On Friday it became apparent what the Buccaneers’ new coaching regime thought about wide receiver Mike Williams’ future in Tampa–he does not have one. The former 2010 fourth round draft pick was traded to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for a sixth round selection in this year’s upcoming draft. Pending a physical examination, the problematic receiver will return to his hometown to play on Sundays, but that is not the only important story line to watch as Mike Williams time in Tampa comes to a close.
The Syracuse product recently made headlines after being stabbed in the leg by his own brother, and prior to that had been facing his own criminal charges of trespassing and mischief. It was also reported that the now former Buccaneer had gathered quite the pile of fines after missing several team meetings during his injury-shortened season in 2013. His off the field issues had been the major reason why many teams passed on him back in 2010, and even though Williams career got off to a hot start, it appears that they have returned in full force.
Buccaneers new head coach Lovie Smith was hired in the off-season to change the culture and hopefully bring championship football back to Tampa. Though he had not won a Super Bowl during his previous stint in Chicago, he had created a winning environment predicated on a strong work ethic and a team first mentality. Apparently he, and general manager Jason Licht, did not view the troublesome playmaker as a part of the winning equation going forward, and so Williams time in Tampa came to an abrupt close.
The trade most likely came as a shock to the 26-year-old receiver, as it was reported that he had already put nearly $1 million down on a Tampa area house just two weeks ago. Now he will have some financial decisions to go along with his legal battles, creating quite the busy off-season for the brand new Bill. And as if that was not enough, he will also be forced to take a trip down memory lane once he reports to the Bills facility as a familiar face will be there to greet him.
Bills head coach Doug Marrone was in his first year as the coach of the Syracuse football program when Williams college career came to an abrupt end. The Buffalo native, Williams, had been leading the Orangemen in receiving until his extracurricular activities caught up with him and team violations began to pile up. He was then dismissed from the team with four games left on the schedule, though, it surfaced that the football program had taken a vote and were willing to have Williams back, but his return did not take place. He later claimed that it was all a “misunderstanding” between he and the coach.
Fast-forward to 2014 and the receiver and coach will be reunited. Marrone says that it is all in the past, and that this is a golden opportunity for Williams to “get a fresh start to his career”, but what does the receiver really think, and will there be any awkwardness between the two men who are now forced to work together? And, can Williams stay out of trouble in his hometown, or will the Bills be left looking foolish for ever making the deal? Those are the real questions. Only time will reveal the true answers.
Often times a change of scenery can be the best remedy for professional athletes who have lost their way. Sometimes familiar settings can bring back fond memories and rekindle a love for the game that once fueled them to play in the first place. Once in a while an unexpected trade to an unexpected place can refocus and reignite the drive within a player to show his old team that they made a big mistake by letting him go. But, on the other hand, there are those who would rather continue down a path to nowhere fast, regardless of the setting. And now, that Mike Williams time in Tampa has officially come to a close, and he returns to the place where his football career began, everyone will see what kind of player he really is.
Commentary by Kalen Skalesky