- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Michael Williams is still playing with a confused mind these days. He’s still somewhat shaky on where to go, what to do. There are times during this week’s organized team activities where he has even broken the huddle and moved to the wrong position.
He’s hoping this is the only week it happens.
Williams in the midst of transitioning from tight end to offensive tackle, a position he has never played before but conceivably will play for the rest of his career. And it has left the seventh-round pick of the Detroit Lions in the 2013 draft somewhat befuddled.
“It’s only been two OTAs, so I find myself listening to the pass part of it instead of the protection,” Williams said after practice Wednesday. “I actually messed up a play [Wednesday] doing that. It catches me off guard and then I get mad at myself and try to calm back down.
“But it’s something to get used to. I’ll get used to it by the end of this week.”
This has been something Williams has been contemplating for a while and something that has been of some consideration since almost when he was drafted. His size and skills – he’s more of a blocker than a pass-catcher anyway – fit more with a potential offensive tackle than at tight end, where he played at Alabama.
While he doesn’t necessarily see it as an easier way to a roster spot this season, he does see making the transition as a way to elongate whatever NFL career he ends up having. That was his impetus behind the move, not that he would conceivably be stuck behind Eric Ebron, Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria on the depth chart.
While he may not view it that way, he could have a shorter path to the 53-man roster either this season or next at tackle. While Riley Reiff and LaAdrian Waddle are under contract for a while, third tackle Corey Hilliard is in the final year of his deal. The fourth tackle spot, for now, is between undrafted rookie Cornelius Lucas and free agent J.B. Shugarts.
So if Williams can gain the requisite weight – he said he needs to pick up 15-20 more pounds from where he is right now – and pick up the blocking schemes fast enough, he could end up having a role this season. Or, he could end up on the practice squad again to continue learning if he shows enough potential as a possible tackle of the future throughout OTAs, minicamp and training camp.
He spent last season on injured reserve after breaking his hand during training camp.
“A guy who is probably a natural,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “I mean, he had to fight to keep his weight down. He came back and he was somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 pounds. You don’t see very many 300-pound tight ends.
“He’s a big guy, so I think it allows him not to necessarily have to worry about cutting weight all the time and things of that nature to kind of fit the position.”
He shouldn’t have to at all. So far, he’s gained between 6 and 7 pounds in his quest, mostly because he is still searching for ways to add good weight instead of stuffing his face with junk food and adding weight that won’t help him.
As Williams puts on the weight, he is trying to keep some of his athleticism as well. Doing so could make him more valuable in the future both as an actual tackle or even a swing tackle for jumbo sets that has some familiarity with pass catching and running routes.
“That’s possible,” Williams said. “We’ll have to see how I gain this weight or how everything goes, if I can still move with the weight. That’s still a possibility but right now I’m just trying to learn the tackle position.”
That is, when he isn’t in the game thinking he’s going to line up where Fauria is at tight end. It’s happened – but not for much longer. Or at least that’s how Williams is planning it.