Bernard Williams last played for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1994. Why did they just release him?
On the surface, the situation seems ridiculous. Quite frankly, when you know the details of it all, your mind probably won’t change, but the former offensive tackle’s story is another reminder of the idea that even at the elite level of sports, silly mistakes can be made.
Bernard Williams hasn’t played since 1994, why was he just released?
On Thursday, the Philadelphia Eagles released an offensive tackle which in itself is no big deal. Players get released all the time in the NFL. What was strange, however, was that the player in question, former first-round pick Bernard Williams, had not played for the team since 1994. In fact, only a few players in the league or even in the franchise knew who Williams was. Or him. As you can imagine, the immediate questions asked were, “Who is Bernard Williams and why has he only been released now?” The answer to that is interesting, to say the least.
Selected from Georgia as the 14th overall pick in the 1994 NFL Draft, Williams played just one season with the Philadelphia Eagles during which he was suspended in 1995 for marijuana possession after just six games. Williams later tested positive for a second marijuana test and was suspended for the rest of that season. This is where you enjoy it. After his suspension, Williams never applied for reinstatement, meaning his rights were still owned by the Eagles, but as far as the league was concerned, he was still suspended.
Okay, but surely the Eagles got the Bernard Williams situation, right?
To be fair to the Eagles, it seems like it was a bit of an organizational oversight during the change. During his rookie season in 1994, Rich Kotite was the head coach in Philly and Harry Gamble was the general manager. At the end of that campaign, Cottee was fired, while Gamble followed him out the door after just one season. As you can probably imagine, this was while Williams was suspended. Next came Ray Rhodes, who began 1996 as coach which was of course the same season that Williams was poised to reinstate him. Given that Williams never applied for reinstatement, Rhodes and Co. likely never had — and perhaps never reported on his status — any reason to address the matter, and here we are. One can imagine that the organization might have seen it as a question of “why release a player who will not return, and even more so a player who is not being paid?” Adding more weight to the story, is the fact that it was a time when Jeffrey Lurie He just became a franchise owner and focused on large-scale changes rather than cleaning house.
But who is Bernard Williams?
Williams is now 51 years old, a former Bulldog as we mentioned before, and it must be said that he has had great success. In his first and only season in the league, he was selected to the NFL All-Rookie team in 1994. Interestingly, Williams played football again, but not in the NFL. In 2000, he joined the CFL’s BC Lions, before moving to the Memphis Maniacs of the XFL in 2001, and later to the Detroit Fury of the AFL that same year. He eventually finished his career with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL for whom he played from 2003-2006.