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John DeShazier: 'Old dog' Kevin Williams savoring new experience with Saints

Five-time All-Pro defensive tackle took snaps with first unit Tuesday

Photos from 2015 Saints Minicamp presented by Verizon. Photos by Michael C. Hebert. (New Orleans Saints photos)

Kevin Williams wasn't about to make his joining the New Orleans Saints defense late into the offseason out to be rocket science.

True, he missed all of New Orleans' OTAs and offseason workouts and, no, the defensive tackle isn't yet versed in exactly what the Saints do schematically and in verbiage.

But 12 seasons in the NFL – 11 with Minnesota and last year with Seattle – have given him a vast, deep reservoir of knowledge. Joining the Saints on Sunday, spending most of Monday cramming in film sessions and making his first appearance as a Saint on the field Tuesday, the first day of the team's three-day minicamp, didn't come close to overwhelming the five-time All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowler.

In fact, many of the reps he took Tuesday were with the Saints' first-team defense.

"I can play football," Williams said, laughing. "That's something I can do. I know how to do that. Learning where to go is kind of the only thing but once I get that done and get my hand on the ground, I know how to attack the guy and play some football.

"I was in the classroom a lot (Monday), got a chance to get the defense in and get it going in my mind, and got some live looks at it today."

From all appearances, the looks provided by Williams were impressive.

Though minicamp is non-contact, Williams was an active participant against his offensive line teammates, slicing through to the backfield on occasion and generally appearing to know his expected role.

"He's a veteran player who's a guy we visited with about a month and a half ago," Coach Sean Payton said Tuesday. "He's someone who's real smart, so he understands football.

"He's played a lot of it, obviously, and he got in Sunday night. We've just got to be smart about how many snaps we're getting him considering the offseason program and where a lot of these guys are at."

Payton said Williams' signing was not injury-related, though nose tackle Brodrick Bunkley and defensive end Akiem Hicks each have missed time due to injury. Neither practiced Tuesday.

"He's versatile, he can play the '3,' " Payton said. "You would first think of him as a 3-technique and then he has played inside in the sub packages. But I thought he did a good job for (Seattle). He was available, I think he provides real good leadership and he was a part of a real good defense."

For Williams, signing with the Saints was an easy decision. The veteran said that New Orleans checked the most important boxes.

"It's a chance to win," he said. "You play pretty good defense and you have a good quarterback, those are always two good things that give you a chance to win in this league. You look up and you could have won 10 games before you know it.

"(The Saints) definitely have a good quarterback, made some improvements on defense, and we're going to give it a shot.

"It's a good nucleus here of guys, a young group of guys on defense and we've got a quarterback, and great talent on offense. The offensive line is great. With that mix you've got a chance to win games every year."

And Williams, who has 493 tackles and 63 career sacks, with seven forced fumbles and five interceptions, knows a bit about winning. He helped Seattle win the NFC championship and advance to the Super Bowl last season.

So he didn't require a scouting report when it came to selecting New Orleans as his destination.

"I'm kind of an old dog," Williams said. "All of the guys I played with are gone, or spread out. I didn't really get much consultation from any of the players, but I had an awesome visit with the coaches when I came down, and I think they did what it took to sell it."

They sold him, and Williams appears capable of doing likewise, due to the knowledge he has attained as a veteran.

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