After a one-year hiatus, Damien Williams is thrilled to be back on the field playing football instead of just watching it on television.
The veteran running back signed with the Bears in March after opting out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns as a member of the Chiefs. Williams made the decision to sit out so he could take care of his mother, who had been diagnosed with cancer.
"I did it for my mom; everybody understood why I did it," Williams said this week at Halas Hall. "But being at home and watching it, it really made me feel like this is something I want to do as long as possible, until the wheels fall off."
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Williams conceded he was concerned that opting out of the 2020 season could hurt his career, but that thought provided all the motivation he needed to stay in shape.
"Of course that crosses your mind," Williams said. "You're thinking, 'Oh, man, you're sitting at home. You're missing a year out.' That affects you at the end of the day just because you're not out there doing the reps, putting the time in. But that's when you sit at home and really grind. When no one's watching, that's when you want to work the hardest, so coming back was really easy."
The last time Williams played in a game, his record-breaking performance helped the Chiefs rally to beat the 49ers 31-20 in Super Bowl LIV. With Kansas City trailing 20-17 in the fourth quarter, he caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes to give the Chiefs a 24-20 lead with 2:44 remaining and then scored a second TD on a 38-yard run to clinch the victory with 1:12 to play.
In rushing for 104 yards, Williams became the first NFL player to run for at least 100 yards and produce rushing and receiving touchdowns in a Super Bowl.
Williams, 29, brings versatility and experience to the Bears, having appeared in 85 NFL games with 13 starts over six seasons with the Dolphins (2014-17) and Chiefs (2018-19). The 5-11, 221-pounder has rushed for 1,231 yards and 12 touchdowns on 294 carries and caught 138 passes for 1,106 yards and 10 TDs.
Williams entered the NFL with Miami in 2014 as an undrafted free agent from Oklahoma. Playing for the Super Bowl champion Chiefs in 2019, he established career highs with 498 yards rushing, five rushing touchdowns and 30 receptions.
Williams wanted to resume his career with Bears this year in part because their offense is similar to the scheme he played in with the Chiefs.
"Sitting out a year and then coming back, I really didn't want to learn a whole new system," Williams said. "Coming here and kind of having the same system, same plays, it was easy for me. And then meeting the coaches, meeting everybody in the building, it was just easy for me."
Williams has enjoyed working with and getting to know veteran running backs David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen, among others.
"Oh, man, those guys are hilarious, Williams said. "From Day 1, they're all smiles, giggles and jokes. When we come out on the field, we work hard. Being around those type of players, it makes you want to come to work and really just have fun."
So far, Bears coach Matt Nagy has been pleased with what he's seen from Williams.
"He's looking good," Nagy said. "For Damien, what we really liked about him was his versatility as a running back, and as well out of the backfield, the things he can do. He's very well-rounded.
"It's just a really good fit for our running back room. I was not with Damien in Kansas City, but the coaches that were there spoke really well of him and said really good things. And so Damien's come in here like a true pro and just digested everything that we're doing. He's a great complement to what we're trying to do. It'll be fun when we get to the preseason to see how all these guys do, but there's a really good vibe right now, and it's fun."