DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — In a mischievous mood, Mario Williams walked across the Miami Dolphins locker room Wednesday carrying a single strawberry on a spoon.
He stopped at a media scrum surrounding defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and waved the fruit in his teammate’s face. Suh managed to keep a straight face, but Williams walked away convulsing with laughter.
So perhaps it’s unfair to say Williams plays with a lack of effort. He still enjoys locker room hijinks, even as a reserve.
The four-time Pro Bowl defensive end was demoted to a backup role for Sunday’s victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, three days after defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said Williams needs to play harder and better.
Williams came off the bench for the first time in his 11-year career and was on the field for only 13 snaps.
“That was different,” Williams said. “But at the same time, that’s what I’m asked to do. You just go out there and play and try to capitalize on your opportunities.”
He said he doesn’t know how many opportunities he’ll have Sunday against his former team, the Buffalo Bills.
A not so super Mario endured a disappointing season with the Bills last year, when he complained about his role and seemed disinterested. They let him go, and he signed a $17 million, two-year deal with Miami.
Williams is not keen to talk about how things ended in Buffalo.
“Nah, no, because I’m here, I’m in Miami,” he said. “That’s not something that I speak about.”
Dolphins coach Adam Gase said his team is still trying to find the best role for Williams, and suggested the 31-year-old, 300-pound end was worn down by playing too much early in the season.
“He has done a good job in practice, and there have been a lot of positives coming out of training camp and through the beginning of the season,” Gase said.
Teammate Cameron Wake, whose work ethic leads the league, gave Williams a ringing endorsement.
“Hell of a guy, great football player, great teammate, and I’m glad that he is on our side,” Wake said.
Williams said he feels no extra motivation facing his former team, which may elicit snickering from Bills fans who complained he lacked motivation last year.
“It’ll be great to finally play against the guys live for the first time,” Williams said. “I still have a lot of friendship and communication with those guys, so I’m sure it’ll be interesting.”
Said Bills coach Rex Ryan: “I would expect him to be very motivated, just like we’ll be.”
Buffalo (4-2) is traditionally a tough matchup for the Dolphins (2-4), whose biggest challenge will be to contain LeSean McCoy. He’s on pace to rush for more than 1,500 yards.
“Obviously he’s a great athlete,” Williams said. “He makes plays all over the field. The biggest thing is the more hats to the ball, the better chance that you have to minimize the damage. You’re not going to stop an athlete like that completely.”
The Bills lead the NFL in rushing, while the Dolphins rank next to last in run defense. Williams hasn’t helped much, making only eight tackles all season.
He has one sack, raising his career total to 97. He didn’t try to sugarcoat his most recent game.
“The few plays that I was out there,” he said, “it could be better.”
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