Detroit Lions won't rush Jameson Williams' return: 'That's a long-term investment'
Jameson Williams' rehab from a torn ACL is going well enough that he could be back sooner than the Detroit Lions anticipated, but Lions general manager Brad Holmes said Thursday he still plans to proceed carefully with the talented rookie receiver.
"I know he’s chomping out the bit," Holmes said in his annual end-of-training camp news conference. "I mean, he’ll put a helmet on right now and go out there and he would jog a slant route if he could. But we got to be smart because we didn’t make that move for him just for Year 1. That’s a long-term investment."
The Lions traded up to take Williams with the 12th pick of April's NFL draft knowing Williams could miss half his rookie season or more.
Holmes has never publicly put a timetable on Williams' return, and he wouldn't again Thursday. But he said in the spring he believed Williams would contribute at some point this fall.
"He is on track," Holmes said Thursday. "Again, I’m not going to put out a hard date, but I will say the weeks and weeks that he’s strung together with his rehab and he’s so gifted from a genetic standpoint, once he keeps that consistency going, it actually could accelerate that return that we’re thinking."
Williams, who could be looking at a midseason return, shared a video on social media last week of him running and planting during a less-than-full-speed workout at the Lions' Allen Park practice facility.
In his lone season at Alabama last fall, Williams was one of the most explosive players in college football. He caught 79 passes for 1,572 yards (19.9 ypc) and 15 touchdowns.
With the Lions, Williams could provide immmediate help as a deep threat, though he likely will need several weeks of practice to find a rhythm with starting quarterback Jared Goff and learn the playbook.
Holmes said Lions coach Dan Campbell ultimately will decide how to use Williams once he's healthy.
"I will say just because of his skill set, he’ll be able to — he’ll have a lot of versatility for us so if he’s not a full-time wide receiver, it’s, does he play special teams?" Holmes said. "He’s got some damn good gunner tape out there in the SEC. He’s got some good return tape out there in the SEC. So we’ll have some options."
For now, Williams will continue his rehab behind closed doors. The Lions placed Williams on the reserve/nonfootball injury list last week, guaranteeing he will miss at least the first four games of the season.
"You got to be a little bit conservative and on the safer side when it comes to forecasting those return-to-play (timelines)," Holmes said. "But hopefully he stays on track and hopefully it’s sooner than later."