Jameson Williams will not make his NFL debut until October at the earliest.
The Detroit Lions transferred their rookie wide receiver to the reserve/nonfootball injury list Tuesday, meaning he must miss at least the first four games of the regular season.
The No. 12 pick of April’s NFL draft, Williams has not practiced with the Lions this summer and the team has pledged to take things slowly in his return from a torn ACL.
Williams suffered the injury in Alabama’s national championship game loss to Georgia in January. He has kept his rehab mostly behind closed doors during training camp, but he traveled with the team to joint practices last week against the Indianapolis Colts and has been a fixture on the field observing workouts in Allen Park.
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“I think any and all of this stuff is great for him,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said last week. “For somebody that’s young and learning what it needs to be or what it needs to look like, this is good.”
The Lions have declined to put a timetable on Williams’ return, but a realistic target is around midseason.
Williams underwent reconstructive surgery in January, a procedure that involved taking a piece of tissue from his patella tendon to build a new ACL, and started running straight-line sprints in the spring.
The Lions made five roster moves Tuesday to get down to the NFL’s 80-player roster limit.
Along with moving Williams to reserve/NFI, they placed Romeo Okwara (Achilles), Josh Paschal (hernia) and Jason Cabinda (ankle) on the reserve/physically unable to perform list and released linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton.
Players on NFI and PUP must miss at least the first four games of the regular season, meaning the earliest Williams, Okwara, Paschal and Cabinda could return is Oct. 9 against the New England Patriots.
In previous years, NFL teams had to wait until final cuts to move players to the in-season NFI or PUP lists.
Okwara appears far away from returning from the Achilles tendon injury he suffered last October, while Paschal, the Lions’ second-round pick in April, underwent a version of sports hernia surgery this spring. Cabinda is dealing with an ankle injury.
The Lions have one player still on PUP who counts towards their 80-player roster limit: Cornerback Jerry Jacobs.
Campbell said Monday the team still is trying to determine how early Jacobs will be able to contribute in the regular season. Jacobs made nine starts at cornerback as an undrafted rookie last season before tearing his ACL in December.
The Lions are thin at cornerback, with Jeff Okudah and Will Harris competing for the starting job opposite Amani Oruwariye.
“So much of it is when do we think some of those players will be ready,” Campbell said. “Week 2? And (if you put them on PUP) then you lose them for the first four weeks of the season, which, that’s OK. But yet if we think somebody’ll be ready to practice, for example Jerry, let’s say Week 1, but he won’t be ready to play for a bit, two or three more weeks or something, you just, you want to get him practice time. He needs practice once everything’s right, so we’re kind of gauging that right now.”
The Lions close the preseason Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
NFL teams have until 4 p.m. next Tuesday to set their initial 53-man roster.