Bears kick returner and wide receiver Chris Williams is the smallest man on Chicago's roster, yet he…
First off, I just wanted to thank the Bears organization for an incredible 16 years. Being a Chicago Bear this long, the McCakseys are like family. I'd like to thank Mrs. McCaskey and her family for all they've done for me. It's been an honor to be a Bear and represent them throughout my career. And were it not for the late Mark Hatley and his staff, I never would have been a Bear. So I'd like to thank them and Coach Wannstedt and his staff for bringing me into the NFL. To be fortunate enough to play 16 years, I could be here all day thanking everyone who has helped me during my career. But I will be spending the next few weeks reaching out to each and every one of them and thanking them all. I do have one final thing: I'd like to thank all my teammates over the years for making the last 16 years of my life so unforgettable.
It's been a long six months, five months or whatever it's been. I went through last year. And you never know if it's going to be your last year. I was going to become a free agent and did not know if I was going to have a chance to have a contract offer. What (general manager) Phil (Emery) offered me over the offseason was to kind of let me make my decision, which I was honored and floored when he offered that after the year. And that's another thing. I'd like to thank Phil for that. It's never easy to retire. But that made this decision a lot easier – to go through that (decision-making process) knowing that I had an opportunity for a job. But as I've said before, I wanted to go all-in with my rehab, working out, everything. And I said I'd listen to my body. And my body's tapping me on the back and saying, ‘That's it, bud. I think you're done.' So it's been an awesome 16 years. And I'm fortunate to be able to walk away. People always say that. But I am. The body is just done. Time to move on to other things in life and look forward to the next chapter.
EVERY CONSIDERED COACHING?
I'll never rule that one out. That's something that's always in the back of my mind. I love football more than anything in the world. But right now, I just want to step back and enjoy some time by myself and we'll see in the future. I've talked to some people about it. That's something I've looked into. So we'll see.
WILL YOUR INJURED HIP ALLOW YOU TO LEAD A NORMAL LIFE?
I hope so. The doctor talked – I have a pretty old hip, I guess you'd call it. I'm still having some issues with it now. It's a lot better. I can function in daily life better. I just started picking up a golf club two weeks ago. So that's a big deal in my life. But it is, it's something that's just there. It's something that has bothered me for 6-8 years of my career. And then last year it got really bad. But I'm hoping the surgery can put off a bigger surgery later on in life. That was another reason I was rehabbing and am still rehabbing as hard as I can. I want to be able to live a normal life. Not limp around and ache every time I walk. I'm trying my best to make sure that, after 16 years, no I'm not going to feel perfect, I'm not going to feel great, but I'm wanting to feel pretty darn good.
MOST MEMORABLE GAMES
That's a good question. Of course I've got to go back to the 2006 NFC Championship Game. I guess it would be the 2007 year. That was pretty special just celebrating with your fans in your home stadium is pretty awesome, and then knowing that you get to go live a dream by playing in a Super Bowl was great. Another game I'll never forget was the first game of my career against Jacksonville. I remember looking between my legs before the first snap of the game and Todd Sauerbrun was sitting back there and I actually told myself to take a little mental snapshot. That's something I'll never forget. And then just all the games at Soldier Field. Running out of the tunnel and hearing the crowd, those have been amazing. But those are the two that probably stick out the most.
WAS THIS DECISION HARDER THAN YOU THOUGHT IT WOULD BE?
It was. It really was. But it's been easy by the fact that I truly wanted to be honest with myself and how I felt. Like I said, last year was difficult to go through with just numerous things. Just being older, it's tough to get going every day. Like I said, I was going to let the body tell me and the body is telling me. It's not only is my hip bothering me. My left knee from my ACL is starting to give me issues. Things are just start aching; elbows, shoulders, all that stuff when I got in to lifting heavy and working as hard as I could, I feel 39 years old.
DID YOU CONSULT WITH FORMER TEAMMATES ABOUT RETIREMENT?
I didn't. I wanted this to be my decision. I didn't want to be influenced by anybody else. My wife has been unbelievable through this. We've been married 16 years today is our anniversary. We know each other so well. She knew not to bug me. She can read my body language. She's 100 percent supportive. She wasn't one to throw out, ‘Why are you doing this?' She let me make my decision. That made it a lot more easy and a lot more comfortable.
