Williams, 27, enters the season as an RB1 for the first time in his career and said he has been focused on things like nutrition and hydration — things that will keep him healthy during a long season.
The early returns, though, are not encouraging. Williams missed most of the first two weeks of Chiefs training camp because of a sore hamstring. He returned to practice late last week but didn’t play in Saturday night’s preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Williams regained his spot as the Chiefs’ No. 1 back on Monday when they returned to camp. But his lack of availability so far illustrates how the Chiefs are taking a chance on the unknown by counting on Williams.
“There’s a certain challenge that comes with that [job],” coach Andy Reid said. “That’s a tough position to play. You have to prepare yourself on and off the field.”
Williams played well late last season after taking over the Chiefs’ lead back role when they released Kareem Hunt. But many backs have proved they can handle the load for a short period of time. Fewer can handle the demands of a physically and mentally draining job over the longer term.
“It’s a good early reminder that the little things like stretching and hydration really matter,” general manager Brett Veach said of Williams’ early camp injury. “Those are things elite-level players do away from the field.
“It’s just a matter of acclimating his body to that kind of workload. He has to figure out the stuff away from the field: diet, extra treatment and things like that. Sometimes when you’re a guy that has been a role player your entire career, you don’t get a lot of wear and tear. There’s not a lot of need to stay in the training room and there’s not a lot of need to watch exactly what you’re putting in your body. Now all of a sudden you’re talking 16, 18, 20 carries a game over the course of a 16- and hopefully a 19-game season, that will take a toll on you.”
Williams said he’s learning how to acclimate.
“I had to change my eating habits,” he said. “I actually did this thing where they draw your blood and tell you what’s actually necessary for you. I kind of just picked up the workload when I’m working out, doing a little more, doing a little extra because you know even though this is my sixth year I’ve never had the role of the starter or have had to take the bulk of the reps.
“I learned I’m allergic to spinach. I can’t eat spinach, obviously. It’s cool to just kind of learn what you can and can’t eat and what I’ve been eating thinking, ‘this is good,’ but it’s not good for my body type.”
Last season Williams rushed for 256 yards on 50 attempts (5.1 yards per carry) and had four touchdowns. He also rushed for 129 yards and a score in a divisional-round playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts. Now he has to prove he can sustain it. The Chiefs are comfortable Williams is mentally tough enough to make the leap.
“There’s no question about his desire,” Veach said. “He’s one of the toughest guys on our offense. He just has to make sure he knows that wanting to be that guy on the field, there’s another part to that. So I’d say when he has his helmet on, he’s ready for this. When he takes it off, that’s when he’s going to have to grow. To go through the violence and the amount of hits he’s going to take, it’s a lot different than what he’s used to.”
The Chiefs have alternatives. They signed veteran Carlos Hyde, who was the starter in Williams’ absence. They brought back Darrel Williams from last season. They drafted Darwin Thompson, who has played well in camp and in the preseason game against the Bengals (five rushes for 22 yards, one catch for 29 yards and a TD).
Each figures to have a role as the season progresses. But offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said the Chiefs would be patient with Damien Williams.
“He’s the starter,” Bieniemy said. “We need to make sure than Damien continues to do the things he needs to do in order to help himself be ready when called upon.”
Must-see sports photos of the week
The most interesting sports shots from around the globe this week include a 120-kilometer race through the Peruvian desert, NASCAR stock cars spinning donuts in Nashville, Tenn., and a gold-medal-winning takedown in the Philippines.
After 57 days and one win, Bengals superfan comes down from roof
MILAN, Ind. — Chrissy Lanham stood next to a cardboard cutout of her husband as the final seconds ticked off the clock inside Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium.
The flesh-and-bone version of Jeff Lanham was watching roughly 45 miles west in the makeshift tent atop the couple’s restaurant and bar in Milan, Indiana. After two months, he was ready to get off the roof.
An offhand comment about living above the Lanhams’ Hog Rock Cafe until the Cincinnati Bengals won a game turned into a 57-day period that unexpectedly transformed Lanham into his town’s biggest celebrity since the basketball team that inspired the movie “Hoosiers.”
When the Bengals finally picked up a win by beating the New York Jets in Week 13 to improve to 1-11, everyone around Chrissy celebrated with “Cardboard Jeff” while the real person was surrounded by screams and flying beer at the bar in southeastern Indiana.
A few drinks, a tree-trimming truck and belief in one of the worst teams in the NFL put Lanham on the roof of his own restaurant. Resolve kept him there.
“I didn’t do it, really, for anything,” said Lanham, 42. “I just made a comment and owned up to a comment and did it.”
Back in 1991, Dennis “Wildman” Walker spent 61 days on a Cincinnati billboard under similar circumstances, a feat that inspired Lanham’s comments.
