With back-to-back news this week that Jonathan Williams was facing a DWI charge and Karlos Williams will be suspended for the first four games of the season, the Buffalo Bills’ running back position that had been so deep now looks shallow. It won’t be that bad.
Let’s get something out of the way; Jonathan Williams will receive a two-game suspension. It’s spelled out in the Collective Bargaining Agreement and won’t be lessened on appeal. The timing of Williams’ brush with the law, however, makes it unlikely NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will hand out a suspension prior to the 2016 season. In these cases, Goodell prefers to let the legal process play out before doling out his own brand of justice. As Williams’ next preliminary court date isn’t until August 15th, it’s highly unlikely we’ll see a legal resolution by the start of the season, meaning his suspension almost certainly won’t take place until the 2017 season.
Waiting has been standard practice in the league since the new CBA was signed in 2011. In June of 2014, Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith was arrested for DWI after crashing his car into a pole and didn’t miss games until September 2015. Jay Ratliff was arrested for DWI in January of 2013 before pleading guilty in May of 2015 and missing the first three games of the 2015 season for the Chicago Bears.
The only player to be both arrested and suspended in the same offseason for this kind of offense was the Minnesota Vikings’ Jabari Price. He was arrested in early January 2015, plead guilty in April, was suspended in July, and missed the first two games in September. The infraction took place six months earlier in the offseason calendar.
There is at least a rumble that Williams could, in fact, be suspended in 2016 and it comes from the team’s official website.
“Based on informed NFL sources that suspension stands a good chance of being imposed at some point during the 2016 regular season,” writes team beat writer Chris Brown in his Q&A column on Friday. That type of mid-season suspension would be unprecedented in this type of case and would likely take place after Karlos Williams returns.
With LeSean McCoy at the top and Jonathan Williams, Mike Gilislee, James Wilder, Jr., and Boom Herron on the roster, the Bills won’t need to add another body simply because Karlos Williams is out with his suspension.