In his first public remarks since the NFL suspended him for six games for violating the league’s gambling policy, Detroit Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams said he had not known what he did was against the rules.
“It was something I wasn’t aware of,” Williams said on Thursday afternoon, “but it caught me.”
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On April 21, the NFL suspended the former Alabama All-American for the first six games of the 2023 season. The Lions said Williams was suspended for betting on non-NFL games at an NFL facility.
Williams said he couldn’t cite the specific circumstance that led to his suspension but did say he was not a frequent bettor.
“I’m not a gambler,” Williams said. “I’m a football player.”
The NFL’s gambling policy prohibits anyone in the league from engaging in any form of gambling in any club or NFL facility or venue, including the practice facility.
“The suspension, it pretty much is what it is,” Williams said. “I broke a policy. I pretty much look past those things. The situation, like I said, it is what it is. I’m just happy to be out here, get this time with my guys I didn’t get a chance to do last year. I’m happy I get a chance to do that.”
Williams joined the Lions as 12th selection in the 2022 NFL Draft after he caught 79 passes for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns and averaged 35.2 yards and scored two touchdowns on 10 kickoff returns during his only season for Alabama in 2021.
Williams sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his final college game – the CFP championship contest for the 2021 season – and didn’t make his NFL debut until Dec. 4.
Of his reaction to learning of his suspension, Williams said: “I was sick. I was hurt because I ain’t knew things like this was coming. Took me some time and just thought about the better days moving forward. It’s not my last day living.”
With the Lions in the on-the-field portion of their offseason program, Detroit coach Dan Campbell said the plan is to get Williams as ready as the team can in the offseason work, training camp and the preseason because his suspension won’t just keep the wide receiver out of games, it will keep him away from the team.
“We’re already miles ahead with him,” Campbell said on Thursday. “We didn’t even get this with him last year. He wasn’t able to do any of it, so that in itself is like, man, just to be able to build from the ground up, not in season and trying – you know. Here we go, three weeks, four weeks, you see progress, and so I think that’s just it.
“Let’s get him better. He’s got a lot of room to grow and develop, and he needs this time, so I think that’s what it’s about, man, is we got to sharpen every little thing with him. Sharpen the routes, sharpen all of it, like any of the guys, but just get him as much time on task as we can at different positions but also working with (quarterback Jared Goff). And that’s what we do, and when he’s gone, he’s gone. And when he comes back, hopefully, we’ve built enough of a base and core under him that he can step right back in and go.”
Williams said he understands the urgency of making the most of his time with the team now.
“I’m just trying to get better every day because, at some point, I can’t be with the team,” Williams said. “I’m just using all this time to perfect every little thing me and the QB, me and the team, me and the offense need. That’s the main thing right now, just focusing on all that before I get my time away.”
At the same time it announced Williams’ suspension, the NFL also announced a six-game suspension for Lions wide receiver Stanley Berryhill and indefinite suspensions for Lions wide receiver Quintez Cephus and safety C.J. Moore and Washington Commanders defensive end Shaka Toney. Berryhill was suspended for the same infraction as Williams. The other three players were suspended for betting on NFL games.
“It hit me out of the blue and hit a couple of other players around the league and on my team out of the blue,” Williams said. “I wasn’t aware of this situation, but as it happened, I took it on the chin.”
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Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.