Lions rookie WR Williams expected to miss start of training camp

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Detroit Lions rookie wide receiver Jameson Williams likely will not be cleared to practice when the team begins training camp in July, head coach Dan Campbell told reporters on Thursday.

Williams, the number 12 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, is still recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee the former Alabama All-American suffered in the College Football Playoff national championship game in January.

"I don't see him being ready for training camp, I don't see that," Campbell said following the Lions' mini-camp practice.

"We're going to do this thing the right way, and when he's ready, he'll be ready. But no, I don't feel like you're going to see him out there day one."

The Lions remain optimistic that Williams will be ready for the team's season opener on September 11, although offensive coordinator Ben Johnson recently acknowledged the possibility of scaling back the young speedster's role early on as he gets acclimated.

Johnson told the Detroit Free Press last week Williams' situation differs from that of fellow wide receiver Josh Reynolds, who joined the Lions midway through last season and immediately was installed into the team's receiver rotation.

Reynolds was a veteran player who had a familiarity with quarterback Jared Goff, as the two were team-mates with the Los Angeles Rams for four seasons.

"It's going to be a challenge because you can't really compare it to the Josh Reynolds situation from last year," Johnson said. "We didn't really know him and what he necessarily did best, but at least there was a comfort level between him and the quarterback, and we don't have that [with Williams].

"That's a real struggle for us. [The aim] is to get him back, to get him healthy, and then as many reps as possible with the quarterbacks so that we know exactly where he's going to be, we can anticipate the throw."

ACL injuries typically require eight-to-nine months to completely recover from, which would have Williams at full strength right around the start of the season.

The Lions were not deterred by the injury, as they traded up 20 spots with NFC North rival the Minnesota Vikings to choose Williams with the number 12 pick. The 21-year-old was one of six wide receivers taken in the first 18 selections.

Williams established himself as an elite prospect during his lone season at Alabama, becoming one of college football's most explosive receivers after transferring from Ohio State. His 15 touchdown receptions in 2021 tied for third in the FBS and he led the Crimson Tide with 1,572 receiving yards on 79 catches.

Nine of Williams' 15 touchdown catches were from 40 or more yards, leading the FBS last season, while his 11 receptions of 40 or more yards tied for second among major college players.

"He's a special talent," Goff said. "I know they're going to make sure he's as healthy as possible, but selfishly, I want him back as soon as possible."

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