, Newburyport, MA


December 12, 2013

TE D.J. Williams gets another chance with Patriots


“They had Wi-Fi on the plane so I was able to keep track of the game,” Williams said. “It was unfortunate. I’d only been here a week and understand how great of a guy (Gronkowski) is already. Talk about a guy who’s been through so much with injuries.”

Gronkowski missed the first six games this year after undergoing four operations on his broken left forearm and one on his back. He caught 37 passes for 560 yards in the next six games then had two receptions for 32 yards before being carted off the field Sunday.

“I really wasn’t like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m going to get a spot,’” Williams said. “I really did genuinely feel upset for him.”

He and Mulligan are the Patriots’ only two healthy tight ends going into Sunday’s game at Miami.

The Patriots (10-3) would clinch their 10th AFC East title in 11 seasons with a win or tie against the division rival Dolphins (7-6).

Williams was drafted by the Packers out of Arkansas in the fifth round in 2011, two rounds after the Patriots took his college quarterback, Ryan Mallett.

Williams set the school record for tight ends with 152 receptions and won the John Mackey Award given to the nation’s top college tight end.

“He’s a smart football player,” Mallett said. “I always knew where he was going to be and I never had to worry about that.”

So far, though, Williams has only nine catches for 70 yards as a pro. But Mallett encouraged him after Patriots coach Bill Belichick cut him.

“I don’t know what Bill had in mind, but I know that he’s a good player,” Mallett said. “I said, ‘Stay in shape. You never know if we’re going to need you.’”

Still, Williams said, “it makes it difficult when you have your first two years go smooth and now you’re going through this whole transition.”

“You have to keep a positive mindset or else you’re going to go down that rabbit hole and not come back,” he added.

Then the Patriots called.

“I just need to really get in that playbook,” Williams said, “and understand what’s going on.”

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