If Kevin Williams were a little taller, few would be wonderi
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ If Kevin Williams were a little taller, few would be wondering if he could replace departed free agent Alvin Harper at receiver for the Dallas Cowboys.
At least that’s what coach Barry Switzer believes.
``I have always been a Kevin Williams fan,″ Switzer said. ``I think if Kevin Williams was three inches taller, everybody in the world would be excited about him. But because he is a short guy, no one gets excited.″
Williams, who is 5-foot-9, forgives the doubters. After all, the 6-3 Harper, a college high jumper, had more touchdown receptions last season (8) than Michael Irvin (6), and his average yards per catch (24.9) surpassed all other NFL receivers.
But Harper’s with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers now, and Williams, who has made plenty of big plays as a punt and kick return specialist, must gain the confidence of quarterback Troy Aikman and the coaching staff as a consistently clutch receiver.
At least he became more sure of his job Tuesday when owner Jerry Jones said he tentatively has decided against bringing in a free agent like Webster Slaughter, recently released by the Houston Oilers.
``I think Kevin Williams is the veteran and has distinguished himself in big games and has worked hard enough to be in the lead to replace Alvin,″ Jones said. ``But any player out here has competition.″
The competition comes primarily from Cory Fleming, who was drafted and cut by the San Francisco 49ers in 1994.
Fleming lacks speed _ his time in the 40 is 4.88, slower than tight end Jay Novacek and fullback Daryl Johnston. But coaches like his height (6-2) and the way he runs after a catch.
``Everybody can see that when Cory grabs that ball, it’s like a running back with the ball,″ Jones said.
Williams isn’t concerned about Fleming; he wants Aikman’s confidence. Aikman has in the past chewed out the third-year receiver for not running the right route or for dropping a pass.
``Troy and I worked hard in the offseason,″ Williams said. ``We are still building on that confidence. He is not afraid to throw me the ball or anything.
``I just have to work extra hard because he’s used to throwing to a big receiver. I have to work a little harder to make plays.″
Aikman said he has advised both Williams and Fleming to go all out during training camp.
``I have told Kevin and Cory that I have confidence in them and they need to run every route like they would in a game,″ Aikman said. ``Michael and Jay can take a play off. But Kevin and Cory can’t.″
Williams believes he is more versatile than Harper, who lined up outside most of the time.
Williams can play outside or line up inside and go across the middle.
``A lot of people don’t realize that I can play outside, play inside and do special teams. I can do it all,″ said Williams, the only Cowboy to score a touchdown on a run from scrimmage, a pass reception, a punt return and kickoff return in the same season.
``People think I’m a special teams player, but I am versatile.″
Switzer said Williams would continue to return kicks and punts, even if he starts at receiver. That’s fine with Williams.
``That’s my bread and butter,″ Williams said. ``That’s what got me to the NFL.″