Seattle Seahawks

Step-kick technique far from biggest hurdle Cary Williams has conquered

New Seattle cornerback Cary Williams, right, defends against Detroit receiver Golden Tate during the Seahawks’ 13-10 win Monday over the Lions.
New Seattle cornerback Cary Williams, right, defends against Detroit receiver Golden Tate during the Seahawks’ 13-10 win Monday over the Lions. Staff photographer

It took months, but Cary Williams has finally mastered the Seahawks’ step-kick technique they teach their pressing cover men.

Williams step-kicks his former Eagles much more readily.

“I take it personally every day,” Seattle’s first-year cornerback said Wednesday of Philadelphia choosing him to leave as a free agent this spring. “Yeah … that’s just like if you lose your job. Somebody tells you that you weren’t good enough … and we want to get you out of there.

“I felt contrary to that.”

He’s playing contrary to that, too, entering Sunday’s test for the Seahawks (2-2) playing at deep-passing Cincinnati (4-0).

On Monday night against Detroit, Williams showed why the Seahawks gave him a $3.5 million guaranteed salary for this year and a $3.5 million signing bonus in a three-year, $18 million contract to replace starter Byron Maxwell. Williams had what his opposite starting cornerback Richard Sherman called his best game yet for Seattle while going facemask to facemask with Lions star receiver Calvin Johnson.

Maxwell, essentially a full-time Seahawks starter for the equivalent of one full season, hit a free-agent jackpot with $63 million over six years from the Eagles. Four weeks into this season he is getting beaten and bad-mouthed in Philadelphia.

The guy he replaced sure is glad he’s not there anymore.

“I definitely don’t feel like they did me a favor by letting me go. But it may have been a favor,” Williams said of the Eagles, “because I feel like I am in a better place and in a better position. I’m a lot happier in this position and in this place, you know what I mean?

“I guess what was meant for bad and turned out good — for me.”

It didn’t start out good for Williams with the Seahawks immediately after he signed in March. He spent offseason workouts and summer training camp struggling with the step-kick technique of pass coverage coach Pete Carroll demands his defensive backs master.

The step-kick requires a cornerback to line up a yard or two directly in front of the receiver and take an immediate step laterally with his outside foot. That’s to buy time; the defender waits almost in place as the receiver does all his shakes and jukes in an attempt to get past the jam.

The “kick” is throwing the foot back, away from the line of scrimmage, to turn and run with the receiver while staying in front of him.

Carroll was an All-Pacific Coast Athletic Conference defensive back at Pacific in 1971 and ’72, and a defensive backs coach starting in 1978 at Iowa State. He was at a Raiders-49ers joint training-camp practice in the early 1980s and saw Oakland Hall of Famer Willie Brown doing the step-kick.

Carroll’s been teaching it ever since. He’s unique in the NFL in doing so — as Williams, a former member of the Titans, Eagles and Super-Bowl champion Ravens, just found out.

“The light bulb didn’t come on until the fourth game of the preseason,” Williams said. “I was out there during warmups — I didn’t even play — and it finally felt like I did what I was supposed to do and accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. It felt pretty good.

“Putting the outside foot up and down. That was hard, because in some places I’ve always put my left (inside) foot up. And then I’d press back, move a little bit, shuffle-slide. It was a lot of inconsistencies. But with the practice here and technique here, I’ve been more consistent staying in one spot and being patient.”

Monday against Detroit’s Johnson he showed in the second quarter his progress with the step-kick. On third down he jammed Johnson at the line then turned and ran ahead and inside of the receiver to the goal line. Williams was in better position than Johnson was to catch Matthew Stafford’s rainbow pass to the goal line. He broke it up to force a Lions field goal.

“This is my fourth different team. I’ve been a lot of places and it’s a lot of different techniques. This and that coaches teaching you different things each and every year,” Williams said. “It was a tough transition getting all these old things out of my head and getting all these new things in.

“I thought I was pretty good with what I was doing before. I thought I must be doing something right to be in the league for eight seasons and having some success. But I think it’s allowed me to be a lot (more) patient and get my hands on guys.”

The technique is far from the most difficult challenge he’s overcome.

Cary, named after his father, detailed to the Baltimore Sun in 2012, when he was playing for the Ravens, that he and his younger brother Ronald were physically abused by their dad while growing up in a hard side of Miami. A cousin who was 25 years old at the time and an ordained minister basically rescued them by gaining full custody of the brothers.

Cary was kicked off his college team at Fordham for lashing out when coaches were tough on him. He was back home in Florida installing satellite-television dishes on the roofs of residences when Division II Washburn University in Kansas offered him a chance to play there. That led to Tennessee taking him in the seventh round of the 2008 draft, at 229th overall.

“Yes, man. I thank God each and every day I wake up for just being blessed and being able to do what I love each and every day,” he said in March when he signed with Seattle. “It’s a blessing and it’s an honor and it’s a privilege to do something that you love and you enjoy and you can take pride in. Just coming from Liberty City, Florida — Miami, Florida — and going from high school to high school. I went to three different high schools in four years. I went to two different colleges.

“I look back on that and I just thank God for those opportunities that I had. I thank God for those hardships, those struggles, those trying times. It made me a better person. It made me a better football player. It made me a better man. So I just thank God for the progress I made.

“And I don’t want to stop there.”

SUNDAY: Seattle Seahawks (2-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (4-0), 10 a.m., Ch. 13, 710-AM, 97.3-FM