Williams relishing fresh start with Panthers

As excited as Chris Harris was for the opportunity to return to Chicago – he still owns a home in the North suburb of Gurnee – Jamar Williams was just as thrilled to be leaving.

Williams has been longing for an opportunity to get on the field and any chance of that basically vanished when Lance Briggs agreed to a longterm contract extension prior to the 2008 season. The Bears believed that Briggs, a Pro Bowl performer, was exiting via free agency. They had placed the franchise tag on him the year before and then nearly traded him away to San Francisco.

All the while, Williams, a fourth-round pick from Arizona State, figured he was the heir apparent. Briggs surprisingly re-signed with the Bears and Williams was forced to play special teams and bide his time in a reserve role. He made three starts in four seasons – including a 19-tackle performance last December in a victory over the hapless St. Louis Rams at Soldier Field – but he was hoping to leave. That is why Williams signed his tender as a restricted free agent last week.

"You know I'm looking forward to it,'' Williams told Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune. "When you're on a team and you never really get a chance to show what you can do, then you go somewhere else, you always want to show your former employer what you can do.

"It's always good to get a fresh start somewhere,'' he said. "Hopefully I can finally get the opportunity to compete for a starting job. I think it's a good fit.''

Whether or not Williams can nail down a starting job with the Panthers playing alongside Pro Bowl middle linebacker Jon Beason remains to be seen. He’ll certainly have an opportunity to compete, something that never really materialized with the Bears. He’s counting himself lucky too. Williams figured after the draft ended that the window for him to be traded had closed.

"I know they have a lot of good linebackers,'' Williams said. "I know they have Jon Beason. I know there are some spots in the air, maybe the Sam linebacker. And from what I understand, their Sam is like the Will linebacker in Chicago.

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