gone, (Former Giants Defensive Lineman) B.J. (Hill) gone, it’s kind of a little bit of a different look in that room?
A: I mean, it’s a little bit different. But we talk about it in the league, this is my seventh year in the league now, so I see this every year. We always talk about, even if I’m coming back to the same team, it’s going to be a different team. Every year is a different team, no matter if you’re playing on the same team or not just because guys are constantly coming and going. Something that Pat Graham always says is adapt or die, and that’s something that really sticks with me, especially in this league because it’s a fast-changing league. If you can’t adapt to it fast enough then people are going to move on and the train’s going. So, we’ll adapt, and guys will move up and fill in roles and fill in shoes and we’ll keep going.
Q: I’m sure you wouldn’t mind it, but do you think it would be a healthy situation in this team to have you lead them in sacks again? Or does somebody else need to do that at a different position?
A: I don’t think there’s pressure on any one guy to be the leader of a certain stat. I think we are all competing with each other to do that and I think that’s just going to make us be better as an overall defense, as an individual and as a team. If Zo (Lorenzo Carter) has more sacks than me and I’m up one more sack than him, then I’m going to play harder and he’s going to play harder because he doesn’t want me to catch up to him and vice versa. I think that’ll just continue to push the team.
Q: Is it hard to assimilate a lot of new players late in camp? Whether it’s offense, defense – is it just hard to bring guys in and get them up to speed right away for the regular season?
A: I don’t know. It’s hard for me to say because I don’t bring those guys in and evaluate them the same way the front office does, and the coaches would. I’m assuming that they’re making those changes for a reason. They’ve obviously seen something on film or seen something in the guy in the reason why they’re bringing him here. It’s our job to just compete. The one defenses love giving an offense a scout look in the first few plays and stuff like that and I just think it’s our job to make sure everyone’s ready that does come.
Q: You joined the team mid-season – how long did it take you to feel comfortable when you got here?
A: As far as the defense, I got comfortable pretty quickly. When I was in college, I had three different defensive coordinators in three years, so I think I’m a fast learner when it comes to X’s and O’s and the playbook and stuff like that. But as far as comfortability with your team, that definitely does take time. It’s always an adjustment playing in a new locker room and learning new guys and new teammates. I’m probably best friends with everybody in there now, but that first year that transition was difficult. It just depends.
Q: One of the things Pat talked about was his concern early was the run game. You guys have lost Dalvin, how are you adjusting to stopping the run?
A: Yeah, Dalvin was obviously a big piece of our defense, but that’s the way the game goes. He moved on and I think we definitely have guys – AJ (Defensive Lineman Austin Johnson), we brought in (Defensive Tackle) Danny (Shelton). (Defensive Lineman) Dex (Lawrence III) is really stout upfront. I think I’m pretty stout in the run game, as well. I think we have great linebackers that play downhill, as well. I think we’ll be fine.
Q: You earned a pretty nice contract with the way you played last year. Now that this season’s here, does that put more responsibility on you to keep earning that contract or does it take care of itself?
A: I think that’s something that I’m working on the most right now is the same thing I did last year that helped me get such a good season was just ignoring noise. Just like guys were doubting me last season and I was able to ignore them and focus on my process and just focus on what would make me a better player. It’s the same thing I have to do now when people are praising me saying that I did so well and are expecting great things out of me, I just have to keep ignoring the noise and focus on my everyday process.