Any time the Ravens have lined up against the Cincinnati Bengals in recent seasons, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata knew he had a tough chore ahead when facing Bobbie Williams.
Williams, a 6-foot-4, 345-pound offensive guard, is a physical beast and an NFL mainstay, having started 130 of his 151 career games during an 11-year career. And Ngata is now glad he can call him a teammate.
"Man, I'm not going to have that much of a headache anymore playing Cincinnati," Ngata said earlier this month. "Me and Bobbie, we used to go at it all the time, and we have so much respect for each other. I have a lot of respect for him, and so I'm happy we have him here, and I think we're going to have a lot of good things out of him."
The Ravens signed the 35-year-old Williams to a two-year contract on June 8 with the plan being for him compete to be the team's starting left guard, the position vacated by departed lineman Ben Grubbs.
Williams, who started all 118 games he played over the last eight seasons with the Bengals, said he's fine with competing to earn that job.
"It's open," he said. "(The coaches) like the guy I am. They like my character and they like my plan, and they said that I would be a good fit, and I believe that. I'm up for the challenge, and I'm going to try to maximize every chance I get."
Williams seemed genuinely excited to be changing sides after years of going head-to-head with the Ravens' defense.
"Awesome, awesome, and I truly mean that right there," he said of signing with Baltimore. "It's a good feeling being here with a franchise, a team that's known for being physical and known for being winners.
"My first thought of signing here was like, great opportunity to go for the Big Dance, to get the major accomplishment that everybody plays this game for, a great opportunity to go to the Super Bowl and win. And some battles against some of these guys, I mean, me and Ngata have some classic ones, and I told Ray (Lewis) that all these years I was just trying to give him some love by hugging him, just trying to show him some love. It was kind of like, 'Well you know what? We're glad that you are on our side now.' And I was like, 'Yeah, you get to see me every day now.'"
Williams is coming off a season where he played his fewest games since he was a rookie in 2001. He was limited to nine games by a broken right ankle that landed him on season-ending injured reserve on Dec. 12. He said he's feeling good, running around and is receiving quality care from the Ravens' training staff.
He hadn't played in fewer than 13 games in any year from 2002-10, and had started all 16 games in six of the previous seven seasons, including the last four. That made for a rough 2011.
"I would say it was definitely my toughest year mentally, and from that it kind of put me and molded me into the gentleman that I am now - very sharper, very more focused now than anything, and I am actually thankful for that," Williams said. "It was a dark time, but from that dark comes light and comes growth. So, I definitely grew from there, and I'm steadily growing even in Year (12)."
Now he shifts from Cincy to Baltimore, something he claims isn't too difficult of a move even though he jumps from one AFC North squad to another.
"I'm not going to necessarily say it was tough, because before signing here, I was emotionally detached," Williams said. "It was just home there, but it was good run, but I plan on having a better run here. Did a two-year (contact agreement), and in those two years, I really want to try to do some awesome things and do as much as I can and give as much as I can to the organization."
After eight years of playing with the Bengals, he'll have his eye on Week 1 (Sept. 10) and on Week 17 (Dec. 30), when Williams' excitement level will rise as his new team faces his old one.
"Absolutely, and I think I might be a little bit more excited than them, because they are used to seeing me in practice, and they know that it's a good challenge for them," he said of the Bengals. "They know I like to lean on them, so I don't know how excited they are for that, but I'm excited."