Detroit Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams was the highest-profile player among the five suspended by the NFL last month for gambling violations, and was the only one to not lost his job after the punishment was announced.
The former No. 12 overall pick addressed his six-game suspension with reporters for the first time on Thursday, telling them he was unaware of the league's strict rules against gambling at team facilities.
It hit me out of the of blue. It hit a couple other players around the league and on my team out of the blue. I wasn't aware of this situation, but as it happened, I took it on the chin. I was ready to move forward. As things moved on, I got the consequences. That's been my whole plan, moving forward from things, just looking at the better days.
Williams and fellow Lions wideout Stanley Berryhill were both suspended six games, while Lions wide receiver Quintez Cephus, Lions safety C.J. Moore and Washington Commanders defensive end Shaka Toney were all suspended indefinitely. All of those players save Williams have since been released.
Williams' reported offense was betting on college football games while at a team facility, which is explicitly forbidden by the league's gambling rules. He didn't divulge much detail on the exact nature of the offense Thursday, saying he wasn't sure where at the facility he made the bets.
He also said he didn't bother appealing and looked forward to returning in Week 7:
"I just left it alone. They gave me six games and we left it that. Just looking forward to coming back Week 7, getting back on my team out there playing the game."
Calvin Ridley was the NFL's warning to its players
While Williams said he was unaware of how strictly the NFL handles gambling by its players, the league did make its outlook quite clear in 2022 when it suspended then-Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley for a full season.
In that case, Ridley was reported to have bet $1,500 in late 2021 on a series of parlays that included other sports, but also Falcons games. He had stepped away from football at that point, so he did not play in those games, but he obviously had access to the team that would make sportsbooks frown once they learned who was making the bet.
The nature of Ridley's and Williams' offenses are clearly different, but it was pretty clear the NFL was making an example out of the former.
Jameson Williams has been in this position before
What made Williams' suspension most frustrating was how long it took him to reach the field last season.
One of the most talented receivers in the 2022 NFL Draft, Williams didn't make his NFL debut until Week 12 after tearing his ACL in the College Football Playoff championship game. That was apparently too late for him to build any meaningful role in the Lions offense, as he finished the season with one catch on nine targets for 41 yards, plus a 40-yard rush.
Now, Williams has to wait again to make his season debut. He will return sooner and is able to practice in the meantime, but that won't be much consolation to Lions fans who want to see the player they've waited for since his name was announced in the draft.