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Why Jamaal Williams wants to return to Detroit next season

PHOENIX – A number of Detroit's key unrestricted free agents this offseason have expressed an interest in re-signing with the Lions to continue the momentum they built in 2022 under head coach Dan Campbell and his coaching staff.

Count running back Jamaal Williams among that group of players.

"I really just want to stay with Detroit, if I can," Williams told on radio row at the Super Bowl on Wednesday. "Really just stay here and make my mark here. I really want to finish (my career) here if I could.

"I understand it's a business and the team has to do what's best for them and I have to do what's best for me, too, but I just really want us to come to a mutual agreement and just get it done and just get back to playing football."

Williams and wide receiver DJ Chark are two key free agents for a Detroit offense that was one of the top units in the NFL this past season.

Williams, 27, rushed for 17 touchdowns, breaking the Lions' single-season rushing touchdown record held by Barry Sanders since 1991. He logged his first 1,000-yard season, ranking 10th among all NFL running backs with 1,066 rushing yards. He's the first Lion to produce a 1,000-yard season since Reggie Bush in 2013. His 65 rushing first downs were the third most in the league this year. He has also emerged over the last two seasons as a vocal team leader.

Williams said Campbell and his coaching staff demand a lot from their players but at the same time let them be who they are, and it's really allowed him to feel at home in Detroit.

"It's great to have coaches that let you be yourself but at the same time they want you to succeed," Williams said. "They don't care about not doing it a certain way of how they do it or how they want you to act. I feel like you should let your players be who they are and at the same time keep the structure, discipline and keep all that. But let them be themselves while playing football and that's how we get more out of each other.

"Go out there and have fun and have fun with each other."

Williams isn't the only player or coach that's talked about the positive culture being built under Campbell.

As for Williams' offseason, he says the focus heading into his seventh season is to become a more versatile player and have more impact in the passing game. He had just 12 receptions for 73 yards this past season, including a couple drops. He caught 39 passes, including five receiving touchdowns in 2019 while playing in Green Bay, so he's shown it can be part of his skillset.

"I don't want to be struck down to just running the ball," Williams said. "I want to get back to running routes. I want to get back to doing options. My last year in Green Bay I was really out there and was really feeling comfortable with my receiving.

"Once I got to Detroit I understood my role at the time, but I want to be more. Making sure my body is durable and more versatile."

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