Jamaal Williams wrote his name in the Detroit Lions’ record books last season.
It’s unlikely he’ll be writing them a thank you letter anytime soon, though.
Introduced as the newest New Orleans Saint on Friday, Williams said his departure from Detroit followed a contract offer from the Lions that he felt was impertinent.
“They been done with me. I could tell,” Williams told reporters at his introductory news conference. “The offer they gave me I feel like was very just disrespectful and just showing that they really didn’t want me to be there like that. But it’s all love. I know my teammates, everybody there at the Detroit Lions have love for me and all that, but at the same time, it’s just we couldn’t come to terms on things. It’s just funny is all.”
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For a feel-good story such as Williams — and the Lions’ resurrection — was, it’s an unfortunate ending.
An impassioned player who became a fan favorite during Detroit’s Hard Knocks season in 2022, Williams donned a Pokemon hat on Friday and was every bit the mercurial personality that garnered rooters this past year.
Williams also garnered a franchise-record and league-leading 17 rushing touchdowns in 2022. Along with his nose for the end zone, he produced the first 1,000-yard season of his career. Williams earned a base salary of $3.75 million from the Lions last year. He inked a three-year, $12 million deal with $8 million guaranteed to join New Orleans, which is still very much in the same area code as his last season’s earnings in Detroit.
While Williams felt disrespected by whatever the Lions’ offer was, the Detroit pride picked up a former Chicago Bear, signing David Montgomery for three years and $18 million. Montgomery, 25, is younger than Williams, 27, and has produced four straight seasons of more than 800 yards — a mark Williams only eclipsed just last year. There’s also the sticking point of 13 of Williams’ 17 touchdowns having come from the 3-yard line or closer.
Williams is sick of hearing the caveats for his success, though.
“You can have the greatest season of your life and people are always just going to find something to be negative about,” Williams said, via Justin Rogers of the Detroit News. “I don’t really worry about it, because at the end of the day, I know I’m my biggest critic and I know what I can improve on to be better. I’m just going to keep doing that. I don’t really worry about what other people say. I take notice to it, just to have it in the area and be aware of my surroundings, but I don’t really let it affect me as a person.”
Williams, as he’s wont to do, changed course, though, as it seems the negativity does fuel the veteran tailback.
“Well, I do take it personal, because I take it as a personal challenge for me, just to get better,” he said. “At the end of the day, I just like proving people wrong. You think you know me. You don’t know me. I will show you.”
Williams is now in NOLA, aiming to complement Alvin Kamara as he previously did with D’Andre Swift and Aaron Jones before that.
“I just liked the team,” Williams said. “Honestly, it kind of came out of nowhere, but at the same time, I just loved how they had interest in me and showed they wanted me to be here. Honestly, I’m just proud to be part of a great team like this. A lot of vets on it. A team that has a lot of players that know what playoffs is, what winning a Super Bowl is. I’m just grateful to be here and be part of a team that already knows how to win and knows what to do.”
The Lions learned how to win last year, turning in an entertaining and eventful 9-8 campaign. Williams played a starring role in Detroit’s success, but he’s moving on now — though he’s clearly taking a little motivation with him from Motown.
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