Jameson Williams felt “sick” when he first learned of his six-game suspension the night before the NFL announced it last month, but the Detroit Lions receiver insisted Thursday he did not knowingly violate league rules on gambling and still does not know the specifics of what led his punishment.
“The suspension, it pretty much, it is what it is,” Williams said in his first public comments since his April 21 suspension. “The policy, I broke a policy. I pretty much looked past those things.”
Williams was suspended after a multi-week investigation revealed he bet on non-NFL games from an NFL facility during the 2022 season.
Lions receivers Quintez Cephus and Stanley Berryhill and safety C.J. Moore also were caught in a league probe that spanned several weeks and included at least one other team. Cephus, Moore and Washington Commanders defensive end Shaka Toney were suspended indefinitely for gambling on football games, while Berryhill received a six-game ban for mobile betting on non-NFL games from a team facility.
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The Lions have since released Cephus, Moore and Berryhill.
Williams said he was not sure what he bet on or where he was when he violated NFL rules — “I’m not sure, bro. That was a while ago,” he said — and he said he was not aware at all of rules that prohibit players from placing non-NFL-related wagers from a team facility, hotel, stadium or other league-sanctioned event.
Told not knowing what he was suspended for might lead some to conclude he gambled frequently, Williams said, “Nah, no frequent gambling. I’m not a gambler, I’m a football player.”
“It hit me out of the blue, and it hit a couple other players around the league and on my team out of the blue,” Williams said. “I wasn’t aware of this situation, but as it happened, like I said, I took it on the chin, I was ready to move forward as things moved on and I got the consequences, so that’s been my whole plan moving forward from things and just looking at the better days.”
Williams took part in the Lions’ third organized team activity practice of the spring Thursday, where he took some first-team reps at receiver along with Amon-Ra St. Brown, Marvin Jones, Josh Reynolds and Kalif Raymond.
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Williams can practice with the Lions this spring and throughout training camp until his suspension begins in late August. He will be allowed to return to the team facility for strength and conditioning workouts beginning in Week 4, and is eligible to return to game action Oct. 22 against the Baltimore Ravens.
“Listen, it’s happening,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “The suspension is happening, and so now what do we do to move forward? You’re not going to be here so in the meantime, let’s get the most work we can out of you and then when you’re out of building, keep putting in work and when you come back you’ll be ready to play. But no, he’s like any other player. We keep progressing.”
The Lions will lean heavily on St. Brown, Reynolds, Jones and the rest of their receiving corps in Williams’ absence, but are counting on the second-year receiver to be a big part of the passing game this fall.
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Williams, the No. 12 pick of last year’s draft, played in only six games as a rookie as he recovered from the torn ACL he suffered in his final college game at Alabama. He caught one pass, had one carry and finished with three drops.
Campbell said Williams has shown progress as a receiver this spring, specifically with his route running, but remains a young player with “a lot of room to grow and develop.”
“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. I mean, he ran a couple of routes (Wednesday) where he’s hitting the afterburner and then he drops his weight, puts his foot in the ground at about 18 yards and comes back to the quarterback. It was, those things are pretty impressive, cause when you can use your speed not just to take the top off but to put fear in the defense and then put your foot in the ground and the quarterback puts it on a rope, I mean it’s hard to cover.”
Williams said he spent time this offseason studying players like Chad Ochocinco, Randy Moss and Justin Jefferson to fine-tune his route running.
He said he hopes to use the next few months to get his timing down with Lions quarterback Jared Goff so he can step in as a contributor once his suspension ends, and he admitted he needs to be make better decisions going forward, though he downplayed any concerns about his lifestyle or social media behavior.
Williams, who occasionally hosts late-night Instagram Live sessions, liked a tweet this offseason suggesting the Lions should trade for quarterback Lamar Jackson and liked another one last year suggesting he should get the ball more.
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“I live a regular lifestyle,” Williams said. “I wouldn’t say I live a very special lifestyle. I’m not the only person in the NFL that posts on Instagram or things like that, so I would just say that’s my — that’s just me. I wouldn’t change anything, though.”
Told liking a post about Jackson could be construed as a slight towards Goff, Williams insisted that wasn’t the case.
“It wasn’t no shots at Jared Goff,” he said. “I love Goff. We out here. We got a perfect relationship. Nothing — since the liked tweet, nothing has went down in our relationship. We still have a tight relationship. Nothing has really happened between — it’s just social media. It’s Twitter.”
As for this season, Williams said his goals are “to make the playoffs, go deep in the playoffs, hopefully win the Super Bowl.”
“I feel like I got to prove a lot to myself before I prove anything to anybody else,” he said. “I got goals that I’ve set that I just want to accomplish, knock off my goal list, like getting on the field, things like that. So hopefully once those things come, the fans will be pleased on how I play football, what I do, things like that.”
Contact Dave Birkett at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.