ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams signed Moe Williams to a one-year contract on Wednesday, addressing the need for a backup running back.
With Marshall Faulk out for the season because of a knee injury, the Rams have third-year back Steven Jackson in the starting role. Behind him is Tony Fisher, a fifth-year running back from Notre Dame who signed as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason from Green Bay.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Williams, 32, is in his 11th NFL season after spending the past nine years with the Minnesota Vikings. The Kentucky product has started 12 of 132 career games, rushing 435 times for 1,826 yards with 21 touchdowns.
Williams has also made 154 receptions for 1,511 yards with four touchdowns, adding 63 kickoff returns for a 22-yard average with one touchdown.
"He was one of my favorite players when I was in Minnesota," said Rams coach Scott Linehan, who was an offensive coordinator for the Vikings from 2002-04. "He was the type of guy that could fit a lot of roles and help us out in our depth."
Now, Williams is added to the mix at running back.
Williams played in just six games last season. He underwent micro-fracture surgery on his right knee in November.
"He's been cleared," Linehan said. "We brought him in twice. The first physical was incomplete so we brought him in again. He cleared that physical. He feels good. He looks good. I think it'll be a great addition to our team."
The Rams were interested in trading for New Orleans' Michael Bennett. However, the Saints dealt Bennett to the Kansas City Chiefs late Tuesday for an undisclosed draft choice. The Rams offered a fourth-round pick for the 27-year-old Bennett, but it wasn't enough for the Saints.
"We were certainly in the mix there," Linehan said about Bennett. "Things happen. Two parties have to agree to get it done. We certainly were a willing party but the other side wasn't."
Williams was originally a third-round draft choice (75th overall) by the Vikings in the 1996 NFL Draft. He has played nine of his 10 years with Minnesota, also playing for the Baltimore Ravens in 2001.
Willams and Fisher will compete for the No. 2 slot behind Jackson.
"Fisher has been doing a great job there," Linehan said. "What this will do is take a little pressure off Fisher. They're both real solid and you can win with them any day of the week.
"We're just strengthening our team. Moe is familiar with our system. He is a veteran who has played in a role as a backup and Moe was a real strong special teams player as well. Moe brings toughness. There's nothing flashy about him. He's a get it done type of guy. He's an old-school guy you like to have on your team," Linehan said.
Williams was part of the Vikings' boat party scandal last year on Lake Minnetonka. About 30 members of the team were identified as being among 90 people on two boats that cruised the lake west of Minneapolis during the Vikings' bye week.
In Williams' trial, the prosecution described the Oct. 6, 2005, cruise as a raunchy party in which women on the boat changed into thong underwear and bras, gave players lap dances and, in some cases, stripped naked.
For his role in the incident, Williams was convicted of disorderly conduct. He was fined $300 and ordered to complete 30 hours of community service.
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This might be more than people are reading into ... Moe Williams was a very good short-yardage back in Minnesota, which translates well down at the goal-line. I really think that, if he's in shape and healthy, he can steal some TDs for SJax this year, maybe as many as five TDs.
(On the backup RB situation) “Obviously, Tony Fisher is doing a great job there. One announcement is that we’ve agreed to terms with Moe Williams, who played for me when I was in Minnesota and played last year there, got hurt and actually went on IR and recovered from a knee surgery in the offseason. We brought him in twice. The first physical was incomplete so we brought him in again and he cleared that physical. We met with him yesterday and we came to terms today. He should be here by tonight or tomorrow. He’ll be ready to go. What Moe brings is somebody that is familiar to our system, but a veteran who has played in a role as a backup and as a three. So, between Mo and Tony Fisher we’ve got guys that are handling the same thing. Mo was a real strong special teams player as well. We’re just strengthening our team because we add a real quality back-up running back that has played very well in this system at Minnesota.”
(On the severity of RB Mo Williams knee injury he’s recovering from) “Mo has been in the league 10 years, so he’s come back, but it’s like anything else, those injuries tend to start to add up. I’m not concerned about it because Mo has always been able to manage himself, a lot like other veterans do, to make sure he’s ready to go on game day. He never missed any playing time during my time last year. He just had to have the surgery and it added up for him. He feels good, looks good, and says he feels like he’s in better shape than he was when we opened camp last year. I think it’ll be a great addition to our team.”
(On Williams’ physical) “It’s a medical check-up.I know what Mo can do. Mo’s not going to be able to take every rep of every play. We’ll work him into shape. He’ll be able to come out and get a lot of the mental stuff while he’s getting in shape. We’ll be able to do that as we go. Basically, we managed him because of his age [Minnesota]. He’s been nicked up a little bit over time and we always did that with him in Minnesota. In 2003 he was our starter for six games and we went 6-0. He certainly can fill a lot of roles at running back.”
(On Williams being able to rebound from surgery) “He went back to have the check up and he said it worked. I’m sure it works at different levels for some people. We know Mo probably doesn’t have 10 years left in his career, but he and I have a really good working relationship and he looks and feels as good as ever. I think we just have to work him and keep a good eye on him and make sure we’re not trying to push him too fast. He’ll be able to practice. We’ll keep an eye on him and work him into shape and make sure we don’t have any setbacks with it. We’ll just manage him.”
(On what Williams brings to the table) “Toughness. Attitude. When you get in one of those games when the team was going to bring it, you knew the defense was going to bring that Will linebacker or they were going to challenge how tough we were. If you went back and watched our film you would always see who started the game was always Mo. He always matched up well and never backed down from anything. He’s very sound in what he does. There’s nothing flashy about him; he’s a get it done type of guy. In 2003, I think he led all RB’s in third down conversions because he was our third-down back. It wasn’t because he was the classic guy that you flare out, he was just a guy that gave great protection first, but if you threw him the ball he always knew where the first down marker was and he always seemed to get it. He’s one of those old school guys that you love to have on your team.”
(On being interested in acquiring RB Michael Bennett) “We were certainly in the mix, [but] things happen. I don’t know exactly the details around it. I think that things just work out the way they do for a reason. You certainly have to have yourself backed up if it doesn’t work out. We’ll continue to keep our eyes on RBs that become available because a lot of things happen between now and September 10.”
(On Williams’ running style) “We used him in short yardage a lot. He was kind of a short yardage and 3rd down kind of back. If we needed a guy that was going to run downhill and get that ugly 4 yards, so to speak, he was the man. He just filled a lot of roles and he was a very, very good special team’s player. He made a name for himself, especially early in his career on special teams. His familiarity with what we’re doing is certainly a good thing for us.”