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Williams feeling comfortable in second stint with Saskatchewan Roughriders

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The knee injury that forced Shomari Williams to watch last year's Grey Cup is delaying his official return to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Saskatchewan selected Williams first overall in the 2010 draft and he spent three seasons there before signing as a free agent with Hamilton in February 2013. However, the six-foot-one, 232-pound Toronto native played just six games with the Ticats before suffering a season-ending knee injury.

In February, Hamilton dealt Williams, punter Josh Bartel and the eighth pick in the '14 draft to Saskatchewan for the ninth and 11th overall selections. Williams reported for the start of training camp Sunday but isn't practising as he continues to rehab his knee.

"It's coming along, I'm just trying to get the strength in both knees as close as possible," he said. "I feel I'm good to go and the coaches feel I'm good to go so it's all good, we're just taking it easy."

Missing time in training camp with a new team can be catastrophic for a CFL player. Fortunately for Williams, 29, he's in very familiar surroundings.

"I was definitely a little shocked (by the trade) but I've learned over the course of my career to always expect the unexpected," Williams said. "But if you're going to be traded, it's good to go to a team you have familiarity with, the coaching staff and players.

"I think it's kind of a perfect fit that way."

Well, kind of.

While Williams is back with his original team, he's one of the few returning veterans not sporting a specific gaudy piece of jewelry. Last week, members of the '13 Riders received their stunning 10-karat white gold, 122-diamond Grey Cup rings celebrating Saskatchewan's 45-23 victory over Hamilton in November at Mosaic Stadium.

"Yeah, I am pretty envious but what can you do," Williams said. "All I can do is try to win one this year."

Williams came close to earning a Grey Cup with Saskatchewan in 2010, dressing as a rookie for the club's 21-18 loss to Montreal.

Williams, who helped Queen's win the '09 Vanier Cup, registered 88 tackles and five sacks along with 32 special-teams tackles in his first go-around in Saskatchewan. He's also a versatile performer, capable to playing defensive end, inside or outside middle linebacker.

Williams is also familiar with defensive co-ordinator Richie Hall's schemes. And with the departures of linebackers Craig Butler (free agent, Hamilton), Rey Williams and Mike McCullough (both retired), Williams could fill a definite need.

"It (Hall's defence) is almost the same as it was before I left," Williams said. "Everything seems suited to my skillset.

"The more we get into camp and put in the blitz packages and stuff like that, things will get creative and help utilize my skills a lot more."

Saskatchewan is scheduled to open the regular season hosting Hamilton on July 3. It won't be a grudge match for Williams, who has no animosity towards the Ticats for trading him. In fact, he wishes he could've contributed more to their '13 season.

"I was hurt most of the year, I can't really say too much about it," said Williams, who also battled an ankle ailment with Hamilton. "It was disappointing in that sense.

"We play our first game against Hamilton and I'll be looking to have the best game of my life. But your goal every week is to come back and try to be the best you can be, it doesn't matter which game you're playing."

Of course, that's assuming the CFL regular season starts on time.

The league and CFL Players' Association are currently at an impasse in contract talks. A players' strike is looming that potentially could impact the start of the season.

Last week, the CFL presented the players its final offer and has since turned down two separate union proposals. The old collective bargaining agreement expired last Thursday.

"It's unfortunate with how things have played out," Williams said. "I would've hoped the league would've treated us a little better just in the sense there's not even a discussion taking place.

"I'm kind of disappointed in that."

While Williams remains committed to playing football in 2014, he'll support the union if a work stoppage is called.

"We're all in this together from the players' perspective," he said. "I'd definitely support the players but it would be unfortunate if it did happen.

"Hopefully we can all come together."

Once the season begins, Williams will readily assume the Riders' mindset of being the defending CFL champion.

"Now that they've won it they (Riders) know what to do and what the level of expectation is for everybody," Williams said. "I wasn't part of the culture last year so my job is to fit in as well as I can and take on that championship mentality.

"That's not to say I don't have it but things are done differently on different teams. It's about me fitting into the culture they had last year and keep building on that."

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