The Detroit Lions are fresh off a road win over the Green Bay Packers and in sole possession of first place in the NFC North. They’ve won six divisional games in a row and look like the team to beat. They’re 3-1 this year, winners of 11 of their last 14 overall.
The vibes were already strong in Detroit. Now, the team is set to welcome back wide receiver Jameson Williams.
The NFL is changing its gambling policy, league sources told The Athletic’s Dianna Russini on Friday. As part of the revised policy, the NFL is reducing the penalty for prior violations from a six-game suspension to four games. Williams was suspended for six games by the league in April for placing a bet on a non-NFL game from an NFL facility. Per the previous policy, Williams was not eligible to return to practice or to play in games until the Lions’ Week 7 contest versus the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 22.
However, the NFL has decided to reinstate players who bet on non-NFL games and were suspended six games. Effective Monday, Williams will be free to practice, work out with the Lions and suit up to play as early as Week 5 versus the Carolina Panthers.
Here’s what it means for both the Lions and for Williams.
The league’s previous policy on gambling suspensions allowed Williams to return to the team facility after three weeks. Though the Lions couldn’t communicate with him during those first three weeks, GM Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell discussed a plan for Williams to follow during the no-contact period, before the start of his suspension. Monday, Williams returned to the facility, but was still limited in what he could do with the Lions.
Here’s an excerpt from the league’s policy: “While suspended, players will continue to be prohibited from: attending or participating in group workouts; attending, observing, or participating in practices; attending home or away games; and attending club-sponsored community events, press conferences or other media appearances.”
Now, he’s free to participate in all football activities.
Of course, before his suspension began, Williams had been dealing with a hamstring injury that sidelined him after just one preseason game. The preseason was supposed to provide valuable time and reps for a young player who missed the entirety of his first NFL offseason while recovering from a torn ACL suffered in college. The hamstring injury effectively ended his training camp on Aug. 11.
When asked about Williams’ hamstring earlier this week, Campbell simply said, “He’s good.”
Exactly how good will be the question moving forward. Monday, when he’s fully reinstated, the Lions will have to see where his body’s at and determine how much time he’ll need to ramp up and how soon they believe he can realistically return to action.
One day following Jameson Williams’ every move at Lions training camp
What Williams adds to Detroit’s offense
This is huge news for a Lions team that is, admittedly, in a good place without Williams. Detroit ranks sixth in total offense (386.3 yards per game) and eighth in scoring (26.5 points per game). But Williams’ speed adds a different element to the offense. His teammates have been eagerly awaiting his return to action.
Lions S Kerby Joseph wearing a “Free Jamo” shirt at OTAs pic.twitter.com/j4klYGQANG
— Colton Pouncy (@colton_pouncy) June 1, 2023
The Lions have done well to create explosive plays in Williams’ absence. Per TruMedia, Detroit ranks fourth in the NFL in plays of 20 or more yards per game. But many of those plays have been schemed up by offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, working to get the most out of a group that lacks clear game-changing speed in the receiver room.
Williams has that in abundance. It’s what made him a first-round prospect in the 2022 draft. The sheer threat of his speed should help draw attention away from others, which could unlock Detroit’s offense in ways we haven’t yet seen. When you start to think of the collection of offensive talent the Lions have — wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, tight end Sam LaPorta, running backs David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs, a dependable offensive line and now Williams — you can start to dream of an offense that makes you pick your poison and is even more difficult to defend than it already is.
This group hasn’t yet played together. That could change soon.
What must Williams work on?
Of course, Williams is far from a finished product. He’s missed 15 of his first 21 NFL games due to injury or suspension. A year ago, he had one catch on nine targets, as the Lions eased him into action. And in training camp, Williams was inconsistent at best. There were far too many mental lapses leading to routine drops. It’s something Campbell even addressed as an area to improve.
But when Williams was fully engaged and competing in team scrimmage portions, you saw the ability to separate and stretch the field. There’s a reason the Lions traded up to select him at No. 12. He’s a perfect complement to St. Brown and has an elite skill set that few others in the NFL possess.
It’s just a matter of honing his craft and the Lions continuing to get Williams the reps he so desperately needs.
“Jamo” has been freed. It’s time to see what he makes of his opportunity.
(Photo: Nic Antaya / Getty Images)