Nick Williams anxious for opportunity

The first change was the location of his locker. Nick Williams went from hanging his clothes in an island community of lockers -- otherwise known as the place for the practice squaders -- to dressing next to left tackle Trent Williams.

“It’s nice, but I hope it doesn’t change my approach,” Williams said. “I liked my gated community over there. [But] it’s a nice little upgrade.”

Williams needs to prove he belongs on this side of the room and on the field. The Redskins signed him off their practice squad Tuesday to replace injured running back Chris Thompson, who will need surgery to repair a torn labrum.

The Redskins’ plans for Williams remain uncertain, though if he provides help it’s likely to come on special teams. Williams also is a slot receiver, though he’d be behind veteran Santana Moss. He returned punts and kickoffs at the University of Connecticut; the Redskins have struggled in both areas.

In college, Williams averaged 25.9 yards per kick return. As a senior, he averaged 20.4 yards per kick and 12.0 yards per return. The Redskins viewed him as a high priority when it came time to signing undrafted free agent. He's listed at 5-foot-10; ran the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds at his pro day, and had a 37-inch vertical leap, last spring

“I’ve been returning since high school and all through college,” Williams said. “I’m naturally good with the ball in my hands. I’m not blazing fast or a real big guy or a 200-pound guy that’s hard to bring down, I think I can break tackles and get north and south pretty quick so that helps.

“My mentality has always been return until you can’t. I have a score mentality. That’s how I always felt about being back there, always to be aggressive but not to a fault. Know when to fair catch and know when to let a ball hit the ground.”

Williams, who returned one punt this preseason for 29 yards, said one highlight has been learning from Moss, whom he grew up rooting for when he played for the New York Jets. They’ve had lunch together and Williams said he’s constantly asking Moss questions.

“It’s really helped my game develop,” Williams said. “He’s an open book. Me and him are always talking about things. One of the reasons I came here was Santana, to have an opportunity to learn from a guy like that… It’s remarkable his work ethic, the way he shows up every day even in the offseasons and how hard he goes, I’ve learned a textbook worth of information from him but really off the field is where I’ve appreciated it the most.”

Moss likes what he’s seen of Williams.

“Just a young eager guy that is urgent to show what he’s capable of,” Moss said. “I watch him every day. I know he watches me closely. He’s a talent that needs to be reckoned with.”