Leonard Williams: "This whole year has been an audition"

For Giants defensive lineman Leonard Williams, who is midway through his contract season, the stakes have never been higher.
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Leonard Williams has been around in the NFL long enough to know how things go.

That’s why with eight games left on the option year of his rookie contract, Williams is ready to buckle down and show the Giants that he’s worth a long-term contract after his rookie deal ends this year, and the Jets that they made a mistake moving on from him.

“I got drafted there, and they didn’t keep me--they didn’t want to keep me. But this team definitely showed interest and wanted to go out of their way to get me over here, so I think it speaks volumes on this team wanting me here, and I have to prove to them why they should want me here,” Williams said Wednesday in front of his new locker.

“I think I’m just going to keep my head in the playbook, we’ve got a long week ahead of us since we don’t play until Monday, and just lock in and hone in on my new teammates, my new playbook and everything like that, and prove to these guys that they made the right choice.”

Some might argue that Williams’ production to date doesn’t necessarily warrant a long-term extension that could land him a lucrative payday. 

But Williams, who no doubt would like to get to that point and who even indicated that he’d be open to getting something done before the season ends, understands that these next eight weeks will be critical in making his case to the Giants.

“I think this whole year has been an audition,” he said. “It’s my contract year, and now I’m going through a transition in the middle of that contract year, but I’m going to try to lock in and do whatever I can to be the best I can on the field.”

Head coach Pat Shurmur, who’s usually not one to look beyond the current day, let alone the current season, expressed optimism that Williams will be in Giants blue beyond these next eight games.

“I don’t see why he wouldn’t be. We brought him in with the idea that he was going to get out there and play and be with us,” Shurmur said. 

“I’m confident he will be because I really liked him as a player before we brought him in. I think we added an outstanding player to our group. As a coach, I look at these deals one at a time, and it’s a good deal for us, especially from my perspective.”

Besides delivering on production—so far this season Williams has 20 tackles and one pass defense but has yet to record a sack—the 25-year-old wants his new employers and colleagues to see him in a positive light.

“ Just that I’m a good team player. I’m a good player on the field, I’m a good guy off the field,” Williams said of what he wants to show everyone over these next few weeks. “I’m just someone who is going to give it my all in the classroom, on the field, as a leader, and as a teammate.”