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  • Kyle Meinke

Lions rookie WR Jameson Williams closing in on a return to the field

It remains unclear when rookie receiver Jameson Williams will step onto the practice field for the Detroit Lions. But it should happen in a matter of weeks, and sounds like his NFL debut shouldn’t be far behind.

“It’s his mental aspect of it,” receivers coach Antwaan Randle El said. “He’s picking it up. We go over it every day. In between sessions we go over the plays with him, he can spit it right back out to me. The tough part is, right now, we can’t get him out in the field and get him lined up and all that type stuff because of rules or whatever. But to be able to do that, get on the board and write it up -- you just work every week, you know, what’s in the game plan? ‘Hey, here it is,’ and him go through it and give it to you, so he understands it.

“He can talk to you about coverages, stuff like that, so he gets it. The physical part, I’m not worried about. It’s always the mental you want to make sure a guy has. He has it. He’s getting it down.”

Williams is still recovering from the ACL he tore in the national championship game with Alabama. That dinged his draft stock, but the Lions prized his speed and outlandish playmaking ability so much that they traded back into the first round -- with the division rival Vikings, no less -- to select the wideout with the 12th overall pick.

That move was made with the long-term picture in mind, and it’s easy to see why. Williams was clocked at more than 23 mph while at Alabama, faster than any player in the NFL. Throw that onto the field with guys like Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, DJ Chark, D’Andre Swift and T.J. Hockenson, and the possibilities are endless.

As for the short term, Williams should enter that picture soon. He’s about eight months out of surgery and has been running and cutting for a while. He’s eligible to return to practice as soon as next week, although with the bye lurking the week after that, he almost certainly won’t play until Detroit returns to action on Oct. 23 against the Dallas Cowboys. With all the injuries the Lions have sustained in the young season -- Reynolds and St. Brown did not practice on Wednesday because of ankle injuries, while Chark was limited by an ankle injury -- they could use the help. They’re eager to see what the young flyer can do whenever he’s ready. “He’s coming along,” Randle-El said. “Wish it was yesterday, but just coming along. We’ll see. Just got to keep working at it. And that’s the thing, he’s working hard, not just in the weight room but in the training room and all that stuff. Trying to get back and get going and get his first taste, so to speak.” It remains to be seen how Williams will be deployed in the offense, and who will come off the field when he is out there, although Randle El said he thinks the rookie can play all three receiver positions. That should provide flexibility in the rotations. “He’s a guy you can move around,” Randle-El said. “He’s smart, and he gets it in terms of being in different spots. That’s what you want to do with a guy like that -- use his speed, whether it’s him running past somebody or him getting somebody else open. That speed means a lot. And then obviously he catches the ball well and gets in and out of his cuts. Him and Saint get out of cuts so fast. It’s unbelievable. Some people take four steps. This cat takes like two-and-a-half. It’s unbelievable. It’s good to see.” Soon, we should be seeing a lot more of it.

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