After Thursday’s OTA practice, Detroit Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams spoke publicly for the first time since being handed a six-game suspension for gambling on a non-NFL game while at a team facility.
Williams said he was not aware that what he did was a violation of NFL policy. When asked to give specifics about the incident, he couldn’t—saying, “I’m not sure. That was a while ago.”
Williams denied that he was gambling on a lot of games.
“No frequent gambling. I’m not a gambler. I’m a football player,” Williams said.
He heard about his suspension the Thursday night before it hit the news cycle, and was blindsided by the news.
“It hit me out the blue. It hit a couple of other players around the league and on my team out the blue,” Williams said. “I wasn’t aware of this situation. But it happened and I took it on the chin. I was ready to move forward as things moved on and I got the consequences. That’s been my whole plan, moving forward from things and just looking at the better days.”
The NFL has insisted that their education program on the league’s gambling policy is clear and thorough. In a recent piece by ESPN, the NFL’s vice president and general manager of sports betting David Highhill explained the process:
“The education and training the players receive is different than what NFL/club staff receive, which is different than what officials get,” Highhill wrote. “We are very explicit in the training to explain that if you are involved with the NFL, you can never bet on the NFL.
“There should be no misunderstanding on the policies,” he added.
That said, in the same piece, ESPN reported that a second wave of potential gambling violations is currently being investigated by the league. The first wave included five suspensions, four of Lions players: Williams and Stanley Berryhill were each suspended six games for gambling on non-NFL games at a team facility. Quintez Cephus, C.J. Moore and Commanders defender Shaka Toney were all suspended indefinitely for gambling on NFL games. Soon after, the Lions cut Berryhill, Cephus, and Moore.
Williams is ready to move past it and focus on what he was drafted 12th overall to do: play football. While he knows he still has a lot to prove to Lions fans and his teammates, he wants to prove it to himself first.
“I feel like I’ve got to prove a lot to myself, before I can prove anything to anyone else,” Williams said. “I’ve got goals I’ve set. I just want to knock off my goal list, get on the field, things like that. Hopefully once those things come, fans will be pleased with how I play football, what I do, things like that.”
No. 1 goal on that list: win football games.
“We got to make the playoffs, that’s No. 1 goal,” Williams said. “Got to make the playoffs, go deep in the playoffs, hopefully win the Super Bowl, things like that. I just want to win games with my team.”
Williams missed the majority of his rookie season while he recovered from a torn ACL. He made just six game appearances—all in a limited role—and caught a single pass for a 41-yard touchdown.
Now fully in the mix of offseason practices for the first time in his career, he’s already making a strong impression, specifically with his route running.
“We’re already miles ahead with him,” coach Dan Campbell said on Thursday. “We didn’t even get this with him last year. He wasn’t able to do any of it.”
Obviously, it will be a challenge for Williams to stay engaged during his six-game suspension, but the second-year receiver said he’s locked in now and will continue to be when he’s away from the team.
“I just plan on to stay focus, stay continue working, no fall-offs, no down-ins. I just got to stay on top of myself until I get back with the team.”