Allen Park – It wasn’t anything Antwione Williams didn’t do, so much as what his competition for a roster spot did, that led to the 2016 fifth-round pick’s release on Saturday.
The Detroit Lions surprised many outside observers by releasing Williams, retaining Steve Longa and veteran Nick Bellore instead. But the two who stuck both shined on special teams, a factor that weighed heavily in the decision-making process at the spot.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell largely avoided talking specifics about the team’s many weekend roster moves, including Williams.
“I can just tell you that the guys that we have that we choose, are the best guys for us at this time,” Caldwell said. “We think they can do the job that we require them to do. I mentioned before, I think early (in the offseason), that we’re going to have to cut a lot of good football players, just simply because of the fact that it was as deep as we’ve ever been at some spots. And I think that’s just what happened in his particular case.”
Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said Williams did everything the team asked of him, but with a third linebacker having a small role in the scheme, it made more sense to keep special teams standouts.
“It was nothing against Antwione, because he did a great job,” Austin said. “He did everything we asked and he was a much better football player than he was last year. But we think we strengthened the room enough that the other guys were probably a little bit better in what we wanted to do.
“With the linebackers, we got to a certain point where we said we have to play our three best, even if it’s only 20 percent of the time we’re going to play three linebackers,” Austin said. “Once you’re there, we’re really a two-linebacker team 80 percent of the game, so what those guys could do, special teams-wise and other areas, really has a bearing on if they make the team.”
Williams was permanently passed up on the depth chart by free-agent addition Paul Worrilow in the late stages of the preseason. And with the emergence of Longa as one of the preseason’s best special teams performers, Williams lost the numbers game.
Williams finished the preseason with 10 tackles and one pass breakup.