In the Rams' corner - Williams eager to battle for St. Louis

Friday, September 7, 2001

ST. LOUIS -- Aenaes Williams, about to enter his 11th season, feels like a kid again. Getting traded from the Arizona Cardinals to the St. Louis Rams can have that effect on you, even if you are a six-time Pro Bowler.

He's so excited about his new surroundings, being with a Super Bowl favorite instead of a team perennially struggling for .500, that he can't stay off the field even when he's not playing.

Williams didn't play in the Rams' final preseason game, but he was constantly in view as No. 1 cheerleader.

"Enthusiasm is contagious, and when you see young guys out there, you just want to encourage them every time," Williams said. "It was very important to me."

That attitude was no surprise to coach Mike Martz, who marveled at Williams' work ethic in training camp.

"If you get a chance, spend about 20 minutes and just watch him in practice," Martz said. "Watch his habits, watch what he does when he's not involved in the drill. He's a true professional."

Williams, 33, made the Pro Bowl six straight years from 1994-99 and was named to the NFL Team of the 1990s at cornerback along with Deion Sanders, Darrell Green and Rod Woodson. He enters the season opener at Philadelphia on Sunday with 46 career interceptions, second on the Cardinals' team list and only five behind Larry Wilson.

He mostly toiled in obscurity, though, with the Cardinals. Arizona was 3-13 last year, and during Williams' 10 seasons there the team had one winning record, one .500 year and four head coaches.

Owner Bill Bidwill, who moved the team from St. Louis in 1988, finally did the city a favor when he shipped Williams to the Rams on draft day for second- and fourth-round draft picks.

"I know a good friend who said 'You're going to know what it feels like to go out with other horses,"' Williams said. "Wow, we can really do some things.

"I'm like a kid in a candy store."

Williams enjoys the higher standards in St. Louis, saying he's finally on a "marked team" and wouldn't have it any other way.

"In Arizona, we were below ground so we were doing a lot of things just to get level," Williams said. "Here, a number of things have been established and obviously the success has been documented.

"The level of excellence that's actually commanded here is what I enjoy the most."

Williams has been slowly building the anticipation for his regular-season debut with the Rams.

"Obviously in the Hall of Fame game you don't want to be playing like it's the playoffs," Williams said. "It's important that you want to kind of just time-release the steam, just like a tea kettle.

"We want the tea kettle to be whistling this weekend."

NOTES: The Rams will likely have nine new starters on defense on opening day, but probably only one rookie instead of two as had been anticipated. Unheralded Brian Young has beat out Damione Lewis, the team's 12th overall pick in the draft, for a starting tackle spot. Adam Archuleta, the 20th pick, will start at safety. ... A second-round draft pick, linebacker Tommy Polley, also could start if London Fletcher hasn't recovered from a hamstring injury.

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