Jamaal Williams wants to get one thing straight: he didn't choose to leave Green Bay. Green Bay chose to let him go.
So as he prepares for his return to Lambeau Field next Monday with the Lions, Williams couldn't help but laugh when asked if it was hard for him to say bye to the team that drafted him in 2017.
"Sh*t, it ain't hard for them to say bye," Williams said Thursday.
Williams wanted to re-sign with the Packers this winter. He liked being part of a one-two punch with Aaron Jones. But the Packers had other ideas at running back, and Williams wound up in Detroit. He's happy with how it all worked out, with his $6 million contract and with his role in the Lions' backfield. If he was dumped by his first crush, he's learning to love his second.
"Y’all act like I left on my own, go-lly! I didn’t do it. Shoot, if I could’ve stayed, I could’ve stayed. If they didn’t want me like that ex-girlfriend, shoot, I gotta go. But good thing I got a rebound, it was the Lions, they picked me up. Now they feeding me good, taking me to dinners, you know what I mean?" Williams grinned. "Another man’s trash is another man’s treasure."
Williams, 26, doesn't bear any ill will toward the Packers. They gave him his first shot in the NFL, which allowed him to cash in as a free agent. Williams was one of only seven running backs in the league who averaged 4.3 yards per carry and caught a total of 70 passes over his final two seasons in Green Bay. If his first game in Detroit was any indication, he might catch 70 passes by Thanksgiving.
"I'm just having fun, man. It's part of life. You're going to have those type of rejections, you’re going to get turnt down, people ain't going to want you. But when you get your shot again from somebody who will give you your shot, you just gotta take that opportunity, be grateful for it and make it count."
Williams ran with it in Week 1. He turned nine carries into 54 yards and a touchdown and he turned a career-high nine targets into eight catches for 56 yards. He was one of the lone bright spots for the Lions in a loss to the 49ers. Williams and D'Andre Swift -- "Swaggy and Swifty," as Williams prefers -- combined for 214 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.
The new one-two punch for the Packers, Jones and 2020 second-rounder A.J. Dillon, produced 48 scrimmage yards in a loss to the Saints. Not that Williams is keeping track.
If the Lions make any noise on offense this season, Williams will have plenty to do with it. That much was clear in Week 1. He charged through holes up front and caught all kind of passes in the flat. He's likely to shatter his career high in receptions (39) and eclipse 1,000 yards from scrimmage for the first time as a pro, something he did each of his three full seasons at BYU.
"He’s exactly what I thought he would be and envisioned he would be," Dan Campbell said Thursday. "And man, there’s true value in that because he was as steady and reliable as a guy you can have. (In Week 1) he looked exactly like he did in camp. He ran hard, he was high-energy, he played smart and he helped move the football for us.”
Williams is looking forward to his return to Lambeau, because it's another chance to play. He said the opportunity to face his former team twice a year wasn't a factor in his decision to sign with Detroit. He just liked the fit. He liked the opportunity, and he's starting to seize it. The Packers are in his rearview, with Lambeau up ahead.
"I'm excited to play," Williams said. "It'll be great to see my boys, teammates I just grew to love over the years. But it's different now that I'm on the other side, so gotta go out there and play for my Lions first. After business is done, we can catch up and do all that."