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Saturday, Jun 23, 2018
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs concerned with WR Williams’ off-field issues

TAMPA — Seven months after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Mike Williams to a $40.25 million contract, the club’s new regime is grappling with a series of off-field issues plaguing the fifth-year wide receiver.

Williams, 26, faces an arraignment Monday on criminal mischief and trespassing charges. In an unrelated case, Williams was named a defendant in a Hillsborough County lawsuit filed in December, demanding him to pay more than $43,000 for damage to the Lutz home he was renting.

Williams no longer resides at the spacious house in the gated Sanctuary on Livingston community, but his former next-door neighbor, John Hagensicker, said the home was a frequent party destination, marked by blaring music into the wee hours of the night and cars strewn all around the property.

“It was awful,’’ Hagensicker said Friday. “If I hadn’t been here and somebody tried to describe the scene, I wouldn’t have believed it. This is an extraordinarily quiet neighborhood, but his parties kept me awake a lot and I saw fire trucks there on at least two occasions. I was having cars drive across my lawn on a regular basis. All in all, it was a nightmare.’’

The lawsuit filed against Williams by landlord Warren Gold sought $43,300 to pay for damages to the property. According to the suit, Williams agreed to pay the amount in a November settlement agreement executed in Hillsborough County, but failed to do so by the agreed upon deadline.

Efforts to reach Williams on Friday were unsuccessful.

Gold’s attorney, Anthony Surber, said Friday through a representative at his Tampa firm that he would not comment on the matter.

Stephen Romine, the attorney defending Williams in the criminal mischief and trespassing charges, said he anticipates a “favorable resolution’’ in the matter. Romine said Williams will not be present for Monday’s scheduled court date because he has filed an arraignment waiver.

Monday’s hearing will likely result in a new court date being set, said Romine.

Tampa Bay’s new football braintrust, head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht, have already expressed their concerns with Williams’ off-field behavior.

“Have I been disappointed in Mike Williams? Of course,’’ said Smith, who replaced Greg Schiano after the Bucs went 4-12 last season. “There’s a standard. We’re just not going to put up with it.’’

Teammate Davin Joseph defended Williams — up to a point.

“Mike’s learning from his mistakes,’’ said Tampa Bay’s veteran guard and offensive captain. “Is Mike Williams a good person? My answer is yes. Is he physically hurting anybody? No. Is he doing foolish things? Yes.

“But there’s a lot more in the positive category with Mike Williams than the negative. His locker is right next to mine. Am I biased? Heck yes, I’m biased. He’s doing young, foolish things. It’s all about maturity, all about growing.’’

Off-field issues have swirled around Williams before. When the Bucs selected Williams out of Syracuse in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft, his pro stock had slipped.

In college, Williams missed the entire 2008 season because of an academic suspension. In 2009, he was suspended one game for breaking team rules and then Williams quit the team with four games remaining.

“I wouldn’t bring somebody in here if I didn’t feel comfortable about it,’’ former Bucs GM Mark Dominik said on the day Williams was drafted. “I don’t think anybody spent more time with this kid than the Bucs did, and I think we’re going to reap the rewards for it.’’

Last summer, one the eve of training camp, Dominik and Schiano sat with Williams at One Buc Place for a news conference to announce a new six-year deal.

A jubilant Williams said he was blessed to be a Buccaneer and talked about silencing his critics along the way.

“It kind of put a chip on my shoulder to prove everybody wrong,’’ he said of his plunging draft profile in the spring of 2010. “But then I thought about it and decided to just be Mike and show them who you really are. I’ve kind of been proving to people that I’m not that guy they thought I was.’’

In the middle of his rookie season, Williams was arrested on suspicion of DUI, but the charge was later dropped.

Williams proved to be a productive target for former Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman in both 2010 and 2012, but a torn hamstring limited him to only six games and 22 catches last season before he was placed on injured reserve for the rest of the year.

Williams’ agent, Hadley Engelhard, said he talked with Tampa Bay management during the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis Thursday to discuss his client’s status with the team.

“I’ve met with the Bucs and we’re all on the same page,’’ he said. “We’re all going to work on this thing together. Mike is a great player and he’s making better decisions now.’’

Tampa Bay’s offense ranked last in the league in 2013 and Williams is the only proven wide receiver on the roster besides veteran Vincent Jackson.

Williams is guaranteed $1.2 million in base salary next season and $5.2 million in 2015. If the Bucs released him this year, Williams would count $6.4 million against Tampa Bay’s salary cap.

Licht was asked on Thursday whether Williams has anything to prove to the club’s new regime.

“He has to prove he shouldn’t make headlines off the field,’’ Licht said. “Let’s start with that.’’

According to Joseph, Williams is experiencing growing pains.

“I think sometimes people forget that people make mistakes,’’ Joseph said. “Especially when you’re in your 20s. Sometimes, you have to learn the hard way. Some people just have to touch the stove, but then they learn. He’s going through a process right now, but Mike’s a good teammate. He competes hard and everyone in our locker room loves the guy.’’

Back in Lutz, Hagensicker has been sleeping more peacefully in the three months since Williams vacated the property next door.

“Our houses are about 100 feet apart and the noise and constant partying was unbearable,’’ Hagensicker said. “I hope Mike Williams gets things squared away. Until he does, everyone around him is going to suffer.’’

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