Things were going so well, weren't they? The Detroit Lions had become something of the talk of the town around the NFL. The team has been building so well, and everyone was beginning to take notice. The Lions became the favorites to win the division and maybe even go on a deep playoff run.
Even earlier last week when former NFL general manager Scott Pioli was on “Good Morning Football,” he, for no reason at all, decided to say good things about the Detroit Lions.
The crew at #GMFB previously talked about "Which team they want to see in the 2023 playoffs" - I love @JamieErdahl @JasonMcCourty @KyleBrandt @PSchrags but had to object #OnePride pic.twitter.com/hLzgGCwtl0— Scott Pioli (@scottpioli51) April 18, 2023
This is what it has been like since the Lions started going on that run last season. Lions fans have been on top of the world. It’s been a gravy train with biscuit wheels. Then that feeling took a bit of shot to the gut last Friday.
An NFL investigation found that Lions players Jameson Williams, C.J. Moore, Quintez Cephus and Stanley Berryhill had been gambling on sports. For Moore and Cephus—who were found to have gambled on NFL games—it resulted in indefinite suspensions, which, in turn, led to the releases of both of those players. Berryhill and Williams were both suspended for six games due to the fact that they bet on non-NFL games while at an NFL facility.
I’m not going to go on and on about these suspensions. I think there is quite a bit of hypocrisy here. After all, the league is sponsored by every major sports betting that you can think of. I understand that you shouldn’t bet on the NFL while playing in the NFL. I won’t dispute that one.
Having said that, $80 billion dollars was gambled on sports last year. That didn’t all come from one person. The idea that a football player can’t bet on sports outside of the NFL while not actively playing an NFL game is just dumb to me. People have lives outside of the four quarters of a game. They use those lives to do things they’re interested in. For some, that’s gambling. But even dumb rules are still rules. I digress.
After this moment I saw a lot of old tendencies rise to the top from Lions fans. Even the media got into it with dumb stuff like this.
Given today's developments, it's clear that the Lions have a pretty obvious problem when it comes to making sure players and other employees comply with rules that should be pretty easy to understand.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) April 21, 2023
I expected some in football media to turn on the Lions at the first chance they could get, but Lions fans are the real concern here. Because I’m one of them. I usually try to hide that fact in this forum, because I want to remain professional and I want to keep a balance to my coverage of this team. But I love this team and, for a moment, I felt the same way some of you did after Friday’s news.
It sucks. Everything was going really well. The backlash against Williams that had seemingly been going on since the team drafted him was beginning to go away once it was settled that he was, indeed at OTAs last week.
Then this happened. It’s disappointing. I even felt a little embarrassed because in March I wrote about how the misunderstandings around Williams were ridiculous. Then this happens, and it makes me look stupid. To be clear, Jameson Williams owes me nothing. He, in no way, has any duty to make sure the things I write about him are true forever.
This whole situation did get me down on Friday. Then I took a real look at things over the weekend and realized that this really doesn’t change as much about the team. Jameson Williams is one player. Yes, he’s a player that I was very much looking forward to watching, but he’s a player the Lions did everything they did last season without.
The team that succeeded without a high presence from Jameson Williams only got better this offseason. The Lions are very much still on the right track and this really doesn’t change that. It’s a setback, but it’s not a giant setback that changes the direction of the team.
It might affect the way that the Lions draft this week. The Lions have been expected to grab a receiver in this draft long before this happened. If anything, this may shift their focus drafting that receiver earlier in the draft.
The Lions are still the team that’s doing so many things right. They’re still drafting well and they’re still building their team well. The general manager and front office that have set this up is still here, and the coaches responsible for the culture and the on-field product are here, too.
It’s still frustrating when it comes to Williams, though. The Lions traded up to get this player and it’s been a bit of hassle so far. He had to get over a bad injury and now there’s a six-game suspension. Through the first 1.5 years of his NFL career, he’ll have one reception to his name.
This doesn’t change the way I feel about Williams as a person. The fact remains that he’s just a kid, and to expect that anyone his age is going to not have any sort of setback in their lives just because they’re professional athletes is just not a realistic expectation. Do I think he needs to revaluate some things a grow up a little? Yes, of course. But I don’t think he’s bad guy or a problem child based off of this. Once he hits the field and plays the way that we all know he can, we’ll probably grow to forget that this ever happened.
I think that’s largely how we’ll all feel about this entire situation in due time. Just a small hiccup in an otherwise successful era of football in Detroit. Take a look up Lions fans. The sky is still there.