He opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns about COVID-19, particularly how it could affect his mother after her stage four cancer diagnosis.
“I’m dealing with a family matter, my mom was just diagnosed with cancer and it’s Stage 4, so that was my decision,” Williams said on SiriusXM NFL Radio last year. “With everything that’s going on, she was the only one there for me.
“My mom is my rock, my everything, so during a hard time like this, I think I should be next to her every step.”
Williams’ next step will be finding a new team after the Chiefs released him Tuesday, a move that saves $2.2 million in salary cap space.
Undrafted out of Oklahoma in 2014, Williams played four seasons with the Miami Dolphins before joining the Chiefs in 2018. He owns a modest 1,231 career rushing yards in the regular season to go along with 12 touchdowns.
But Williams has been an altogether different guy in the playoffs. His six TDs in the 2019 playoffs are a record for an undrafted player in the Super Bowl era. His 10 postseason touchdowns for the Chiefs are a franchise record. He had 133 yards from scrimmage and scored two fourth-quarter TDs – one a 5-yard catch, the other a 38-yard sprint – in K.C.’s 31-20 Super Bowl win over the San Francisco 49ers, the Chiefs’ first title in 50 years.
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Deemed an angry runner by teammates, Williams talked about his NFL journey following the Super Bowl.
“I got into the league undrafted, I had to fight my way in. And coming here, the organization told me, ‘We like you, but you’re going to have to work to make this team.’ Hearing that, and always just hearing the doubt,” he said, “yeah, that’s why I bring a lot of attitude to this game.”
But the two-time defending AFC champs, who struck a five-year, $80 million deal with guard Joe Thuney on Monday are apparently set at running back. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is coming off a strong rookie season, and promising Darrel Williams just re-upped for 2021.
So Williams, who turns 29 next month, is left to seek perhaps one more opportunity to extend his career.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Chiefs cut Damien Williams, a Super Bowl 54 hero and COVID-19 opt-out