Jameson Williams has not played a football game in almost 11 months, but when he returns to the field sometime in December the Detroit Lions are counting on him to impact their offense in one very important way.
“I know this, he can run,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said Monday. “He can run, so — and that’s not hard to do. You either got it or you don’t, and he’s got it. In that regard, he can help.”
Williams practiced Monday for the first time since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee Jan. 10 in Alabama’s national championship game loss to Georgia.
The Lions have 21 days to activate Williams from the nonfootball injury list to their 53-man roster, and Campbell said he’s not sure yet if the rookie will need the entire three-week practice window to get ready for game action.
Williams will not play Thursday when the Lions (4-6) host the Buffalo Bills at Ford Field, but could return Dec. 4 against the Jacksonville Jaguars or Dec. 11 against the Minnesota Vikings. The Lions have until Dec. 12 to take Williams off NFI.
“I think it’s just let’s see where he’s at because really the rehab that he’s done, now that, even though this is technically not practice, if you will, it’s more walk-through mode, but the things that he’ll do starting today out there live are much more football-oriented,” Campbell said. “So I think we’ll just see where he can go. And then we’ll see how fast he can get there.”
The Lions held a full-team walk-through Monday and did not throw during the session, but Williams was scheduled to run routes for Lions practice squad quarterback Tim Boyle later in the day.
Jared Goff said he and Williams have only played catch together so far. Still, Goff said Williams’ unique playmaking ability should help the offense.
Williams averaged 19.9 yards per catch in his only season at Alabama, when he caught 79 passes for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns.
“He’s got so much speed man and he’s got so much ability,” Goff said. “Anyway that we can end up using him whenever that time is 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 5-yard throw into a 60-yard gain, that type of stuff, is dangerous.”
The Lions rank eighth in the NFL in scoring at 25 points per game, but have failed to top 200 yards passing three of the past five weeks as their receiving corps has been ravaged by injury
Amon-Ra St. Brown leads the Lions with 56 catches and 594 yards despite missing one game with a sprained ankle and being limited by injuries in two others. Top free-agent signing DJ Chark has played just four games because of pain in his surgically-repaired ankle. And Josh Reynolds missed his third straight game Sunday against the New York Giants with a back injury.
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Williams was a regular presence in meetings during his rehab and traveled to some road games, and Campbell said the receiver already has a good rapport with teammates.
“There’ll be a learning curve, as it is with all those guys.” Campbell said. “But anything we ask him to do is going to be things that we feel like he does well and he can help us with that are also that’ll set him up to have success as well.”