Ban about to end, Broncos LB D.J. Williams still bitter

– In his two-months-long forced absence from football, D.J. Williams has grown remorseful about his off-field errors, bored without the structure of practice and games, and bitter at the NFL.

More than anything, the Broncos' veteran linebacker – a former first-round draft pick and one of the two longest-tenured players on the team -- is just ready to return to the teammates that he knows he let down over the past several months -- teammates who have risen to first place in the AFC West without him.
I felt that the story of D.J. Williams had made a huge wrong turn. It was snowballing, and everything about it was negative," Williams said. "I'm just excited that my team is doing great, and I can't wait to get out there and help them."

Williams is about to serve the final week of his nine-game suspension, punishment handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for two violations of the NFL personal conduct policy.

The first six games of his ban were the result of a violation of the banned substance policy (the NFL said Williams submitted a "non-human" urine sample in August 2011), and three more games were added after Williams was convicted of driving while ability impaired in August, his second such offense while in the NFL.

Williams is eligible to fully rejoin the Broncos on Nov. 12, the day after Denver's game at Carolina. He said when he returns, Broncos fans will see a different player.

"I'm bigger, stronger and faster, and my attitude is a lot different. I've got a lot of anger inside, you know what I mean?" Williams said. "Some good, some bad, but I think I play the perfect sport to be angry at somebody. You get to let it out, get the frustration out."

That anger, Williams said in an exclusive interview with USA TODAY Sports Friday, is directed internally for the bad choices he made, and externally at the people who have taken shots at him in traditional and social media.

He is also angry at the NFL, he says, for botching a routine drug test.

In the hour-long interview, Williams accepted responsibility for some of the reasons he ended up in the NFL doghouse, while also defending his decision to file a lawsuit against the league for what he believes was an improper drug testing procedure.

A Denver court and an appeals court refused to hear Williams' case, and he is continuing to appeal. Williams said he turned down an offer for a three-game suspension instead of six because he didn't want to admit to doing something wrong, nor implicate anyone else.

"I thought I was dealt an unfair deal," Williams said.

Williams said he has never used steroids or other performance enhancing drug, and that over the past four years, because of his two drunken driving arrests, he was under scrutiny by the league. In that time, Williams said he had never once tested positive.

He said his physical attributes come from genetics, not a needle, and he is angry that anyone would suggest otherwise.

"There's a lot of bitterness about it. For the rest of my career, I'll have an asterisk beside my name, saying that I used performance enhancers or steroids or whatever," Williams said. "People forget that when I was 16, I was 6-2, 225. I went to (the University of) Miami at 233 (pounds). My dad is huge, my mom competes in fitness and body competition – that's the genetics that I have gotten passed on. It sucks because I'll always be questioned on my ability and what I do as if I did steroids."

Williams would not comment further on the alleged nature of the urine sample.

His punishment for the drunken-driving conviction, stemming from his arrest in November 2010, will continue after the season. He will serve 30 days of in-house arrest, during which he'll be required to wear an ankle monitor. He also will serve two years' probation, perform more than 50 hours of community service and have his sobriety monitored.

The drinking and driving "was a mistake," he said, "and I shouldn't have done it. It was very dumb."

And now that his back-to-back suspensions are nearly over, Williams is hoping he can focus on football again. He was allowed to return to team headquarters two weeks ago and resume meetings with coaches and teammates and workouts with strength coaches, though he is still barred from practices and games.
Still, there are no guarantees about Williams' future with the Broncos when his suspension ends. He is in the second-to-last year of a contract that will pay him $6 million next year, and he realizes that with off-the-field baggage and one of the biggest contracts on the team, he is by no means safe, especially now that other linebackers have played well in his absence.

To reclaim his spot, he has returned to Denver fitter than he's been at any point in his NFL career, he said, thanks to six weeks of training at the University of Miami during the first portion of his suspension. He's eager to restart "football" training – full-contact practice in pads, and doing the football-specific movements he can't recreate in the weight room, and he is confident that the talent that once made him the nation's top prep recruit and a first-round draft pick will return, at age 30.

In eight seasons, all with the Broncos, Williams started 114 games. He has 20.5 career sacks, two interceptions, 12 forced fumbled and seven fumble recoveries. His career-high in tackles came in 2007, when he had 106.

"My role will be whatever they give me, but I know that whenever I get on the field, my talent will speak for itself," Williams said. "I know that even if, say, they want to give me 15 plays a game, whether it's defense or special teams, I feel that within a matter of time, it'll be 'He's performing. He's producing. Fifteen isn't enough.'

"Why would you want to keep someone off the field that's playing and producing?"

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