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Patriots sign James Williams

FOXBOROUGH, Mass.- The New England Patriots signed Pro Bowl offensive tackle James Williams tonight. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Williams, 36, is a veteran of 12 NFL seasons, playing in 166 games with 143 starts for the Chicago Bears from 1991-2002. The 6-foot-7-inch, 332-pound lineman started at right tackle in 134 consecutive games for the Bears, including every game in his final eight seasons in Chicago. He earned a Pro Bowl nod following the 2001 campaign, a season in which he also earned All-Pro honors from the Associated Press. The Allerdice, Pa., native has also excelled on special teams in his career, owning nine blocked kicks.

Williams, nicknamed "Big Cat", was signed by the Bears as an undrafted free agent in 1991 as a defensive lineman out of Cheyney (Pa.) State. He played in 19 games as a reserve defensive tackle in his first two pro seasons, and then began a transition to the offensive line following the 1992 season. After playing three games at his new position in 1993, he became a mainstay on Chicago's offensive line at the beginning of the 1994 season, taking over the right tackle job that he held for nine years.

In 2001, he was selected by his teammates as the veteran winner of the Brian Piccolo Award, given to a Chicago veteran and a rookie who best exemplifies, courage, loyalty, teamwork and dedication.

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