You can be in the game without being physically able to play the game.
That's what we learned from Jameson Williams, the wide receiver the Detroit Lions moved up to draft 12th overall in the first round to add a big-play threat to the offense, at rookie minicamp over the weekend.
Williams is unable to participate in practice drills because of a torn knee ligament sustained playing for Alabama in the national championship game vs. Georgia in January.
While he heals, Williams is not moping on the sideline, detached from what's happening on the practice field and meeting rooms.
"He's engaged," said head coach Dan Campbell. "Put him out on the grass, that's his domain. He's very much engaged.
"You ask him a question, he's got the script (for practice). He's on it. In meetings, he's very engaged. He asks good questions."
Among the other things we learned from minicamp include the following: Williams appreciates the positive review he got from a veteran teammate; Williams is keeping up mentally with practice drills, but he fully recognizes the value of being able to practice with his teammates and looks looks forward to getting out on the field. And there's a bottom line look at the 2022 draft class.
We start with Williams, and his state of mind:
Williams was dressed to play football Saturday. He carried a football throughout practice and even when he talked to the media.
What's it like to be on the grass again?
"It's good --- I just had to put on the cleats," he said. "I haven't had them on since January (when he was injured).
"It feels good to be out there with the guys ... everything's good."
Hutchinson excited to get back to what he does best: Playing footballTIM AND MIKE: Rookie minicamp observationsRodriguez wants to start on special teams, work his way up to a role on defense
Mental game: Williams understands it. He spent two years at Ohio State before transferring to Alabama for his junior season. Both schools are known for their intense preparation and attention to details.
Players like Williams and tight end James Mitchell, a fifth-round pick from Virginia Tech who's also recovering from a knee injury, are evaluated on how they're picking up the offense even though they're unable to take it to the field.
"You're trying to teach those guys what we do," Campbell said. '"This is what we do. This is how we do it.' We walk them through it."
As Campbell said, Williams is engaged in the meeting room and asks good questions.
"At the end of the day, I need to be out there doing the physical part," Williams said. "The mental part is actually getting me ready for the physical part.
"When the physical part comes, it's all go."
Veteran's praise: DJ Chark, a speed receiver signed in the offseason as a free agent, referred to Williams as "electric" when asked about the rookie earlier in the week.
"I haven't heard about that," Williams said. "It means a lot from a fellow teammate I'm about to go to war with.
"Somebody who compliments me, I compliment them,"
Bottom line evaluation: Time will tell and there are hurdles to cross, but the eight players in the Lions' 2022 draft class carry themselves well.
From defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson taken second overall to defensive back Chase Lucas taken 237th, they seem to have a sense of purpose and self confidence.
They fit the mold of players who GM Brad Holmes and Campbell want for their foundation. It's a good start.