The New Orleans media got the full Jamaal Williams experience during his introductory press conference on Friday. Wearing a Pokémon hat, playfully poking fun at reporters’ socks and facial hair and breaking down his interest in beignets and dislike of crawfish with the heads still attached, the always-random and equally entertaining running back was in rare form during the 20-minute session.
But, underneath the smile and laughs ran an undercurrent of frustration. After signing a three-year deal with the Saints, Williams called Detroit’s contract offer ‘disrespectful,’ and pledged to prove to critics he’s more than just a goal-line back, after racking up a league-leading 17 rushing touchdowns last season.
“They been done with me, I could tell,” Williams said about his time in Detroit. “The offer they gave me, I feel like it was very, just disrespectful, just showing that they really, you know, didn’t want me to really be there like that. But, it’s all love. I know my teammates; everybody there at the Detroit Lions has love for me and all that. At the same time, we couldn’t come to terms with things.”
The comments parallel those made by Williams when he first came to Detroit, comparing his exit in Green Bay, where he’d spent the previous four years, to being dumped.
“They didn’t want me, like that ex-girlfriend,” Williams said in 2021. “Glad that I got a rebound, it was the Lions and they treat me good. You know what I mean? Now, they’re feeding me good, taking me to dinners. Another man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
And like he did in that situation, Williams is looking to use that to fuel his motivation. It certainly worked in Detroit, where he experienced a career year in 2022, topping 1,000 yards for the first time, while breaking Barry Sanders’ franchise record for rushing touchdowns in a season.
Additionally, Williams is also irked by how people have talked about that performance, diminishing his accomplishments. In New Orleans, where he’ll work in tandem with five-time Pro Bowler Alvin Kamara, Williams is eager to show perceptions about his skill set are wrong.
“You can have the greatest season of your life and people are always just going to find something to be negative about,” Williams said. “I don’t really worry about it, because at the end of the day, I know I’m my biggest critic and I know what I can improve on to be better. I’m just going to keep doing that. I don’t really worry about what other people say. I take notice to it, just to have it in the area and be aware of my surroundings, but I don’t really let it affect me as a person.
“Well, I do take it personal, because I take it as a personal challenge for me, just to get better,” he continued. “At the end of the day, I just like proving people wrong. You think you know me. You don’t know me. I will show you.”
Former teammate Amon-Ra St. Brown, on his podcast for “The 33rd team,” said the Lions will definitely miss Williams, both what he brought to the field and the locker room.
“I’m excited for him,” St. Brown said. “I think that’s a good fit, honestly. I know they have Kamara over there, but shoot, I already know he’s going to run hard. That’s what he does. I’m just excited to see him. I wish he would have been on the Lions, but I know how things worked out.
“Jamaal, for us, in the locker room, he was a great dude,” St. Brown continued. “Dude was kind of a leader for us. The fans loved him, I know Detroit loved him, but I think it’s a business at the end of the day. I think Jamaal gets that, the Lions understand it, and I think the fans kind of get it, too. It won’t be too bad at the end of the day, because like I said, Jamaal is going to go crazy wherever he is.”
The Saints awarded Jamaal Williams with a three-year, $12 million deal the day after the Lions signed his replacement, David Montgomery. St. Brown’s brother, Equanimeous, who was teammates with Montgomery in Chicago, noted on the podcast that the Lions are getting an outstanding player.
“They should (already) know,” Equanimeous said. “I know they’re sad to see Jamaal go, but (Montgomery) is one of the hardest running backs I’ve ever seen run the ball. I just remember being on the Packers and playing against him, just thinking, ‘Damn, we can not tackle this man.’ I’m pissed to see him go.”