The Detroit Lions drafted Jameson Williams in the first round last year, knowing his rookie season would mostly be a wash coming off a torn ACL.
While the receiver is slated the start the 2023 campaign serving a six-game suspension for violating the league's gambling policy, head coach Dan Campbell noted Thursday that the offseason work is vital for the 22-year-old.
"We're already miles ahead with him," Campbell told reporters. "We didn't 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 the season, he's already in… Here we go, three weeks, four weeks, you see progress. 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, this time. I think that's what it's about, man. We've 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."
Williams appeared in six games for Detroit during his rookie campaign, catching one pass on nine targets for a 41-yard touchdown.
Campbell added that during the few on-field sessions thus far, Williams has already improved his route running.
"I think some of the biggest growth is just in his routes," the coach said. "I feel like there's a little better route detail right now that I've seen over the last few weeks. That was kind of a point of emphasis. … When you can use your speed not just to take the top off but to put fear in the defense and then put your foot in the ground and the quarterback puts it on a rope, that's hard to cover."
The second-year pro was suspended for the first six games of the 2023 season for violating the NFL's gambling policy.
Williams spoke to reporters on Thursday for the first time since the ban.
"I'm not a gambler. I'm a football player," he said, per MLive.com.
Williams said the suspension "hit me out of the blue."
"Just make the right decisions, it was something I wasn't aware of, and it caught me," he added, per ESPN.com.
The receiver added that he has no plans to appeal the suspension.
"I just left it alone," he said. "They gave me six games and we left it at that. I'm just looking forward to coming back Week 7, getting back with my team out there, playing a game."
The goal is for Williams to get enough reps this spring and summer to buoy the young wideout, who played just 74 offensive snaps as a rookie.
"When he's gone, he's gone, and then when he comes back, hopefully we built enough of a base and a core under him that he can step right back in and go," Campbell said.
The Lions need Williams' speed in the receiver corps, but in his absence for the first six weeks, will lean on Marvin Jones and Josh Reynolds to fill the shoes opposite Amon-Ra St. Brown.