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Bears’ Roy Williams credits Mike Martz for previous success

Roy Williams talking with Lovie Smith had Pro Bowl seaswith Lions 2006 under Mike Martz. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

Roy Williams, talking with Lovie Smith, had a Pro Bowl season with the Lions in 2006 under Mike Martz. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

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Updated: November 5, 2011 5:19PM

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — Roy Williams? Why not?

Rolling the dice on the finicky nature of talented wide receivers is about the only thing the Bears haven’t tried in their never-ending search for a big-play pass catcher. But Williams makes sense to the Bears — he needs them as much as they need him.

For the Bears, it’s a low-risk gamble on a gifted athlete with size (6-3, 215 pounds) and credentials. For Williams, it’s a chance to restart his once-promising career by reuniting with the only offensive coordinator he has had success with in the NFL. He had a Pro Bowl season in Mike Martz’s offense with the Detroit Lions in 2006, when he had 82 receptions for 1,310 yards and seven touchdowns. He also is reunited with Darryl Drake, the Bears’ wide receivers coach who recruited Williams to Texas, coached him for four years with the Longhorns and has been a mentor of sorts throughout his NFL career.

‘‘To be back with Martz and coach Drake is a blessing for me,’’ said Williams, 29, who signed a one-year contract with the Bears after being released by the Dallas Cowboys. ‘‘To go to a system that I already know, that I’ve had success in — it was a pretty easy decision.’’

Williams was unable to take part in the Bears’ first practice Saturday at Olivet Nazarene University because of an NFL rule that prohibits free agents from participating until Aug. 4. But he’s in such a comfort zone with Martz and Drake that he doesn’t anticipate a problem catching up quickly.

‘‘I think I have a head start, just knowing the offense and coach Martz knowing me, knowing my strengths,’’ said Williams, the seventh pick of the 2004 draft. ‘‘He knows how to play to my strengths.’’

Williams’ career is a testament to how fickle and unpredictable the success and failure of NFL wide receivers can be. In his first three seasons with the Lions, he had 181 ­receptions for 2,814 yards (15.5 per catch) and 23 touchdowns in 43 games.

He was traded to the Cowboys five games into the 2007 season for three draft picks (first-, third- and sixth-rounders). But he never lived up to expectations in Dallas after signing a six-year, $54 million contract.

He had some semblance of his earlier success last season when he caught five passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns against the Houston Texans and five touchdown catches in a three-week span. But after quarterback Tony Romo was injured, Williams’ production dropped precipitously. He had 16 receptions for 224 yards and no touchdowns in the final nine games, and that was with Jon Kitna, the same quarterback who sparked Williams’ Pro Bowl season with the Lions.

There’s little wonder that Williams is putting his faith in Martz with the Bears.

Asked what it was about Martz’s offense that made him so successful, Williams said he simply followed a ­basic Martz mantra.

‘‘I was just in the right place for the quarterback,’’ he said. ‘‘It goes back to that rule he always says: ‘Be where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there, and don’t fool the quarterback.’ I never fooled the quarterback [in Martz’s system].’’

Why was it different with the Cowboys?

‘‘Martz wasn’t there,’’ Williams said.

Nobody is making any promises about what Williams can do in Martz’s offense with the Bears. Considering their recent history with receivers, they’re almost conditioned to avoid getting too excited about anybody.

‘‘I just think you give guys the opportunity and see what happens,’’ Drake said. ‘‘He’s still young. There’s no doubt he can still play. He hasn’t slowed down. His skills haven’t deteriorated. It’s a matter of us putting him in a position to be successful, get him motivation.

‘‘Motivation comes from getting the ball. We’re going to put the ball in his hands. If we do that and he’s not productive, that’s on him. But it’s our job to get him the ball and see what he can do.’’

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