Allen Park — Finally, the wait is over.
The Detroit Lions announced Monday that first-round draft pick Jameson Williams will begin practicing this week, more than 10 months after he suffered a torn ACL in the College Football Playoff championship game with the University of Alabama.
With Williams’ return to practice, the Lions are starting a three-week acclimation period for the receiver, which they will likely fully use before adding him to the active roster. That puts the rookie on track to debut Dec. 18, when the team travels back to New York to battle the Jets.
The Lions moved up 20 spots in the first round of April’s draft, swapping picks with the Minnesota Vikings, to snag Williams. One of the nation’s fastest players and most-productive receivers in 2021, he caught 79 passes for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns in his lone year with the Tide. He added two more scores as a part-time kickoff returner for the school.
Williams’ return can’t come some enough for a struggling Lions passing attack. After a hot start to the season, quarterback Jared Goff’s arsenal of weapons has been depleted by both injury and the trade of tight end T.J. Hockenson to the Vikings.
Through four games, Goff was averaging 281 yards passing and nearly three touchdowns. In the past six games, those averages have sharply dipped to 219 yards and 0.7 touchdowns.
That said, Williams is unlikely to immediately see an extensive workload after he’s activated. The team has been extremely cautious with many of its players returning from injury, including receiver DJ Chark, who logged just 11 snaps in his first game off injured reserve Sunday against the New York Jets.
Williams’ path to playing time might more closely mirror cornerback Jerry Jacobs, who also returned from a torn ACL in the middle of this season. He was largely limited to special teams his first two games back, before entering a timeshare on defense in his third week.
Assuming Williams does return against the Jets, and the Lions don’t make an unexpected playoff push, that will leave him four games to gain some valuable experience before the end of the season.