Defensive Lineman Leonard Williams
Q: How does it feel?
A: It feels amazing. I mean, that feeling after the game was just unbeatable. Just seeing all the smiles on my teammates, just knowing how long it's been since I've had an opportunity to do this. It means a lot to me. The last time I had an opportunity was my rookie year and we lost to Buffalo the last game of the season. I actually talked to some of my d-line room before that game and I was like, 'After that game, being a rookie and going that far rookie year – I was thinking if we came this far, why not again next year?' The fact that it took seven years to get back there is crazy. I was trying to let everyone know the meaning of these opportunities don't come often and that we should take advantage of it. We did. We went out there and played one of our best games as a team and we played really good team football. It paid off.
Q: How are you feeling neck-wise?
A: I feel alright. I've been battling through it for a few weeks now. It's something that really isn't going to get better until I'm not playing football, you know what I mean? This is something that is probably going to go away during the offseason. I'm taking care of it as much as possible during the week, the team is doing a good job of taking care of me and still going.
Q: I imagine it'll feel pretty good in about a week and a half?
A: Yeah. It's all been worth it. The pain has been – I've been dealing with it and playing. It's paid off the fact that we have a playoff spot. It's worth it.
Q: You didn't miss a lot of games in a lot of losing seasons and now this year, you're playing through the pain and you're winning, I bet it feels good.
A: I know. It's definitely been tough dealing with injuries this year because I've never dealt with injuries much in my career. To be on the sideline while my teammates are on the field fighting for a game is very tough for me. It's something that I had to adjust to and learn from this year. It happens to everybody at some point in their career. I've been dealing with it.
Q: The winning makes it?
A: The winning makes it better, for sure.
Q: You've had good years before, (Defensive lineman) Dexter (Lawrence II) is obviously having his best year. What do you think is the biggest reason you guys have become such a force up front?
A: I think a big reason is because we know each other pretty well. It makes it easier for us to communicate with each other on and off the field. If we see something that one of us can get better from or if something is holding us back or something like that, if he comes to me and says, 'Hey Leo, I feel like this is holding you back,' I'm not going to be offended because I know that its coming from a good place because we're not only good teammates – I feel like we're pretty good friends. Also, we've been playing with each other for three, four years now so we know how to play off of each other and have a feel for where each other is on the field and stuff like that.
Q: What impact have (defensive line coach) Andre (Patterson) and (defensive coordinator) Wink (Martindale) had in terms of taking you guys to another level?
A: They've had a huge impact. Wink obviously has been doing a good job of scheming up teams and just a good job of drawing up plays and stuff like that. But then Coach Dre is just a d-line guru in my opinion. He's taught me a lot of football late in my career, that was interesting because most times if you've played this long in the NFL and in football, you feel like sometimes it's like there's not too much that people can teach you. (Michael) Strahan, actually this year, came into our meeting room one time and told us even when he was in year 10 or something like that, he was still learning from the young guys coming in. No matter where you're at in your career, you can always learn something. I feel like it was cool to hear that from Strahan because I really have learned a lot this year from Dex and also from Coach Dre.
Q: What has Dre taught you? He was saying the other day how happy he was that both you and Dex opened up your arms and said, 'Yeah, tell me. I want to know more.'
A: I think a big thing is playing with length. He always talks about how big and strong me and Dex both are and how if we get our hands on people and play with extension – we both have really long arms – that's a problem for offensive linemen. If you get extension on them, it's hard for them to get their hands on you. You just are in a more controlled, power-dominant position.
Q: What do you think Dex has shown about putting himself in the conversation as one of the top defensive tackles, nose tackles in the league? You had a monster year right before your free agency, he's got the fifth-year option next year but he's certainly due for a big contract. What do you think he's shown?
A: I think he's definitely put the league on notice (to) the type of player that he is. If he hasn't shown it years before, he's definitely done it this year. I've always known the type of player he is because I see him in practice every day. To me, I'm just happy and excited to see that now the world is giving him the same recognition that his peers and coaches have been seeing from him. He's definitely put on a show this year. It's been impressive to watch. He's just a freakish athlete for his size. I think that's really hard to match up.
Q: Do you want to play this week or maybe you're up for the playoffs?
A: I'm really willing to do whatever is best for the team at this point, which I've been doing all year. Whatever is going to get our team to the best position to – at the end of the day our goal, every team's goal in the beginning of the season, is to get a championship. That's our goal at the end of the day. Whatever is going to be the best for us to get to that point, I'm going to do it.