INVOLVEMENT WITH BEARS ORGANIZATION GOING FORWARD
I've had no discussions with them. I feel like I said that they're my family. I don't know what will go on there. Hopefully I'm allowed in the stadium to watch some games. Marc Trestman and I talked. He is an unbelievable person. He's obviously doing a lot with bringing guys back and letting them be around. So I foresee me coming into the building every now and then and seeing all my friends, and not just my teammates but the co-workers, the Tony Medlins, the Chris Hanks, Carl Piekarski, all the guys that make the system go. Those are still some of my best friends and always will be.
HOW DO YOU ENVISION SUNDAYS?
The one thing I did think is I won't be staring out my window before the game to see how bad the wind's blowing at Soldier Field, so I don't have to worry about that anymore. I don't know. I'll obviously watch the games. Those are some of my best friends I'll be pulling for. But I don't know where … I'll be in Chicago, but I don't know what I'll be doing. And the stress level on Sunday morning will be a lot less.
AT WHAT POINT DID YOU KNOW YOU COULD MAKE LIVING AS A SPECIALIST?
My junior year. We were lucky. We had two great coaches. One was Joe Delamielleure was our O-line coach there. And Bob Trott was the other. Joe Delamielleure was a Hall of Famer, and Bob Trott has been an NFL assistant for a long time. They mentioned to me when scouts would come in looking at the seniors, that hey, you've got a skill that could last a long time in the NFL. Make sure you keep working on it. You could possibly get a job with that. So I would say my junior year. And the funny thing is, I was dating my (now) wife at the time. My senior year comes along. She wanted to know, ‘What are we going to do?' I said, ‘Well, I have a chance to be a long snapper in the NFL.' Her quote was, ‘That's a job?' And lo and behold it turned into one. But that would be my junior year.
Yeah, I have. I have talked to quite a few people, not just in the last few weeks, but my whole career, my whole life. I've got ideas I'd like to do or try. We'll see, leave that in the future. And I'm going to sit down and talk to some more people here in the future and see what's out there. I don't envision me jumping full steam into anything right away. I'd like to, like I said, step back a little bit and figure out what's best for me and my family.
ANY TEAMMATES OR CHARACTERS STAND OUT?
Well, you know one of them. No. 57, Olin Kreutz. We came in together. We've got a pretty special relationship. He sent me a pretty cool text this morning from Hawaii.
ONCE YOU DECIDED TO RETIRE, WERE YOU AT PEACE?
It was a peace. It was almost like a weight came off my shoulders. It has been a lot of hard work, a lot of days that you don't question why you're doing it, but it just gets harder to do it. I was out in San Diego for a while, and I had two weeks by myself when my family wasn't there, and that was a great time for me to really reflect and almost spend two weeks by myself and think about things. But it definitely was a weight off my shoulder when I decided because it has been a lot of hard work, a lot of maintenance, a lot of extra time trying to get through these aches and pains. The body, it's just time to be done and not deal with that anymore.
WERE YOU GIVEN AN OFFER TO STAY?
There was not really an offer. I guess, yeah, if I would like to come back and feel good enough, I had a chance to come back and compete and earn my roster spot back. I guess if you could call that an offer, that's an offer.
TEE TIME TODAY? LOOKING FORWARD TO IT?
I'm nervous to get on that first tee. I can't wait. I saw it last year and I got jealous of Robbie doing it, and it was a nice offer to be asked to do it this year. obviously I love golf. It will be a cool stage to be on in front of the people and play with those pros, guys that I watch every Saturday and Sunday on TV. It will be an exciting two days.
WHERE ARE YOU PLAYING?
At the compass championship, the senior PGA Tour event at Northshore Country Club.
TALK TO ANY OF THE BEARS' NEW SNAPPERS?
I knew Brandon from before but I have not met Chad. What I hear from Robbie is they're doing great and he believes they're NFL-ready, which makes me more comfortable with my decision. And that's part of it, too: I don't want to let Robbie down or the team down if they can't be left with somebody that can get the ball back to them like it needs to be done. I know it can be a difficult job to do from college to the pros, so I just want to make sure Robbie and the punters are good.
Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.