ALLEN PARK — Jameson Williams had a football in hand as he watched through his media availability on the field rookie mini-camp after practice. The first-round receiver even walked away from reporters and into team headquarters with that ball in his possession.
“No, it was in my hands the whole time,” Williams said on Saturday. “Everything in meetings. It’s been with me the whole time.
“It feels really good. All I had to do (today) was put on the cleats. I haven’t worn my cleats since January. So it feels really good to be out here with the boys, just football. So it’s love.”
The electric receiver said it was tough to see his teammates take to the field in those early days at Allen Park. Williams suffered an ACL injury in the national championship game in early January. He previously said he hopes to be back in some form before training camp. Still, the Detroit Lions are going slow with their potentially game-changing wide receiver.
“We’re taking it slow,” Williams said. “I’ve been out here and gotten a good rehab with the trainers twice a day. So everything is going well so far.
“Nah. It’s not frustrating because I kind of know what I’m dealing with here. The situation I’m in is just something I have to deal with. Something that’s going on. When I come back it will be in full swing and then it will be perfect for sure.”
Directly involved or not, Williams remained engaged for Saturday’s session, making sure he was the first to congratulate his fellow receivers on the big games in seven-a-side drills. He was seen catching passes from coach Dan Campbell in a stationary position on the field. That was roughly the extent of his physical activity during the open window for reporters. Williams said he also got previous work on the JUGS machine.
“Oh, he’s engaged,” Campbell said of Williams. “We put him out there on the grass and that’s his domain. He is very committed. you ask him questions He’s got the script, it’s his turn. He is very involved in meetings. He asks good questions. Where he is and what you want – I know we’re only in for a day, but that’s what we’re asking of him and James (Mitchell). The mental side of it, be in tune, know what you need to know, listen to all the little details, and then give it back to us, and he does.”
When asked about a timeline for Williams’ recovery, Campbell said, “We’re just taking it as it comes.” Williams added he has no update on when he’ll be able to route and said it was a decision for Detroit medical staff.
Undrafted rookie receiver Kalil Pimpleton credited Williams for how committed he is on the field and in meetings. Pimpleton said that’s what you want to see in a first-round pick and potential leader in this receiver space.
“He’s very energetic. You might not see it, but for us he’s very energetic,” Pimpleton said. “He’s out there encouraging everyone on offense, especially receivers, because he wants his receivers to be the most energetic and competitive of the day.”
It’s worth noting that the only other offensive player the Lions drafted, tight end James Mitchell, is also watching rookie minicamp while he recovers from an ACL injury. The tight end of round five suffered an ACL injury earlier in the season and expects to be vacated by June.
“They’re out there, watching them, and once that’s over we let them do a few things just to gauge where they stand,” Campbell said. “We didn’t involve them. That is not the point. But mentally they are very involved.”
Mitchell said the hardest part about watching was that he only played two games last season. Williams had 79 receptions for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns in 15 games.
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Williams also wore his No. 18 jersey on the field at minicamp. He said he never wore that number and wasn’t sure it would last year-round. The rookie added he wants to keep the No. 1 from his Alabama days. But Jeff Okudah currently owns that number, and it sounds like anything resembling negotiations for a potential number swap was unfortunate.
“The thing is, we’ve already tried, so it’s over,” Williams said of those conversations with Okudah. “It’s over. I have to find something else. We keep rocking with the 18.
“It was a few options, but 18 (expletive). One reason was that Calvin Johnson had 81 and was seeing 81. I wanted to turn it around. Then Randy Moss was 18 at one point. He was my favorite receiver, so 18.”