Allen Park — Jameson Williams is pleading ignorance for his actions, but he’s also accepted the consequences for violating the NFL’s gambling policy and is ready to move on from the mistake.
Williams has been suspended the first six games of the season for gambling on something other than NFL games while at a team venue, which includes the practice facility, the stadium, and team airplane and hotel during road drips. He learned of the unexpected punishment the evening before the news became public, which he said made him sick.
“It hit me out of the blue,” Williams said after Thursday’s OTA practice. “It hit a couple of other players around the league and on my team out of the blue. I wasn’t aware of this situation. But it happened and I took it on the chin. I was ready to move forward as things moved on and I got the consequences. That’s been my whole plan, moving forward from things and just looking at the better days.”
Williams didn’t provide any details on when and where he placed wagers, and also denied he regularly gambled.
“No frequent gambling,” he said. “I’m not a gambler. I’m a football player.”
Still, it’s clear he didn’t absorb information about the league’s policy when it was shared by the team. Not that Williams was alone. He was one of five players suspended by the NFL in April, including three teammates — Quintez Cephus, C.J. Moore and Stanley Berryhill.
Cephus and Moore were suspended at least one year for betting on NFL games and immediately released by the Lions. Berryhill, like Williams, received a six-game ban. He’s also since been released by the team.
In a statement following the suspensions, Lions general manager Brad Holmes said the team was disappointed by the decision-making of the players and would work to better provide clarity on the rules going forward.
Williams’ suspension won’t take affect until the regular season. That means he will be able to continue to practice with the team through the offseason program, including training camp and the preseason. The time will prove valuable for his development after he missed the entirety of the offseason program as a rookie while rehabbing from a torn ACL he suffered while at Alabama.
“Last year, you all saw me walking around with a football in my hands. It’s good to be out here,” Williams said. “I’m just trying to get better every day because, at some point, I can’t be with the team. I’m just using all this time to perfect every little thing me and the QB, me and the team, me and the offense need. That’s the main thing right now, just focusing on all that before I get my time away and then come back with the team. Just focusing all the little things and making everything good.”
Once medically cleared last season, the Lions tried to incorporate Williams on the fly, but it proved to be a struggle. He caught just one of the nine passes thrown his direction, although that one reception was a 41-yard touchdown. He also had a 40-yard run, further demonstrating his big-play potential.
The Lions have only had a couple practices this offseason, but coach Dan Campbell has seen some positive improvements from Williams.
“I think some of the biggest growth is just in his routes,” Campbell said. “I feel like there’s a little better route detail right now that I’ve seen over the last few weeks. That was kind of a point of emphasis. He ran a couple routes yesterday where he’s hitting the afterburners, drops his weight and puts his foot in the ground at about 18 yards and comes back to the quarterback. Those things are pretty impressive. When you can use your speed to not just take the top off, but to put fear in the defense and put your foot in the ground, and the quarterback puts it on a rope, that’s hard to cover.”
Williams said he’s been obsessively studying the route running of former and current players, including Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, Randy Moss, Justin Jefferson and Stefon Diggs, trying to incorporate the best parts of their skill sets into his own.
“I’m trying to steal their game and put it into mine so I can have the best bag,” Williams said.
Campbell said the goal the next couple months is to build enough of a base with Williams that the receiver will be able to step right into the lineup when he’s eligible to return from suspension in Week 7 against Baltimore.
After missing most of his rookie year, and now the first six games of his second season, the Lions haven’t got much early return on the investment in Williams after trading up 20 spots to draft him No. 12 overall in the first round. Still, the player isn’t putting any additional pressure on himself to prove himself after the sluggish start to his career.
“I feel like I’ve got to prove a lot to myself before I can prove anything to anyone else,” Williams said. “I’ve got goals I’ve set. I just want to knock off my goal list, get on the field, things like that. Hopefully once those things come, fans will be pleased with how I play football, what I do, things like that.
“I love Detroit. They love me. Everything about Detroit I love. It’s a real great city. I just look forward to doing real big things for the city, playing ball for the city, taking the city to another level.”