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From Undrafted To Impressive

Notebook: Receiver Stephen Williams hard not to notice in training camp

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Undrafted wide reciever Stephen Williams is making a strong push to make the team.




FLAGSTAFF – Stephen Williams hasn't made the Cardinals' roster. Not yet.

It's hard to believe, however, after the stellar first week of training camp the undrafted rookie wide receiver of Toledo had, he doesn't have a very good chance.

Williams is the kind of story that emerges early in camp, one of the unknowns that sneaks up on a team through the offseason and into the preseason as a hidden gem. When an NFL team arrives in camp, the talk is all about competition. But realistically, only about five or six jobs out of the 53-man roster are yet to be determined.

Williams may turn out to be one of those success stories. He was impressive Saturday at Walkup Skydome during the team's Red-White practice, which included a controlled scrimmage in front of about 11,000 fans. Williams caught the only touchdown – a 10-yard strike from Derek Anderson Williams described as a "laser" – and made a handful of other receptions that were merely a continuation of a standout trip to NAU so far.

"I'm just focused," Williams said. "I came here to pay football. You can't be distracted; it'll get you cut."

The Cards' first week was mixed. Saturday's work was again mostly dominated by the defense, although coach Ken Whisenhunt didn't sound like he was concerned about the play of starting quarterback Matt Leinart.

The mistakes of Leinart and anyone else are correctable, Whisenhunt said.

"You have to be careful about making too much of a judgment for this controlled practice," Whisenhunt said. "It's one weekend, we have done a lot of good things in practice this week and you can't make assessments too quickly based on what you see out here on one day."

That's why Williams' body of work has impressed. He has shown up seemingly every day, and after veteran Onrea Jones had seemed to show he was the leader as the fourth receiver during the offseason, Jones hasn't been as noticeable as Williams.

"When you judge young guys you want to see how they do in an environment like this as a test," Whisenhunt said. "It was nice to see (Williams) make plays in the environment, with the pressure."

Williams was a record-setting receiver at Toledo, stands 6-foot-5 and has run the 40 in under 4.5 seconds. Yet he wasn't drafted, something he calls "one of the most disappointing things in my life."

"It keeps me hungry," Williams added. "I have a chip on my shoulder."

When the draft was over, 17 teams called. But Cardinals' coaches and scouts had developed a relationship with Williams during the draft process, and Williams also liked the idea he could play on the same team as one of the NFL's best at his position – Larry Fitzgerald.

Williams even made the effort to go visit Fitzgerald's camp in Minnesota in July -- Fitzgerald praised Williams Saturday – and Williams said "learning from Larry helped me a lot."

Williams said practice is "10 times harder" than games, so his confidence is growing. Whisenhunt said Williams will be tested in next weekend's game against Houston, but Williams certainly doesn't fear the chance.

"It's clicking," Williams said. "I am learning every day, but I am enjoying this."

TOLER MAKES A MOVE


With Trumaine McBride sitting with a sore groin, Greg Toler was working with the first team Saturday, and he played well – including picking off a pass in the end zone intended for Fitzgerald.

"I needed it to keep my confidence, keep my swagger," Toler said. "(Adrian Wilson) said, 'Just play football, man.' "

Toler said he thinks he has been consistent but admitted coaches are telling him to "stay on top of your game." He hasn't taken hold of the starting job, which is what the Cardinals are hoping he eventually does.

Battling Fitzgerald in the end zone was a big deal. Fitzgerald had beaten Toler a couple of times in the same end zone earlier in the week. Toler said Fitzgerald is so good at knowing the tricks of the trade – a hip fake, a head shake, maybe even a subtle push – to get open.

"He's the MJ of the NFL," Toler said with a grin, referring to Michael Jordan. "They're not going to call that. You just have to play aggressive."

DOUCET SITS


Wide receiver Early Doucet sat out with a mild abdominal strain. Doucet had been limited in practice the last couple of days. Fullback Charles Ali will miss "a couple of weeks" with a hamstring problem, leaving Nehemiah Broughton as the lone healthy fullback (although tight end Dominique Byrd has worked as an H-back).

Cornerback Michael Adams (undisclosed) was limited, while the list of players that sat out remained long: McBride (groin), defensive end Jeremy Clark (groin), tight end Ben Patrick (knee), running back Alfonso Smith (neck), tight end Anthony Becht (back), tight end Jim Dray (quad), safety Hamza Abdullah (hamstring), linebacker Gerald Hayes (back - PUP) and linebacker O'Brien Schofield (knee – PUP).

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