Jacquian Williams has officially stepped into the ring.
The fight for linebacker spots on the Giants' roster has been underway all offseason, but until Thursday, it was missing one of its top competitors. Williams, who is dealing with a knee injury that kept him out of six games in the middle of last season, took his first defensive snaps today in the Giants' eighth OTA workout.
"I miss being out there," he said. "I've got to be smart with it, so I decided just to get a couple reps today. I felt great. It's still a progression. I'm not 100 percent yet, but I'm working on it."
The Giants' medical staff limited Williams to individual drills in the previous seven OTAs, giving the knee extra time to heal and prevent further damage. Thursday was a small but important step.
"It's early," Williams said. "But I want to get out there and get the feel of things, get involved with the team and stuff. So it's definitely a big step for me just to be out there."
Meanwhile, his competition has been progressing, including a Thursday practice in which fellow linebacker Mark Herzlich snagged an interception.
"The other day Keith Rivers made a heck of a play…Herzlich has made some plays. Two days in a row now he has intercepted balls," Tom Coughlin said afterwards. "So I think the guys – they are anxious to make the contribution. They know the position is open. And I think that has motivated them in a very positive way to have a good spring and to give us some strong feelings about where we are."
Williams is part of a unit filling the void left by the departures of Chase Blackburn and Michael Boley, who were the primary starters in 2012.
"There are definitely jobs to be won, a lot of competition," Williams said. "We let go of two important guys on the linebacker corps. So there are spots open, and being my third year, I'm definitely going to work hard. There are others guys – Spencer [Paysinger] and Mark – that are going to compete."