Cincinnati was 0-4 when Lanham said he would live on the roof until the Bengals won. It was hours before the Bengals hosted the Arizona Cardinals, the NFL’s worst team last season. Jeff and Chrissy watched from the usual spot in the stadium as Arizona won 26-23 on a last-second field goal. Cincinnati started its course toward the NFL cellar, with six consecutive losses to come.
When they drove back to the Hog Rock in their black and orange party bus, Lanham knew where he had to go. A friend grabbed a tent; someone else fetched their tree-trimming truck; and Lanham headed to the roof on a rainy night. Once he woke up the next morning, he realized he might be stuck up there for a while. He moved down a story to the lower portion of the roof so he wouldn’t have to use an extension ladder to climb down to the bathroom and shower.
Decades earlier, people actually paid to live in the building. Back then, it was called the Railroad Inn, a reference to the train tracks that are less than 100 feet from the entrance. But when he and Chrissy started the restaurant, Milan (pronounced MY-lan) was vastly different.
Phyllis Coe, 72, said she bought the building at a sheriff’s auction after the previous owner let the building rot. She charged the Lanhams $500 rent. Lanham, who hadn’t worked for a year after a leg injury forced him to stop working in a mill, poured all of his money into fixing the place up.
“You can’t discount the kid,” Coe said.
When Lanham received international media attention for his stay on the roof, it was the biggest thing to happen to Milan since the high school’s boys basketball team won the Indiana state title in 1954 against Muncie Central, which inspired the 1986 film “Hoosiers.”
Lanham said he used his growing media exposure to remind people about the ’54 champions. He also used his brief window of stardom to raise money for the medical costs of a friend’s daughter who was born with spina bifida. He came down for roughly 12 hours during a benefit event.
During his time on the roof, he held 50/50 raffles during Bengals games and sold $5 raffle tickets for people to eat in a tent that was donated by a friend’s company. He donated most of the things he received, including a pallet of soup from Campbell’s.
He had heaters and plenty of people to keep him company, but it was still tough.
Jeff and Chrissy watched Netflix simultaneously in different places, calling to start shows at the same time and see whether they liked them. She, along with others, brought laundry and food up to his tent, including meals from Skyline Chili topped with habanero cheese. They put up another tent and had Thanksgiving up there.
After nearly two months, he came home. The Bengals easily trounced the Jets, 22-6 on Sunday, for their first win of the season. People near Chrissy at the stadium gave Jeff’s cardboard cutout high-fives, while the watch party back in Milan erupted when the game ended. By the time Chrissy arrived home, Jeff was celebrating with everyone at Hog Rock. They stayed until 11:30 that night.
“Jeff was ready to come home,” Chrissy said.
After the victory, Bengals running back Joe Mixon said he’d like to give Lanham something for staying up there that long. Lanham said that’s not necessary.
“I can’t say I want something from somebody because I didn’t do it for that,” he said.
When the Hog Rock opened at 4 p.m. Monday, the tent was still up behind the restaurant as a few regulars came in for drinks. Eventually, the tent will be donated to the local Boy Scouts chapter. Lanham plans to go to the Bengals game against the New England Patriots on Thursday. The next week, he might follow the team to Miami and take his wife as a way to say thanks for the past couple of months.
“I’m happy that he’s a loyal fan,” Bengals safety Jessie Bates said. “Hopefully next time he can stay on the roof until we lose or something like that.”
That’s not going to happen, Lanham said. Fifty-six nights was more than enough. He won’t be making any more bold predictions any time soon. But that doesn’t mean he won’t have the same belief that led him to the roof or that he doesn’t hope the franchise will be a winner again someday.
“Maybe it won’t change,” Lanham said. “Maybe it will. But I’ll still be a Cincinnati fan.”
Source — Patriots re-signing veteran kicker Nick Folk
The move, which was first reported by NFL Network, was expected after the Patriots waived Kai Forbath on Monday and were left with no kickers on the roster.
Forbath was signed to replace Folk, who had an appendectomy last week. In Sunday’s loss to the Houston Texans, Forbath went 1-for-2 on extra points and made a 23-yarder on his only field goal attempt.
Folk, who was released after having the procedure, still had a locker set up in the Patriots’ facility, and the expectation was that he could return to the team later in the season. The 12th-year player has made 7 of 9 field goals (77.8%) in three games for the Patriots this season and is 3-for-3 on extra point attempts.
Forbath was New England’s fourth kicker of the season. Stephen Gostkowski, who was in his 14th season with the Patriots, was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Oct. 2 and had surgery for a left hip injury.
The Patriots first signed Mike Nugent to take Gostkowski’s place, but he was ineffective, missing 3 of 8 field goal attempts and one PAT in four games. Nugent was released Oct. 29, and the Patriots brought in Folk.
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