The long wait for the Detroit Lions to have the services of talented rookie wideout Jameson Williams is almost over.
The Lions announced that the 2022 No. 12 overall pick returned to practice on Monday. Excitement was palpable, as the speedy wideout took another step closer to his NFL debut.
Williams had spent the entirety of the season, up to this point, rehabbing a torn ACL suffered in the 2022 College Football Playoff, while playing for Alabama.
There has been no announcement about when the rookie will play in his first game. However, the Lions will have a three-week window to decide whether to activate him.
Lions head coach Dan Campbell was non-committal when asked if Williams would need the full three-week window before playing in a game.
“Let’s see where he’s at,” Campbell said. “Because really, the rehab that he’s done now, even though this is technically not practice, if you will, it’s more walk-through mode. The things that he’ll do out there, starting (Monday) out there live, are much more football-oriented. We’ll just see where he can go, and see how fast he can get there.”
Campbell added that the rookie had remained involved while healing from the injury. Because of that, the team isn’t worried about how he’ll fit in.
“I just think they’re in the mode of, 'Who’s playing, who’s next to me? And let’s go,’” Campbell explained. “They’ll take it as it comes. Jamo’s been around them, he’s been in the meetings. There’s a good rapport, and when that time comes, he’ll earn the respect from his teammates, like the rest of those guys have.”
Campbell said he planned for Williams to run routes and catch passes from backup quarterback Tim Boyle on Monday, as he begins his return to action.
The eventual return of Williams will aid a Lions receiving corps that has been decimated by injury. Josh Reynolds has now missed three straight games, while DJ Chark returned from injured reserve Sunday after missing six games.
“He’s got so much speed, man,” said quarterback Jared Goff. “He’s got so much ability. Any way we can end up using him, whenever that time is (that) he comes back, will give us a boost some way, somehow. However many snaps that ends up being, however many balls he ends up catching, just having him on the field and having his ability to threaten people vertically and to turn a five-yard throw into a 60-yard gain. That type of stuff is dangerous.”
Campbell also spoke on the eventual impact that the young receiver will have on the offense.
“I know this, he can run,” Campbell added. “He can run, and that’s not hard to do. You either got it or you don’t, and he’s got it. So, in that regard, he can help.”
Williams showed off his big-play ability while playing in college for the Crimson Tide. In 2021, he caught 79 passes for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns. He was a first-team All-SEC selection, and earned All-America honors for his performance.
Coming off the injury, Campbell is expecting the rookie to deal with a typical learning curve for NFL rookies. Williams will be asked to do things on offense that the coaching staff believes will benefit him in his transition to the pros.
“There’ll be a learning curve, as there is with all those guys,” the head coach explained. “But, anything we ask him to do is gonna be things that we feel like he does well and he can help us with, that will set him up to have success, as well.”
Not looking ahead
Detroit has notched three consecutive wins for the first time since the 2017 season, which was the last season that it finished with a winning record.
Prior to this winning streak, Campbell had never won a game on the road as the head coach of the Lions. During this span, he’s doubled his total.
With optimism surrounding the team and its current direction, some believe that the Lions could make a late push at the wild card. However, Campbell is focusing on nothing more than the Buffalo Bills, which are the team’s Thanksgiving opponent.
“Nope, nope, I’m not,” Campbell said. “Because there again, we got to enjoy that game on the flight last night, and then it was done. When I got back here to the office, it was already Buffalo. That would’ve been nice to have a long week and enjoy it maybe a few hours longer, but that’s the nature of it.
“Man, we’re rolling, and none of it matters, in my opinion, if we don’t win this next one. So, we’re in a good place, the guys understand the things that we’re doing that are allowing us to win and we’ve gotta continue to do that. And, I know we can’t start thinking of other things and get ourselves out of the mold of what we’ve been the last three weeks and how we’ve been. We’ve gotta stay the course, just like we have.”