Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams has elected to opt out of the 2020 NFL season due to concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Williams, the Chiefs' starting running back for the team's Super Bowl 54 victory and playoff run, was likely to split significant reps at running back, presumably starting the offseason ahead of rookie running back and first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Chiefs GM Brett Veach addressed Williams' decision in a statement posted by the Chiefs' Twitter account.
"As an organization, we certainly understand and respect Damien’s choice, knowing it was made in the best interest of his family," Veach said. "He means a lot to our football team as a player and a person, and we’re going to miss having him around this season.”
This makes Williams the second Chiefs player to opt out of the season, following guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif's decision late last week.
While Williams and Edwards-Helaire figured to highlight the Chiefs' running back position, the Chiefs retain some familiar depth at the position, plus a new addition from this offseason.
Darwin Thompson, a sixth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, will be entering his second season with the team, and Darrel Williams, a former LSU back and UDFA acquisition in 2018, will be entering year three. Darrel Williams had a solid stretch in 2019 before a season-ending injury, and Thompson got limited looks in 2019.
The Chiefs also added former Oakland Raiders running back DeAndre Washington in April, bringing a new back into the fold.
Even with those names at RB, the Chiefs' biggest sure-thing at the position is now out of the picture. Williams earned his role in the offense due to his route-running, sure hands, excellent pass-blocking, and the confidence of head coach Andy Reid. Edwards-Helaire and the rest of the group will have to prove that they're capable of producing the same way in 2020.