Jameson Williams’ injury setback just made his situation far more urgent for Detroit Lions

Detroit Free Press

One day, I hope to stop writing about all the drama that surrounds Jameson Williams like an ever-present cloud of gloom, a hazy veil that obscures our view of his potential.

I hope to stop writing about his mistakes, his missteps, his route-running, his potential, his drops and injuries. Honestly, I’m getting tired of it.

I have no rooting interest in the highly drafted, speedy receiver’s success or failure. But even I felt bad for Williams when coach Dan Campbell confirmed Thursday his preseason is pretty much done after he injured his right hamstring the previous day.

“There’s a good chance that it could probably go through the preseason,” Campbell said of Williams’ recovery prognosis.

There comes a point where it feels like it’s too much, even for me. After constantly detailing the litany of problems Williams has dealt with in 16 months with the Detroit Lions, I feel worn out, like my columns about Williams are becoming derivative. I’m starting to feel like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day.”

But there’s a good reason why there’s so much attention on Williams and why reporters keep writing about him. It’s not just because he has the potential to be a star. It’s bigger than that. It’s about the way his success or failure will inform the personnel decisions the Lions make going forward.

Williams will either serve as a test case that affirms and encourages Brad Holmes’ boldness, or he will become a cautionary tale that prevents the general manager from making similar draft-day gambles in the future.

If Williams is done for the preseason, he won’t practice with the Lions again until Oct. 18, the Wednesday of Week 7, after he serves his six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s gambling policy. At that point, he will have missed 17 of his first 23 NFL games, mostly because he was recovering from an ACL injury last year.

Williams missed five practices earlier in training camp with a pulled left hamstring, so his preseason work this year could amount to 15 days of practice and one exhibition game. That’s not exactly what Campbell had in mind when he spoke earlier this month of dousing Williams with lots of playing time.

“He needs that, as he does practice,” Campbell said Aug. 3. “But, man, and I’m telling you, as with anybody, the more reps he gets, the more time on task, the more consecutive practices and reps he can put together, he’ll just grow. I really believe that.”

And now? Campbell tried his best Thursday to lean on the advantages of those good, old mental reps. So I decided to douse Campbell with his own words about the value of game and practice reps that he had mentioned two weeks earlier. Because he’s right: There’s nothing like game action.

“A chance to get full speed, full-tilt reps,” Campbell conceded. “The timing, and the pass game, lining up. All of it. Moving versus press, through the zones. It’s just time on task.

“And so yeah, there’ll be a setback with it. But it’s also — you know — listen, you take it as it comes. I’m not going to sweat it. As long as he’s willing to continue to grind on the playbook and get it right, we’ll take it as it goes.”

Williams wasn’t available to reporters after practice, so I couldn’t ask him how he views this setback. But based on his nature and how he has addressed his other setbacks, I’m pretty sure he isn’t sweating it, either.

That can be a blessing, but it can also be a curse. It’s a blessing if he doesn’t let it affect his attitude and work ethic and, indeed, keeps grinding at his mental preparation and his rehab.

But it’s a curse if it doesn’t increase his urgency. Because if Williams doesn’t see the field again until mid-October, he has little margin for mental or physical errors if he’s going to salvage the final 11 games of this season and help the Lions make the playoffs.

The good news is the timing of his return. He can be eased back into action with games against Baltimore and Las Vegas before the bye. It might almost be viewed as a second three-week preseason before a push for the final nine games.

But that urgency must be there for Williams — in all facets of the game, including the maintenance of his body. Williams will now miss significant time in training camp because of two separate soft tissue injuries, which should be somewhat preventable in the NFL through the intensive work of the training staff.

But if a player isn’t cooperating with trainers’ efforts, then you have a problem. I don’t know which is the case, and Campbell said he didn’t either.

“I mean, that’s hard to say. I’m not going to pin that on our training staff,” he said. “I think they’ve done a phenomenal job. We’ve been really good with soft tissues. But sometimes things happen.”

Campbell clearly doesn’t want to throw around blame. He guessed Williams might not have been fully hydrated. He wasn’t sure. But he needs to be sure, because these injuries are preventable and shouldn’t keep happening to Williams.

Everything is still possible for Williams. He could end up being a bust or a boom for the Lions. He could be injury-prone or these might be the last hamstring pulls of his career.

It’s too early to make a major proclamation about Williams, as tempting as it might be. We only know he can’t afford any more setbacks this season.

Contact Carlos Monarrez: cmonarrez@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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