Roy Williams was only a rookie and just beginning to build his reputation as a hard-hitting safety the last time he was on the field with coach Dave Campo.

 Roy Williams was only a rookie and just beginning to build his reputation as a hard-hitting safety the last time he was on the field with coach Dave Campo.
During the last five seasons Campo was away from the Dallas Cowboys before coming back as secondary coach, Williams was a Pro Bowl player every year — and still the team’s second-leading tackler last season.
Yet, there have been mounting questions about Williams’ ability in pass coverage since he often watched from the sideline on obvious passing downs last year, and how he still fits into the Cowboys defense.
Williams certainly didn’t help change such perceptions when he admitted in a radio interview during the offseason that there were times he hoped passes weren’t thrown his way because he knew he couldn’t cover the receiver.
Then teammate Terence Newman, repeating what former coach Bill Parcells once told him, said Williams at times last season was “looking like a deer in the headlights” — though Newman later emphasized that he didn’t say that’s how Williams looked all the time.
“Sometimes when you hear a lot of negative things, you start to think maybe they’re right and it changes your mentality and how you go about things,” Campo said. “As far as I’m concerned, I’m as positive as I can be because I think the kid ... still has what it takes to be a Pro Bowl player.”
Walking off the field after practice at training camp long after the rest of his teammates had already gone inside, Williams said the criticism and the questions don’t surprise him. He considers that part of the job.
“The only thing that really bothered me is for people to say that I’m not a team player,” Williams said.
“You can say whatever you want but don’t question if I love my teammates or if I care for them.”
Sure he still wants to be on the field as much as possible, but Williams said he will do whatever he’s asked to do in the Cowboys defense. Even if that means coming off the field on certain plays.
Campo considers Williams an unquestionable starter, though after a week of training camp, it hasn’t been determined exactly what the safety’s overall role will be and in which packages he will play.
Along with his renewed Christian faith, Williams is wearing a new number (No. 38) and has rededicated himself as a player.
“I just have a new expectation of life. Things are totally different. I am living a different way and I am really excited about this season,” he said.
Jerry Jones can see a renewed focus in Williams, though the owner insists that Williams has nothing to prove to him.
“I don’t look at it that way. He’s not with me,” Jones said. “Coaches were talking about him the other day. He’s doing any and everything asked of him, and he’s really got a good feel of what we’re trying to do.”
Williams’ new spiritual attitude won’t change how hard he plans to play — or hit.
“I can’t believe people would even fathom the thought as far as me getting softer,” said Williams, who turns 28 next month. “People have been saying that I’m getting softer, my love for the game is going. I think that is foolish of people to say.”
Two years ago, Williams got a new contract through 2010. He is one of the NFL’s highest-paid safeties, making about $3.7 million this season.
Williams had worn No. 31 throughout his NFL career and the jersey used to be among the league’s top sellers. He decided at the end of last season to switch to No. 38 because “eight in the Bible is a new beginning.” It is also the number he wore in college at Oklahoma.
Bradie James, the only Cowboy with more tackles than Williams last season, appreciates the way the safety is approaching the season — and how that can help the Cowboys.
“He’s come out and he’s been working,” James said. “I think what he’s heard about himself, it’s put a fire under him. I’m happy, he can’t do anything but help us make more plays and win more games. So that’s good.”
Notes: CB Adam “Pacman” Jones again played on both sides during practice Wednesday. Jones had worked primarily on the right side behind starter Anthony Henry until starting left CB Terence Newman sustained a groin injury Monday that will have him out at least three weeks. ... Pro Bowl LB DeMarcus Ware left the field early from the morning practice feeling “dizzy a little bit” after getting “dinged in the head,” coach Wade Phillips said. Phillips said Ware was OK. ... Players were in shorts for the afternoon session, which was devoted to special teams.