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New Bears linebackers D.J. Williams, James Anderson ready to fill in gaps

Denver Broncos v Tennessee Titans

Denver Broncos v Tennessee Titans

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Updated: April 27, 2013 6:41AM



One day there might be a statue at Soldier Field or Halas Hall in honor of longtime linebacker and future Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher.

But James Anderson sees one already.

“It’s tough coming in because he’s been a statue of what the Bears’ defense has been and stood for over the years,” the seven-year NFL veteran told the Sun-Times by phone while on vacation in Puerto Rico. “It’s sad to see a player like that go. But new guys are coming in, and it just means everyone on the defense is going to have to step up our level of play to try and help and fill the gap that he’s leaving.”

The most important “new guys” would be linebackers D.J. Williams and Anderson. They’re filling the voids left by Urlacher and strong-side linebacker Nick Roach.

It can be a daunting challenge for them, considering how good the Bears’ defense was last season and the legend Urlacher leaves behind. Even Roach, in his own right, proved his worth during the last few seasons. But Williams and Anderson say they’re ready for it and they want it.

“I’m excited,” Williams said Monday on “The Jarrett Payton Show,” an online radio show. “This is a great team with a great tradition.”

Williams, a nine-year veteran, is projected to take over at middle linebacker for Urlacher. It’s a challenging situation, but it helps that he was recruited by two former Denver Broncos teammates in quarterback Jay Cutler and receiver Brandon Marshall.

“We had a great time when we were in Denver,” Williams said on Payton’s show. “During the process of me choosing which team I was going to decide to sign with, both of them called me up and kind of sweet-talked me into it. They’re both great teammates. It’s good coming to a new city, a new team, and starting all over to have some familiar faces.”

Williams and Anderson are ecstatic to be joining a linebacker corps led by Lance Briggs.

“He’s been a phenomenal linebacker over the years,” Anderson said.

Williams pointed out that he and Briggs are from the same area in California.

“Since I’ve been in the league, I’ve met him a few times, and he’s a cool cat,” Williams said. “I love how he plays.”

General manager Phil Emery quickly moved to fill the voids at linebacker, proving that he had a plan in place and giving himself some flexibility for the draft. In the end, Briggs, Williams and Anderson make a pretty formidable — and experienced — trio of linebackers.

“I know they’re both good linebackers,” Anderson said. ‘‘I’ve played against the Bears the last couple of years, and with the linebackers, you know those guys always have done well. Those guys always have been at the top of outside linebackers or linebackers, period. I’m excited to join those guys.”

NOTES: One of the biggest concerns regarding D.J. Williams was that he’s coming off a season that saw him sit out nine games because of suspension.

“First of all, my off-the-field issues, they actually happened in 2010, but it was just that I tried to fight them, so everything got pushed back to 2012 and 2013 and kind of overlapped,” Williams said. “But it’s all about making better decisions. It’s all about thinking before you act, and just like you do in a game, have a game plan in your outside life. I went through the process. I’ve learned my lessons, and I feel like it’s all behind me.”

◆ The Bears re-signed Jonathan Scott to a one-year deal. Scott started six games at right tackle last season, taking over for Gabe Carimi. With Jermon Bushrod locked in on the left side, Scott will compete against J’Marcus Webb and Carimi at starting right tackle.



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