When it comes to confidence, wide receiver Roy Williams has an abundance, and he believes everyone else should have confidence in him as well.
"Expectations should be high," he said. "I want them high. Talk bad about me. I appreciate it. But if I do well, please write that you're sorry."
Sorry might describe Williams' preseason, when he had at least as many drops as catches (two for 33 yards) and rarely seemed to be in sync with quarterback Jay Cutler. Yet Williams remains in the starting lineup, with the assumption that, when the lights come on, the nine-year veteran will make his presence felt.
Williams has had to relearn the offense of Mike Martz, the one in which he flourished with the Lions in 2006-07 under Martz. But he says that's already a done deal.
"I'm fine. I've already been through that transition stage with Martz, and I know what he was talking about," the 6-3, 215-pound Williams said. "And it does take a while, but once you get it, it's pretty much etched in stone. I've been away from him for a while, but it's all the same. It's no different for me in that respect."
In his two previous seasons with Martz, Williams had 82 catches for 1,310 yards in '06 and 64 catches for 838 yards in '07, despite missing four games with a sprained knee.
Midway through the 2008 season, the Lions traded Williams to the Cowboys, who gave up first-, third- and sixth-round picks to get him and then gave him a six-year contract worth $54 million that included $26 million in guaranteed money.
But Williams was a colossal bust in Dallas. In the previous three seasons, he averaged 37 catches and 519 yards, which has led critics to question how much he has left. While others may be uncertain of how productive he can be at age 29, Williams is not.
"Am I unsure?" he said. "Heck no I'm not. I'm good. I'm comfortable. I'm going to be ready to play, ready to make plays. I know that if I mess up or anything I know that it's going to get blown out of proportion. But I'm not the perfect player. I'm going to mess up. But other than that I'm ready to go."
Williams says he always has been sure of himself, ever since he started playing.
"I've been sure since the third grade, my first year of football," he said. "I've never been unsure about myself."
Martz was instrumental in bringing Williams in on a one-year, make-good contract for $1.5 million that also includes an additional $960,000 that can be earned if he reaches certain incentives.
"He's ready," Martz said. "He's in real good shape. He's back into what we do, offensively, the terminology, how we run the routes, all those things, and I think he and Jay have got a nice feel there."
There hasn't been much evidence of that yet, but the Bears hope it's a different story starting Sunday. Williams, who threw Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo under the bus when he was in Dallas, has been impressed with Cutler so far.
"He makes throws that I haven't seen in a long time," Williams said. "Impressive. The ball that I dropped in Tennessee (which wound up being intercepted), he done whipped that thing in between I don't know how many people. I was surprised that it got through all that. I asked him the other day, 'Man, what is your most impressive throw ever?' He was like, 'Man, I've had a bunch of those.'
"That's a guy that you want to play for. That's a guy that you know is going to have your back and I have his."
Time will tell.
--There's nothing complicated about the Bears' mission Sunday at Soldier Field against the Falcons, and for the remainder of the season, according to offensive coordinator Mike Martz.
"We need to score more points than we did last year," he said. "We got going pretty good at the end of the year, but (we need) consistency more than anything, and discipline."
Martz's offense was 21st in scoring last season, 28th in passing yards and 30th in total yards, so there's plenty of room for improvement.
But the lingering disappointment felt by do-everything running back Matt Forte over his failure to get a contract extension isn't the ideal way to jump-start an offense that relies heavily on his talents.
Forte doesn't sound like someone who's going to be able to put behind him the disappointment of not getting the contract extension he expected before Sunday's season opener.
"I'm under contract," he said. "I'm disappointed; kind of frustrated that it didn't get done. As a player, you're taught that this league is based off production, and you expect for a team to notice that and to get paid based off your production. I was expecting to get paid just like some of the other backs who produced similar to me. That didn't happen, so obviously I've got to continue to play under my regular contract."
The Bears have spoken with Forte's agent, Adisa Bakari, off and on since the league's labor issues were settled in late July, but it's uncertain how much progress was made. Rumors say the Bears weren't offering more than $13 million in guaranteed money. Forte was looking for at least $15 million and perhaps closer to the $21 million in guaranteed money that DeAngelo Williams got from the Panthers on a five-year deal worth a total of $43 million.
"Offers were made," Forte said. "I'm not going to talk specifics. As a player, this business is production based. You expect to be paid based similar (to) guys who produce like I've produced, and that didn't happen."
Shortly after the Bears reported to training camp, general manager Jerry Angelo expressed a desire to work on an extension for Forte, who has one year left on the contract he signed after being drafted in the second round in 2008. That deal was for $3.781 million over four years and included a signing bonus of $1.533 million and a total of $2 million in guaranteed money. He is scheduled to earn $555,000 in base pay this year.
Forte considered holding out but said that conversations with Angelo convinced him to show up on time at training camp.
"It never benefits a player or a team for somebody to hold out," Forte said the day the Bears reported to Olivet Nazarene University. "It's not a good deal on either end. I kind of got my mind put to ease by Jerry (Angelo). He had been in talks with my agent since the end of the lockout and even before that, and he kind of said that a deal would get done. He assured us repeatedly that a deal would get done. Where I'm from and how I was raised, when somebody gives you their word that goes a long way."
But now it looks like it might go all the way until next offseason.
Forte earned a base salary of $295,000 in '08, when he rushed for 1,238 yards, a franchise record for rookies, and averaged 3.9 yards per carry. In 2009, when he rushed for 929 yards on 258 carries (3.6-yard average) Forte's base salary was $385,000.
Last year, when his base pay was $470,000, Forte was 10th in the NFL in yards from scrimmage, rushing for 1,069 yards and a career-best 4.5 yards per attempt, and catching 51 passes for 547 yards. He led the team with 63 receptions as a rookie, tied for second in '09 with 57 catches, and tied for the team lead last season with 51.
Coach Lovie Smith is counting on the same level of play from Forte, regardless of his contract situation.
"If you know Matt, it's expected," Smith said. "He is a professional. That's how he's been since Day One, when he walked in the building. If there is something going on on the outside, it's on the outside. He hasn't brought it in at all. I've seen the same guy from the first day of training camp to today. And that's just going to work, trying to get better, asking questions. You can tell by his work on the football field. So does that surprise me with Matt? No. That's the type of guys we have on this team. That's what we expect them to do, too."
For now, the 25-year-old Tulane product will attempt to put the finances out of his mind, but that's easier said than done.
"I'm playing this year just like I play every year, just going into the season with no regrets about what I've done, no worries about injuries and all that stuff," Forte said. "But I am human. I am going to be thinking about the contract situation and all that stuff and what happened."
25th regular-season meeting. Series is tied 12-12. Falcons have won last two meetings, both of which were played at the Georgia Dome. Atlanta won 21-14 in 2009 and 22-20 in '08. The last meeting at Soldier Field was a 16-3 Bears victory in 2005.
Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.