Eagles release former 1st round pick … 29 years after he played his last game originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
The Eagles released one of their former first-round picks on Thursday.
A guy who hadn’t played click in 29 years.
In a strange roster transaction, the Eagles officially waived one-time first-round pick Bernard Williams, who was an All-Rookie offensive lineman in 1994 but was suspended for six games in July 1995 after testing positive for marijuana, then suspended again that October for the remainder of the season.
He never played an NFL snap after his rookie year.
Williams never applied for reinstatement to the NFL and remained on the NFL’s suspended list for nearly three decades.
According to an Eagles spokesman, NFL officials contacted the Eagles recently and explained that they were clearing decades-old players on various reserve lists when Williams’ name came up. Because the Eagles had never released Williams, he was still technically a member of the team.
The Eagles never bothered to run him and there was never a reason to. He did not receive wages, he did not receive a pension, he was not considered on the list. He was a forgotten man on an obscure reserve list, and the Eagles’ current leadership probably didn’t even know he was technically still an Eagle.
Williams’ career began with much promise.
He was the 14th player taken in the 1994 draft — the Eagles’ last first-round pick out of Georgia after Jordan Davis — and had an outstanding rookie year. He is one of six Eagles first-round picks to start every game as a rookie over the past 40 years. The others are Tra Thomas, Corey Simon, Lane Johnson, Carson Wentz and DeVonta Smith.
The Eagles drafted Kansas State offensive lineman Barrett Brooks in the second round in 1995 because they knew there was a chance Williams would be stopped. Brooks started all 16 games in 1995 and enjoyed an 11-year NFL career.
Williams went on to play for the British Columbia Lions of the CFL in 2000, the Memphis Maniax of the XFL in 2001, the Detroit Fury of the Arena League in 2001 and 2002, and the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL in 2003 and 2004.
But his last NFL game was Christmas Eve 1994, when the Eagles lost to the Bengals 33-30 at Riverfront Stadium in Rich Kotite’s final game as Eagles head coach.
When training camp opened in West Chester in late July 1995, new Eagles owner Jeff Lurie said NFL confidentiality rules prevented him from talking about Williams, but speaking generally about players who have been suspended, he said, “In any sport, I think you have to be disappointed in any athlete who doesn’t do everything they can to maximize their God-given abilities for the organization, their teammates, and most importantly, themselves.”
Lurie blamed previous owner Norman Braman for the organization drafting a player like Williams when there were red flags he said they should have seen.
When Lurie bought the team from Braman, he revamped the entire scouting department into something that actually looks a lot like what brought the Eagles tremendous success for most of Lurie’s tenure here.
“No one was doing player personnel, they had two scouts covering the country, but in a pretty haphazard way,” Lurie said that day in West Chester.
“It was a mess. … It was an obvious weakness, part of the baggage I inherited. You have to be the best intelligence gathering team. You must have a strong scouting department. You have to have an incredibly detailed analysis in terms of the background of the players, the personality profile, the family background and to me that’s where we are because of what we put in place.”
No first-round pick in Eagles history (other than Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith) has played in fewer games in an Eagles uniform than Williams.
Only one top-16 pick in the entire league has played in fewer games since Williams, and that’s the Lions’ Charles Rodgers, the No. 2 pick in 2003. He played in 15 games from 2003 to 2005.
Williams, 51, can now be claimed by any other team.
Subscribe to Eagle Eye wherever you get your podcasts:
Apple Podcasts | YouTube Music | Spotify | Tailor | Art19 | RSS | Watch on YouTube
This embedded content is not available in your region.