HOUSTON -- Mario Williams is still fuming about how the Houston Texans let him go.
Their up-and-down history began with the 2006 draft, when the Texans shocked everyone by making Williams the top overall pick and passed on Reggie Bush and former Houston prep star Vince Young. It looked like the wise choice after Williams set the team’s single-season sacks record in 2007 (14) and was chosen a Pro Bowl starter after the 2008 and ‘09 seasons.
Williams’ next two seasons were cut short by injuries, and his contract expired after last year. Instead of breaking the bank to keep him, the Texans let him walk and signed running back Arian Foster to a long-term extension. Williams, meanwhile, signed a six-year, $100 million contract with Buffalo.
With J.J. Watt emerging as the dominant force many thought Williams would become, the Texans (6-1) have gotten along just fine without "Super Mario," still their career sacks leader. Williams, meanwhile, has failed to live up to his contract with Buffalo (3-4), producing all of 16 tackles with 3 ½ sacks.
He’s expecting to hear nothing but boos on Sunday when he and the Bills face his former team at Reliant Stadium. But he also wishes the Houston fans would consider his explanation of why he no longer plays there.
"It is a decision that the general manager (Rick Smith) made," Williams said. "Opened the door and pretty much gave me a one way exit. That was it. At the end of the day it is what it is. It is part of the business. People do not realize what really happened at that point in time. That is fine. The fans can only go off of what they hear everybody else say. It is part of the game. I am here now and just have to make the best of it."
Williams felt like the Texans weren’t even willing to negotiate when free agency began. He said Houston never even made him an offer.
"It is the simple fact of everybody looks at it like you just up and left," he said. "You do not know the fact of basically being told, ‘We are not giving you anything as far as an offer or anything like that.’ Your hands are tied in that aspect. Everybody else looks at it like that you just went into free agency and left.
"Obviously there was plenty of time for things to be done and it was not," he said. "That is fine with me. I just wish everybody else that runs their mouth, says this and that knew the whole story about it before making a decision about me—just abandoning the fans, the team and everything else like that—that is not my role. I am not that type of guy."
A Texans spokesman said Smith would not respond to Williams’ comments. All Williams can do now is have a big game against his former team. He said his left wrist feels fine after minor surgery during the Bills’ bye week.
"I have something extra to prove in general," Williams said. "Definitely, with everything going on, it has not been the way I really wanted it—going out, making an impact and just being better to help the team win. It is just a coincidence (that) it is this week after the bye week. Everybody has time off to kind of regroup and look at things. Just happened to be against this team."
Houston coach Gary Kubiak says the best way to neutralize a fierce pass rusher is to run the ball effectively, which means there’s big game potential for Foster, the AFC’s second-leading rusher. Buffalo ranks 31st in total defense (424.1 yards per game) and last against the run (176.9 yards per game), while Houston is averaging 141 yards rushing per game. Foster has topped 100 yards by himself three times this season, but the Texans are averaging only 3.98 yards per rush, 18th in the league.
"We need some more big plays," Kubiak said. "We had one big play out of Arian down in New York on the Monday night, but we’ve got to find him some more space and some big plays. If we do that, all that takes a couple big plays and your average goes up."
Ben Tate is questionable with a hamstring injury and Justin Forsett will move into the backup role behind Foster, who leads the league with 168 carries.
The Bills’ best hope may be controlling possession with running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. Buffalo ranks fourth in rushing offense (150 yards per game).
"That is just part of us and our identity," Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. "I think we have two real talented tailbacks and two guys that we need to get the ball. They are explosive players. That is something we try to do all of the time, just get them their touches. We expect them to make big plays for us."