Second-year wide receiver Jameson Williams said the worst day he had over his month-long suspension was opening night vs. Kansas City. He wanted so badly to be out there with his Lions teammates, and that's when his suspension for breaking the gambling policy hit him hardest.
Williams said he worked out twice and day and caught 100 footballs per day on his jugs machine at his house while away from the team. And now it's happier days as Williams has rejoined his teammates after having his suspension reduced from six games to four games by the NFL.
"It's awesome," Williams said Tuesday of being back in Allen Park and back out on the practice field. "Today was one of the better days in the last month I had just getting out there and getting on the field. Today I put pads on, and I felt good today out there with the guys."
Williams, the No. 12 overall pick in last year's NFL Draft, brings a speed and playmaking element to the offense opposing defenses will have to be aware of. That should help free others up to make more plays too.
Lions head coach Dan Campbell said it is unfair to expect Williams to play 60-plus snaps this week, so the plan would be to work him back into the mix slowly.
"It's just a process," Williams said of working himself back into an offense that currently ranks eighth in both total offense and passing. "Whatever Ben (Johnson) has going for me we're going to get in and execute and have a good time. We're just looking forward to keeping winning, you know? We are 3-1 right now and hopefully we can keep the season going. I'm just trying to win. I'm just trying to keep that going."
Campbell was clear this week speaking about the expectations he has for Williams in his second season.
"Honestly for me, it's dependability. That's it. Reliability, dependability, get lined up, know where you're supposed to be, we're going to get the depth out of you, and we can count on you to be where you're supposed to be when you're supposed to be there and that's it," he said.
"I'm not looking for yards, I'm not looking for explosives, I'm not looking for touchdowns. Man, just be a reliable receiver like any of those guys in the room. That's it. And to me, that's a good year, because we're about winning. It's not about one player. And that'll help us win."
FORCE IN THE MIDDLE
Third-year defensive lineman Alim McNeill changed his diet and dedicated his offseason to changing his body, and the team is reaping the early rewards.
"I feel like I am seeing the time and the work that I put in," McNeill said this week. "But still haven't done nothing. It's still very early. We have a lot more season, a lot more games, a lot more plays to make. But I am seeing it. I notice a difference on the field, just watching myself personally."
McNeill has two sacks, seven tackles, three tackles for loss and four quarterback hits through his first four games. His career high in sacks was two in his rookie season in 2021 in 17 games. He's also enjoying his highest grade through four games from Pro Football Focus in his career.
McNeill has been one of Detroit's most consistent performers in the middle of a defense that currently ranks fourth in total defense (280.5 ypg) and first in run defense (60.8). He dropped 20-plus pounds this offseason without losing any strength and his added quickness and agility is noticeable on tape.
"Mac being able to be a force inside is making a difference," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said. "He's becoming a disruptive force in there and he's in a good place right now."
The Carolina Panthers come to Ford Field Sunday in search of their first victory of the season.
The Lions certainly haven't forgotten what the Panthers did to them in Carolina Week 16 last season. The Panthers rushed for 320 yards and three touchdowns and totaled 570 yards of offense on the way to a 37-23 beatdown of the Lions that contributed to them not qualifying for the playoffs.
"I just have a bad taste in my mouth about it. We know what they did to us last year," linebacker Derrick Barnes said this week. "We're preparing to where that doesn't happen (again)."
Carolina comes in ranked 25th in total offense (282.5) and 22nd in rushing offense (95.3).
McNeill said last year's game vs. Carolina 'left a really bad taste in our mouth,' and it's something they haven't forgotten as they continue on-field preparations for Sunday's NFC showdown.
The league announced Monday that the Lions-Buccaneers game on Oct. 15 in Tampa, Florida, will move from 1 p.m. to 4:25 p.m., during the NFL's prime late-afternoon window.
The 3-1 Lions have already played in the national spotlight twice, winning both of their primetime Thursday night matchups with Kansas City and Green Bay. Tampa Bay has emerged as the early favorite in the NFC South with a 3-1 record with wins over Minnesota, Chicago and New Orleans.