There were plenty of red flags surrounding Karlos Williams coming out of Florida State.
Accusations of domestic violence and alleged involvement in a drug deal gone bad that ended in armed robbery did not dissuade the Buffalo Bills from using a fifth-round draft pick on him, however.
As a rookie, it looked like the gamble by General Manager Doug Whaley was going to be a great one. Even though he fought through injuries, including a concussion, Williams put up 517 rushing yards and scored nine total touchdowns – tied for the team lead with Sammy Watkins – in 11 games during his first professional season. He started his career with at least one touchdown in his first six games (seven total), matching New England’s Robert Edwards as the only players in league history to do that.
But Williams’ career self-destructed after his rookie year. He showed up to spring organized team activities about 25 pounds overweight, forcing the team to hold him out of practice.
After that, he was hit with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. When the Bills reported to training camp at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford at the end of July, one league source told The Buffalo News Williams weighed in 5 pounds heavier than he was in the spring. Another source told The News that as training camp progressed, Williams was actually gaining weight, rather than coming back down to the team’s assigned goal.
“I think it’s a process, and he was so far out of reach for his goal, that it was going to take a lot of time for him to get to where he needed to be,” Bills General Manager Doug Whaley said in a brief news conference before the start of the team’s second preseason game against the New York Giants at New Era Field, a 21-0 Buffalo win. “While you’re taking time, other guys are moving past you.”
Williams was elevated to the active roster Monday after passing his physical, but the team evidently was not impressed with what it saw from him in a week of practices.
“I’ve always said this is a performance-based business,” Whaley said. “The release of Karlos Williams was strictly performance-based. He came in behind the eight-ball and never caught up and there were other guys on the roster who moved ahead of him. So in light of that, we thought, ‘Why hold on to him? Why don’t we give him a chance to maybe find another job out there in the league?’ We weren’t going to hold on to him to the end, knowing he wasn’t going to make the team.”
In other words, the team had seen enough.
“It’s just all on the field. If he’s not out there being able to perform, and he can’t perform at the level we expect him to, then that’s on him,” Whaley said. “So it’s not a question. I always say the information makes the decision, and the information was he wasn’t ready to play and guys underneath him surpassed him.”
Without Williams, the Bills will rely on Reggie Bush, Mike Gillislee, rookie Jonathan Williams and James Wilder Jr. to provide depth behind starter LeSean McCoy.
“We just saw guys underneath him surpass him,” Whaley said.
Karlos Williams posted a picture on his Instagram page thanking the team. It read in part: “I will never forget my first carry in #TheRalph I wanna thank the #billsorganization for the opportunity of a life time.”
Bills backup quarterback EJ Manuel goes way back with Williams.
“I feel bad for Karlos. He’s somebody I’ve known since I was in high school,” Manuel said. “His brother went to Florida State when I did. I’ve known ’Los since I think he was in ninth grade. You’ve got to take it as a learning lesson. I’m going to shoot him a call after this, make sure he’s doing all right, but I think ’Los is going to be extremely hard on himself. That’s the kind of guy he is.”
Manuel was asked what Williams needs to do to resurrect his career in another city.
“I think only ’Los can figure that out for himself,” he said. “He’s a great talent, obviously. You know he can play. He’s just got to do what he’s got to do to make sure he can be available to play.
“When I came in they told me about it and I was shocked. I kind of see ’Los as a younger brother. It’s just one of those things. This is a business and you’ve got to do your part. This is going to be a learning experience for him.”
Jordan Gay took Buffalo’s first kicks instead of Dan Carpenter and shanked his big opportunity. Gay is a third-year kickoff specialist. He has an explosive leg, but poor accuracy. That’s why he has zero field-goal or extra-point attempts in the regular season.
On Saturday, he missed an extra point 4:54 before halftime and a 37-yard field-goal attempt 37 seconds before the break. Each struck the right upright.
“We’re very disappointed in that,” Bills coach Rex Ryan said. “It’s amazing. My goodness, we’ve got to get better.” Both Dan and him have done an extremely good job on the practice field. You just got to do it on the game field. We know both those guys can hit those kicks. Yeah, it was disappointing.”
All of Gay’s placekicking action has taken place in the preseason. He made one of his two field-goal attempts last year, converting a 52-yarder. He made all three extra points. In 2014, he missed his lone extra-point try.
The Bills continue to play it safe with star receiver Sammy Watkins.
The team elected to keep Watkins on the sidelines as he continues to make his way back from a broken foot suffered in the offseason.
Defensive tackle Kyle Williams also did not play against the Giants. He’s also being worked back in as he recovers from knee surgery.
Also out for the Bills on Saturday were: Wide receivers Greg Salas (hamstring) and Kolby Listenbee (active/non-football injury list), cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman (ankle), safety Aaron Williams (concussion), linebacker Reggie Ragland (knee), left guard Richie Incognito (ribs), right tackle Seantrel Henderson (active/non-football illness list), defensive tackle Alameda Ta’amu, outside linebacker Shaq Lawson (active/physically unable to perform), wide receiver Marcus Easley (active/physically unable to perform) and outside linebacker Manny Lawson (pectoral).
Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, left guard Ryan Groy, defensive tackle Jerel Worthy and linebacker Zach Brown started in place of injured players.