Dan Campbell: Rookie WR Jameson Williams won’t be ready for start of training camp

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Lions won’t have one of their first-round picks on the field for the start of training camp next month, and there’s a chance they might not have their second-round choice, either.

Lions coach Dan Campbell said on the final day of mandatory minicamp Thursday he does not expect rookie receiver Jameson Williams to return from the torn ACL he suffered in January until at least later this summer.

“I don’t see him being ready for training camp,” Campbell said. “I don’t see that. I’m very hopeful, but I don’t see it. We’re going to do this thing the right way and when he’s ready he’ll be ready. But, no, I don’t feel like you’re going to see him out there Day 1.”

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The Lions have said they plan to proceed carefully with Williams since trading up to get him with the No. 12 pick of the draft.

Williams injured his left knee in Alabama’s national championship game loss to Georgia on Jan. 10 and underwent surgery a few days later.

He spent most of the spring rehabbing at the Andrews Institute in Gulf Breeze, Fla., and his surgeon, Dr. Lyle Cain, told the Free Press in May that Williams’ knee would be healthy enough to play this summer.

“Jameson’s goal is to play first preseason game, obviously,” Cain said. “I told him, I said, ‘Look, depending on which team you go to, most teams are probably — they’re going to be very conservative. You’ve got to understand that.’ And he’ll get talked into it, but I know he’s, in his mind said he’s going to be ready Game 1.”

Williams averaged nearly 20 yards a catch in his lone season at Alabama and was considered the most explosive receiver in the draft.

Lions general manager Brad Holmes said after the draft he expects Williams to play at some point this season, but that the Lions’ depth at receiver would allow them to bring Williams along slowly.

The Lions return their top four receivers from a season ago, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond and Quintez Cephus, and signed DJ Chark in free agency.

In all likelihood, Williams will open training camp on the physically unable to perform list.

Players are eligible to come off the PUP list at anytime during camp. If they start the regular season on the list, they must miss at least the first six weeks of the regular season.

Campbell said Williams will spend most of the summer rehabbing in Detroit and that the team “has a plan for him moving forward.” At some point, he said, it will be important for Williams to get practice reps with quarterback Jared Goff and in the offense to be ready to contribute this fall.

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“Look, we want to get him out there as fast as possible, and is it crucial? It is crucial, but not until he gets his strength up,” Campbell said. “He needs a lot of strength development int hat body. His lower extremity, his legs, his knees, everything, so until he’s able to stabilize himself and really get some strength that we feel good about to where he can protect himself, he can protect that knee and he can compete and compete at a high level, we’re not going to put him out there.”

Campbell said the Lions will take a similarly cautious approach with second-round pick Josh Paschal, who missed all of minicamp with a lower extremity injury.

Campbell said Paschal’s injury is related to one that caused him to miss time late season at Kentucky.

Asked if Paschal, who is expected to play as a rotational defensive lineman this fall, also could miss the start of training camp, Campbell said, “We’re just taking it as it comes right now, so we’ll see with all those guys. (Jeff) Okudah, included.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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