Dan Campbell: ‘It would take a lot’ for Detroit Lions WR Jameson Williams to play Sunday

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell is as anxious as anyone to see Jameson Williams on the field, but Campbell said Monday the rookie wide receiver is probably at least another week away from making his NFL debut.

Asked what he would need to see for Williams and defensive end Romeo Okwara to play this week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Campbell said “that would be a tall order” for both.

“Anything’s open,” Campbell said. “Well, look, I think we need to see them be able to pull quite a few reps with high intensity and contact and versatility in whatever the job description (will) be. So I think, I don’t want to say it wouldn’t happen, but it would take a lot, I think, this week to feel good about bringing them out.”

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Williams, the No. 12 overall pick in April’s draft, has not played since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in his final college game Jan. 10 for Alabama.

Williams opened the season on the nonfootball injury list and returned to practice last Monday, when the Lions held their first of three walk-throughs to get ready for their Thanksgiving game against the Buffalo Bills.

Williams did run routes alone and against cornerbacks while catching passes for backup quarterback Tim Boyle after walk-throughs last week, but the rookie will not take part in his first full practice until Wednesday.

Campbell said he expects Williams to add a vertical threat to the Lions offense once he’s cleared for game action. The Lions, who have struggled to push the ball deep while battling injuries in their receiving corps all season, have until Dec. 12 to activate Williams from the NFI list or shut him down for the year.

“It was really more routes on air (he was doing last week), but timing throws, things of that nature,” Campbell said. “And he was fine. I mean there again, it’s on air, but at least it gets him kind of in that mold and you can coach backwards from there, so now this week’ll really give him a look against somebody covering him. We’ll get some one-on-one work with him, DBs covering him. We’ll get team work. He can run scout cards. So all of that will be good for him.”

The Lions (4-7) have pledged patience with both Williams and Okwara, who tore his Achilles tendon in an October 2021 loss to the Chicago Bears.

Okwara returned to practice Nov. 16, 409 days after suffering his injury, and likely will serve as a designated pass rusher once he’s back in the lineup.

The Lions have until Dec. 7 to take Okwara, their sack leader in 2020, off the physically unable to perform list or shut him down for the season.

They used the full three-week practice window on both second-year cornerback Jerry Jacobs, in his return from a torn ACL earlier this fall, and rookie defensive lineman Josh Paschal, who missed all of training camp following summer sports hernia surgery.

Asked if it would be a long shot for both Williams and Okwara to play this week, Campbell said, “I think so.”

“But there again, we’re open to anything and they’re certainly going to get more reps than they’ve gotten this week, so we’re going to get a real good look at them,” he said.

Campbell did sound optimistic about the return of three other injured Lions for Sunday’s game against the Jaguars (4-7).

Jacobs, who did not finish the Buffalo game because of dizziness, is not in concussion protocol, and cornerback Jeff Okudah and guard Jonah Jackson, both of whom missed the Bills game with brain injuries, are in Phase 3 of the return-to-play protocol.

“Jerry’s not in protocol, so he’s good (to go),” Campbell said. “Provided there’s no setback, I think it’s optimistic to have Jonah and Okudah.”

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

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