It’s a déja vu offseason for Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams.
Williams is recovering from surgery on a bone spur in his heel for a second straight spring. Last year, he came back from surgery on his left heel and wound up playing in the Pro Bowl. This year, he had surgery on his right heel. He’s optimistic about the outcome.
“We knew eventually it was going to need to be taken care of,” Williams said after the Bills’ practice Tuesday. “It was a point where, ‘Let’s go ahead and do it. We’ve got time to do it. Let’s get better. Rather than trying to manage it and hold it off, let’s do it.’ So I’m excited about it.”
Williams had the surgery the first week of February, shortly after he played in the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. He is rehabilitating and working out at One Bills Drive, but he’s sitting out spring practices. He expects to be ready to practice when training camp begins in late July.
“It should be training camp,” he said. “That’s what we’d think, based on the time the last one took. … We’ve got time to come back from it and hit the ground running.”
Williams has been one of the bright spots of a mostly underperforming Bills defense the last seven seasons. He has played all 16 games in five seasons and missed significant time only in 2011, when the left heel surgery ended his campaign after only five games.
Last year, the right heel was bothering him a lot after four or five games, but he managed the problem by resting between games. He played 49 snaps a game, or 73 percent of the Bills’ defensive plays.
“There’s always challenges year in and year out, week in and week out, no matter what you’re doing,” Williams said. “There’s different things that come up. I don’t want to make too much about it. But I was able to play and get through.
“The left one was worse,” Williams said of the 2011 injury. “It actually damaged my Achilles. They went in and fixed it and it felt great. This one had no Achilles damage. But we were at a point where maybe in a year it might have. We needed to get it taken care of. Now it’s out of the way and free and clear. I’m excited moving forward.”
Williams did well enough last year – he had five sacks – to earn a Pro Bowl trip as an alternate selection.
It was a good year but not as good as his 2010 campaign, when he had 5.5 sacks and made 77 tackles, second most in the NFL among defensive tackles. The website Profootballfocus.com rated him by far the top defensive tackle in the league that season.
If all goes well with his rehabilitation, Williams will be fully healthy this year for the first time since 2010.
“You can definitely feel the flexibility as soon as you get it out of the cast and start moving it around a little bit,” he said of the right heel. “As far as the structure standpoint, it’s healed. It’s all about getting the strength and the power back in it and getting ready to go. That’s where we are right now.”
Williams turns 30 in two weeks. He is adjusting to his fourth defensive coordinator – Mike Pettine – in the past five seasons.
“Obviously it’s no secret we haven’t had much success,” Williams said. “At the end of the year, I said I just want to win. You only get so long to play this game, and I’ve been around a little while. So I’m down for anything. I’m going to be me. I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.”
Most of the time, Williams is likely to line up either in the three-technique spot, opposite the outside shoulder of a guard, or the “shade,” opposite a shoulder of the center. Those are the spots he has played most of his career. But he said he expects to move around.
“If there’s a guy with his hand on the ground, I’m gonna learn that position,” he said. “I might play a little bit of everything. I might stand up and play free safety. You just never know.”
The Bills have three more voluntary spring practices this week. They are off next week.