Safties are "already clicking"

Strong safety Shaun Williams appears to be fitting in very well with the Panthers defense. Since his arrival, he's been working as the starting strong safety, playing alongside longtime starter Mike Minter, the team's free safety. Minter said even though the two have not played a game together yet, it feels a little like they've been working with each for years.

"We're already clicking," Minter said. "If I tell him something, he understands what I'm trying to say. That is the good thing. We are communicating well. That is the biggest thing with safeties, you have to communicate and know what the other guy is going to do before he does it. So we don't have to go through that learning phase.

"Now we're just working out how we're going to trick people. If I come down, what are you going to do? If I'm coming over to play this guy, how are you going to play that, and vice versa. I mean the guy has been in the league, so it's not like he's a rookie. He understands football. When he came here all he had to learn was the new terminology and that didn't take long."

Williams said the decision to sign with Carolina this off-season was a "no-brainer."

Not only was he familiar with coach John Fox, having played with him from 1998-2001 when Fox was the Giants defensive coordinator, but the Panthers also offered him a chance to start, something his former team was not.

Defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac likes the way Williams has meshed with the rest of the defense.

"Shaun is a fine human being and he knows football," Trgovac said. "He wants to be around this team and this defense and he came in here and we couldn't be more pleased with him.

"He doesn't have a big ego and he just wants to fit in. That is what we're all about around. We have some players on this defense that, maybe on the outside, are considered superstars. But even Julius Peppers, he's about as down-to-earth a guy as there is."

If Williams is able to stay healthy and hold off competition from Colin Branch, who is recovering from a major knee injury, and fourth-round pick Nate Salley, then the Panthers will have plenty NFL experience at safety.

Williams is beginning his ninth NFL season and has started 60 career games and played in 92. Minter has started a franchise-record 125 games during his nine seasons with the Panthers. Together, they've started 11 postseason games.

Williams said working with Minter has made the transition from the Giants very easy.

"Yeah, he's a professional and a guy I really get along with," Williams said. "He's very knowledgeable about the game and this defense in particular.

"Of course I've been playing this game for a number of years and there's not too much I haven't seen or haven't done. But working with Mike here makes it a lot easier."

A former first-round draft pick by the Giants in 1998, Williams doesn't have great speed, but at 6-foot-2 and 218 pounds he's a fairly big safety who can deliver a big pop.

The big question facing Williams, however, is if he can stay on the field.

He's missed 28 games over the past three seasons because of injuries.

His streak of 58 straight starts ended in 2003 when he tore the lateral meniscus in his right knee. A year later he missed 14 games with the same injury in the other knee. He was demoted to backup last season and played in only eight games because of a hamstring injury.

Said Trgovac: "Anytime a guy has been injured, you worry. But we haven't seen any sign of that yet."

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