Jets' Williams using cold tubs to help turn up heat on field
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Leonard Williams wants to chill out a lot more this season.
The New York Jets defensive lineman mostly avoided ice baths as a rookie, preferring to pass on the ice cube-filled tubs in which many of his teammates would sit and shiver.
''These guys, as soon as they would get out of practice, they were getting recovery,'' Williams said. ''I was always using the excuse that I'm young, so I'm going to recover and stuff like that.''
Oh, those know-it-all youngsters.
Williams realized toward the end of a solid rookie year that he, too, could benefit from cold tub therapy. Many athletes use ice baths to help reduce inflammation, prevent muscle stiffness and soreness, and speed recovery after vigorous workouts.
''The season was long and I started feeling it, and I'm starting now,'' Williams said. ''I'm not going to wait until later when I start to feel it.''
Williams finished with three sacks and 63 total tackles while starting 15 of 16 games after being selected with the No. 6 overall pick out of Southern California in 2015. The man nicknamed ''Big Cat'' with the puffed-out mane made an impact on Todd Bowles' defense, teaming with Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Damon Harrison to form one of the NFL's most dominant lines.
He wasn't satisfied with his promising performance and was intent on being better in his second year. That meant pinpointing some of the things he needed to improve on and taking more naps, getting massages, doing more yoga and simply relaxing when he's not on the field.
''Just being more professional,'' Williams said. ''Taking care of my body, getting in the ice bath and stuff like that. It's a long season that I wasn't used to in college, and I could tell at the end of the season. Just being a more well-rounded player this year.''
He's also no longer trying to feel his way through the league and getting adjusted to life as a pro.
''When you're a rookie and you're a first-rounder, there's so much pressure on you,'' Williams said. ''There's just so much - a new system, new coaches, a new playbook, new teammates. Now that I've had a year here and I had a year with the playbook and my teammates and coaches, everything's more comfortable.''
Another positive for Williams is that he's playing in the same system in consecutive seasons for the first time since high school. At USC, he had different defensive coordinators in each of his three years: Ed Orgeron as a freshman, Clancy Pendergast as a sophomore and Justin Wilcox as a junior.
''It makes me more comfortable when I know what I'm doing out there,'' Williams said. ''I don't have to think and I can just fly around.''
Heading into the draft last year, Williams was considered by many to be the best overall player available. He was a potential No. 1 overall pick, but fell to the Jets at sixth and joined an already stout line.
Williams didn't need to be an impact player right away because of the talent around him, but his reputation and lofty draft status had many expecting big things.
''In the NFL, there's always going to be pressure,'' Williams said. ''There are guys getting drafted, guys leaving and guys coming. You've got to play with that pressure on you all the time. I've gotten used to that, and as the year went on last year, I kept getting better and better.''
The Jets' defensive line has a slightly different look at nose tackle this season with former Steelers standout Steve McLendon replacing Harrison, who signed with the Giants as a free agent.
''I love it,'' Williams said. ''He's a physical guy and he's quick off the ball. I can just tell he's that old-school, traditional type of football player. I've worked well with him so far and I'm excited to see where we're going to go.''
Richardson will miss the opener because of an NFL-issued suspension stemming from his arrest during the 2015 offseason, a violation of the league's personal-conduct policy. He'll be available in Week 2.
Wilkerson is back after a contract dispute that potentially could have played out into training camp and beyond. The Jets signed him to a five-year extension and Wilkerson expects to be ready to play in Week 1 of the regular season against Cincinnati as he continues to work his way back from a broken leg suffered in the final game last year.
With him, Williams, Richardson and McLendon anchoring the line, the Jets are planning to make things even tougher on opponents up front.
''We can be very good,'' Williams said. ''We're excited to see what type of packages and everything that will be put together when he gets back.''
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