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Damien Williams reveals why he opted out of 2020 NFL season

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The Chiefs running back spoke to Sirius XM NFL Radio on Thursday.

Kansas City Chiefs Victory Parade Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams opted out of the 2020 NFL season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the team announced on Wednesday. On Thursday, Williams joined SiriusXM NFL Radio to reveal why.

“For me, it was kind of cut, straight, simple, right to it,” said Williams. “I’m dealing with a family matter — my mom was just diagnosed with cancer, and it’s stage IV.”

Stage IV means the cancer has spread to other organs or parts of the body. Williams explained that as the oldest of three sons in his family, there was no other decision to be made.

“With everything that’s going on, she was the only one there for me. I never had the opportunity to have my dad there. My mom is my rock, my everything. During a hard time like this, I think I should be next to her every step.”

Williams described that he turned to his circle — his close family and friends — as he debated whether he would play. His mom told him that no matter what he ultimately decided, she would be behind him.

That was to sit out the year, and Williams called general manager Brett Veach to tell him the news.

“At the end of the day, it’s hard,” he added. “Football is my life, especially coming off a championship and wanting to do a repeat, which, I know they going to handle that. But at the end of the day, it’s just something personal I had to handle.”

Williams’ opt-out came only four days after that of right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who will instead stay in Montreal to continue his work as a hospital orderly.

The Chiefs thus lost two offensive starters in less than a week.

“It hurts, man,” said tight end Travis Kelce via Zoom conference call on Thursday. “It hurts, but at the same time, you can obviously respect both of their decisions. Love those guys. It doesn’t make me feel a grudge about either one of them. I totally respect what they’re doing, and you know what? I think coach (Andy) Reid, Veach, the front office is going to do an unbelievable job of trying to fill that void. The guys that we have in that locker room can fill the void. I honestly, truly believe that. We have an unbelievable roster, and I’m pretty excited to see how this group molds together.”

Williams was a key part of the Chiefs’ last two postseason runs, and he was a candidate to win the MVP award in the Super Bowl LIV victory thanks to his 133-yard, two-touchdown performance. With Williams out for the year, the Chiefs will turn to rookie first-rounder Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

“He’s an all-around back,” linebacker Anthony Hitchens said. “Our job is to get him ready for Week 1 as a defense — show him different looks, practice hard, try to ship the ball out, have some tight coverage on him, and I think we have a lot of veterans that are going to do that.”

Because of the unique circumstances this offseason and the agreement between the NFL and players association, Edwards-Helaire won’t have the luxury of preseason games to work with as dress rehearsals.

Hitchens did not seem worried about that when it came to preparing the new starter.

“You can get ready for Week 1 by practicing, especially at this tempo and this speed that coach Reid presents to us,” he explained, “so I’m more than confident he’ll be ready by Week 1 — and who all is playing running back with him. I know if you show up to practice and you practice hard, you will be ready by Week 1. You have no choice. You either keep up or you fall behind here.”

As for whether Williams plans to return to the Chiefs to play next year?

“Most definitely,” he sharply said. “Right now, my mind is being there for my mom, but also working my butt off — not missing a beat... my guys are going hard every day at work, putting on for the city (Kansas City). I can’t just sit back and ball up and let this be a setback. This is not what this is. I’m going to be there for my mom but I’m getting after it.

“I plan on coming back, and I plan on doing it all over again.”