The NFL gave Detroit Lions second-year wide receiver Jameson Williams a six-game suspension in April for violating the league's gambling policy. Speaking to reporters Thursday for the first time since the suspension was announced, Williams said he didn't knowingly break the policy and was sick when he learned he'd broken the rules and was subject to league discipline.
"I was sick. I was hurt," he said. "I didn't know things like this was coming. But like I said, it took me some time. I've thought about the better days moving forward."
Being back on the football field this spring has certainly helped.
"Get out here with my team. Run some routes," he said. "You didn't see me running routes this time (last year). You saw me walking around with a football in my hand. It's good to be out here."
The Lions drafted Williams No. 12 overall in last year's NFL Draft even after he tore his ACL in the National Championship Game while playing at Alabama. The Lions knew it was going to be a redshirt year of sorts for the talented receiver but saw what his explosiveness could bring to their offense. Williams didn't make his NFL debut until December, and even in his limited contributions at the end of the season his speed and quickness stood out.
Getting a chance to take part in the offseason training program, OTAs and training camp will give Williams an opportunity to get substantially better in every aspect of his game before he has to leave the team to serve his suspension in September.
"I'm just trying to get better every day," Williams said of what he's trying to accomplish over the next two and a half months. "At some point I can't be with the team so I'm using all this time to perfect every little thing between me and the QB and me and the team and me and the offense. That's the main thing right now."
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Williams' ability to stretch the field and separate from defenders was on display during Thursday's open OTA practice. He's lighting quick out of his breaks and was targeted down the field on deep balls on multiple occasions during 11-on-11 team periods.
Lions head coach Dan Campbell said some of the biggest growth he's seen from Williams so far this spring has been with his route running.
"I feel like there's a little better route detail right now I've seen over the last few weeks," Campbell said. "That was kind of a point of emphasis. He ran a couple routes (Wednesday) that were - he's hitting the afterburner and drops his weight and puts his foot in the ground about 18 yards and comes back to the quarterback - those things are pretty impressive.
"When you can use your speed not just to 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 it's hard to cover."
Williams was asked if he felt he had a lot to prove to fans and critics missing as much time as he did last season with the knee injury and now missing the first third of this season due to the suspension.
"I feel like I got to prove a lot to myself before I prove anything to anybody else," he said. "I've got goals I've set that I want to accomplish and knock off my goal list. Hopefully once those things come the fans will be pleased with how I play football."