The last time Buffalo's defensive line coach was lining up on Sundays in the NFL he was doing so alongside the best pass rusher on Buffalo's roster. Anthony Weaver spent the last three seasons of his NFL career in Houston with the Texans where he was a teammate and linemate of Mario Williams. Fast forward five years and Weaver will now be in charge of coaching him.
One might assume that the dynamic of the relationship would need to change considerably, but Weaver isn't concerned about the new coach-player relationship with his former teammate.
"I don't think it'll be strange at all," Weaver told Buffalobills.com. "I think our relationship having played together won't change much at all. I think it'll be a huge plus for us. We pushed each other as players and I think the great thing about me and him is we always an open, honest communication. I think any relationship, player-coach, coach-to-coach, it can be nothing but a positive."
Weaver doesn't deny that his role with Williams will be different as his position coach now.
"For sure, but at the same time we're pulling the same rope the same way and I know Mario. I know what makes him tick. I know his work ethic," Weaver said. "I know how tough he is and I know he wants to be great and not just for his own legacy, but for his teammates, for his coaches, for this city and I'm here to help make sure he realizes all of that."
Williams logged 10.5 sacks last season in a year where he fought a wrist injury that required surgery midseason and played in a system that rarely brought extra pressure. Weaver insists that Buffalo's new defense won't be lacking in pressure packages.
"That's something as a staff that we'll decide where we want to put him to be the most successful," said Weaver. "While he will be in my room, he'll play multiple positions along our defense. We'll put him in multiple positions to be successful."
Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who was on the Baltimore staff when Weaver played for the Ravens, and had him on his defensive staff in New York with the Jets, believes his defensive line coach is well equipped to handle the unique situation of coaching a former teammate.
"When I look at Anthony I think he's mature beyond his years. He's an outstanding communicator, an outstanding coach and I think he's smart enough to realize too that he's going to maintain that professional distance," said Pettine. "I think the coach to player relationship here is a little bit different. I think the coach to player relationship is much more of a peer type thing than it is at maybe a college level or high school level where there's more a position of authority. To me I've always felt coaching in the NFL that you're working with these guys. You're not talking down to them. You're giving them information that helps them be successful."
Weaver still remembers when he came to realize the expansive talent of Willams' personal game. It was the first day he lined up for practice with the Texans in 2006 after signing with the club as a free agent.
"Day one," he said. "As soon as you walked in and you saw him move you realized that this is rare. I used to call him 'Freakzilla' because you just don't see men of his size with his speed and athletic ability. You just don't see it. His predecessor I guess was Julius Peppers, a guy that kind of moved around like him, but he's bigger than Julius. Just a phenomenal talent."
Weaver's three seasons with Williams as a teammate earned him the respect of the defensive end, and that's important as the defensive line coach works to earn the respect of the rest of his defensive linemen in Buffalo.
"I think that the big thing is because of my background as a player I've been through those battles and I know what those guys are going through throughout the course of a 16-game season and all the ups or the downs," said Weaver. "I know what they're going through. I've been through that. So I can help them through those battles."
That's why Pettine wanted Weaver on his staff so badly. His playing experience in his defensive scheme gives him a leg up not only with his players, but the defensive staff as well.
"He's somebody that played in this system in Baltimore. He can really give the player's perspective. He's lined up in those defenses. He's played those blocking patterns himself, which to me gives him an advantage over everyone on the staff," said Pettine. "The fact now that he's coached it and he did an outstanding job for us in New York. You look at Muhammad Wilkerson, he was an integral part of why he had a breakout year this year. I think people will realize soon enough that Anthony is a great teacher and a great communicator."