EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Kevin Williams has never been incredibly loquacious in public. He has always preferred to use that syrupy Arkansas drawl to talk about the game and not much else, batting away attention like he brushes aside a center on his way to the quarterback.
As his 11th, and possibly last, season with the Minnesota Vikings enters the final quarter, Williams' tune is starting to change. The big defensive tackle is a little more reflective, sentimental even, given the very real possibility that his days with the only NFL franchise he's ever known are numbered.
Williams is in the final year of his contract. And with first-round draft choice Sharrif Floyd waiting in the wings and Williams' 34th birthday coming during training camp next August, the Vikings might have to move on.
"You have to soak up all the moments you can," said Williams, who was voted the recipient of the Ed Block Courage award by his teammates this week. "The wins, enjoy the playoff runs, embrace all the people you meet and the friends you make because one day it's going to eventually be done. Right now we're just trying to play ball, enjoy the group I'm with and we'll see where we go at the end of the year."
The big fella can still bring it, even if he's not as consistently overpowering as he once was. He had seven tackles and 2½ sacks against the Washington Redskins on Nov. 7 and was a disruptive force against big-time rookie running back Eddie Lacy in a tie with the Green Bay Packers two weeks ago.
He's been so many things for so long:
—A versatile beast on the line: He's played defensive end, under tackle and nose tackle. Made six Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams.
"It's been a blessing and an honor for me to be able to play with him," Adrian Peterson said. "Just an incredible talent and a great person. On the field, he's been doing it for so long and dominating. ... You don't really find that that often, especially on the defensive front. He stands with an elite group."
—A pillar in the locker room: Williams is soft-spoken, but commands the respect of his teammates like few others do.
"Doesn't say a whole lot, but when he does, players listen," coach Leslie Fraizer said. "They respect Kevin a lot. To have one of your best players being a role model in the locker room, off the field, at practice, that's what you want from a coaching standpoint. He's ideal when you talk about great players that are a model of what you want your team to be."
—An interpreter for new faces: When defensive end Jared Allen arrived in a trade in 2008, Williams helped him as he struggled to understand the mumbling of fellow tackle Pat Williams.