When Tampa Bay’s rookie wide receivers, Arrelious Benn, a second-round pick from Illinois, and Mike Williams, a fourth-round pick out of Syracuse, aren’t making plays on the practice field they are making plans in their hotel room.
Benn and Williams, who are roommates during the Bucs’ rookie mini-camp, have spent this weekend scheming and dreaming of the future – a future that includes them in the starting lineup, catching touchdown passes from Josh Freeman.
“The first night it was great,” Williams said. “We kept saying to each other that we could be the future whether it’s this year or next year. We could be the future and we have the opportunity of a lifetime, no matter how our situation ended (in college). We said that we have to go out here that we can still do this.”
Benn agreed and envisions him teaming with Williams to become playmakers in the NFL.
“We joked a lot because Mike has been getting a lot of balls and I haven’t been getting as many balls,” Benn said. “It’s a learning process right now. It’s great to have him here. This is a great situation for us. We are two guys that are going to be a force. We talked about how we wanted to come here and make a good first impression and do everything we needed to do and let it be known that we’re here and we’re here to make plays.”
The 6-foot-2, 212-pound Williams has been the star of the rookie mini-camp, making acrobatic catches and big plays in the passing game.
“That’s what I do. I make plays,” Williams said. “My whole life people have been calling me a playmaker. I don’t think it should stop now. I think I’m here and I should keep making plays and working hard.”
Williams said he cannot wait to play with the veterans and work with Freeman, the quarterback he expects to be catching passes from this year.
“I want to make a big statement,” Williams said. “I want to go out there and work hard with the team. I want to be out here with the team. I’ll be back. I’m not going to miss any practices. I want to let them know that I am here to stay.”
The Syracuse product knows that just because he’s making plays in the rookie mini-camp doesn’t mean that he will automatically earn a starting assignment. After all, players like Reggie Brown, Maurice Stovall and Sammie Stroughter have a leg up on Williams due to their experience.
“Those guys are good,” Williams said. “They go out there and they make plays. Those are NFL receivers and I’m behind those guys right now. Hopefully I get the chance to learn from those guys and to earn some playing time.
“I feel like I have to earn where I have to get. I’ve got to earn playing time. If it happens, it happens.”
The 6-foot-1, 219-pound Benn is taking a more confident approach to his rookie season.
“I wouldn’t say set numbers,” Benn said. “I have some in my head and I don’t want to overdo myself. I’ll definitely be in the lineup and I’ll definitely have a lot of catches.
“I want to come here and be the guy. I want to be that guy who’s going to take it to the next level as far as the receiving group. Mike Williams is a great guy. He’s going to come bring it too, so I want to be that guy that they may not have always had, but I think with me and Mike we can be a tandem.”
By having another starting-caliber receiver like Williams in the fold, Benn is relieved to have some of the pressure taken off his shoulders during his rookie season.
“It’s going to help us a lot,” Benn said. “It’s not going to be on me to do everything. Mike is going to have some pressure also and he’s a great guy. We’re going to come out here together and help make each other great. We’re going to have a little competition against each other why we are doing it.”
Benn heard the reports about Williams having character issues at Syracuse and quickly dismissed them.
“[What is said about Mike Williams] is overhyped,” Benn said. “He’s a quiet guy. He seems cool from the little days that I’ve known him, so for the most part he’s a pretty good guy.
“He’s from upstate New York and I’m from down in [Washington] D.C., so it’s two different worlds [in some respects]. We just like to catch balls and touchdowns.”
Williams knows that he enters the NFL with a bad rap because of his disciplinary issues and academic issues at Syracuse, but is ready to shed the negative image that some may have of him.
“I definitely feel like I have something to prove,” Williams said. “People say I don’t work hard or that I’m bad off the field. I feel like I have something to prove. I’m here at this camp trying to prove myself.
“People think I’m a bad person that should be under the microscope. I want to let people know who I am and be under the microscope.”
Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris already believes that Williams is a good person, and based on his comments from the rookie mini-camp, he knows he’s a great player, too.
“You have to go out there and be consistent at wide receiver,” Morris said. “[Williams] practices well, and he practices hard. I love how he makes plays on the ball down the field. He’s promising, and it has been a great start for him. There are high expectations for this whole class, and he is living up to it right now.”
Morris is equally excited about Benn, who hasn’t made as many big plays downfield in practice, but has impressed the coaching staff with his ability to make plays against underneath coverages.
“The thing with Arrelious is when you watch his tape, after he catches the ball he is a punishing running back,” Morris said. “He does a great job of balancing his shoulders and controlling his weight. He lowers his shoulders down on the smaller defensive backs. He does a great job of getting skinny and fighting for extra yards. You got to see his underneath routes and drag routes, and his ability to turn up the field and become a physical presence. He is stepping into a situation where there is a bunch of receivers battling for playing time. He should fit into the mix nicely.”
Benn said his first exposure to the Buccaneers playbook and Greg Olson’s offense in the rookie mini-camp has gone well.
“It was easy [to adjust to the offense],” Benn said. “We picked it up like that (snaps his fingers). I know it’s not all of it and it’s just some basic things, but we retained a lot and it’s easy to retain and we just came out here and did it.
“The transition is good. I’m out here and it’s a learning process right now. That’s why I’m here to soak up everything that I can and just get acclimated with how things are run. I’m feeling good just coming out here and having fun. This is my team and this is my home.”
Williams also came away with a strong grasp of the offense during his first weekend in Tampa Bay.
“I learned a lot of the playbook,” Williams said. “I learned two positions on offense. I took away how they practice out here. They showed us how to practice and how they get up in the morning, have a walk-through and have a real practice in the afternoon. I learned a lot about how to be a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.”
Andrew Scavelli contributed to this report.