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More important than returning to the fieldwas losingweight; his very life was at stake. In February, Williamsfor the second time checked into the Duke Diet and Fitness Center in Durham, N.C., kick-starting a plan to revamp his lifestyle.

“It was part of the process, coming back into the league and stuff like that,” he said. “But it also was something I wanted to change overall in my life. And it was hard, but this was just the first goal.”

Still, rusty from three years of inactivity, Williams struggled during the preseason with the Redskins. He was no lock to make the team.

“He had a tough time in camp,” Bugel said. “He was up and down. He was fighting his weight, and the injury bug kept nipping at him.”

Williams’ chances of sticking looked spotty, buthe persisted. Now Bugel can say, “He came along at the right time.”

Slimming down andmaking the team “feels like it happened so long ago,” Williams said. “It’s almost surreal. There were big question marks: Can he come back?’ Can he lose the weight?’ But it’s about how you view yourself. Do you believe that you can do it? You’ve got to visualize it and just do it, no matter what’s said or what people think might not be possible. You just take it one pound at a time, one day at a time, one minute at a time, and that’s all you can focus on.”

Parts of Williams’ NFL past are painful to recall, but he said he won’t erase them. “I learned from those experiences,” he said. “They created the man I am right now. Do I play differently? Do I work differently than I did in Buffalo? Yeah.

“There were a lot of things based on my history. I mean, that’s what people could only go on. What has he done? What do we remember about Mike Williams?’ Trying to prove I’m not a bust or that I’m not the same guy, that’s not my focus. That’s part of my life. But here are the things I want to do in my life, here are the things I want to accomplish. I’ve got a lot more opportunity ahead.”