LONDON — Some fences are being mended between DeAngelo Williams and the Carolina Panthers — but the team’s No. 2 all-time leading rusher still believes he deserves an apology.
Williams is in London for the next few days to serve as the Panthers’ NFL alumni ambassador for the Carolina-Tampa Bay game Sunday. His trip is being paid for by the NFL, Williams said. He showed up at the Carolina Panthers’ community event Thursday in London, where he did an impromptu interview with the Observer and several other reporters who cover the team.
“I have no ill will or problems with the team or with the coaches,” Williams said in the interview. “That’s why I’m here. I’m showing people that it’s never been about hating the players or anybody that’s in that locker room.”
But what Williams is still angry about, he said, is that the Panthers’ front office didn’t send anyone to his mother’s funeral in 2014.
Williams blames that gaffe on former owner Jerry Richardson and former Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman, but said he still believes that the team should sit down with him in some sort of official capacity and say it’s sorry for the mistake.
“Let’s just address the elephant in the room,” Williams said, who first brought this issue to attention in a February 2015 interview with WBTV that came shortly after the Panthers released him. Williams played for Carolina from 2006-14.
The Panthers were not immediately available for comment regarding Williams’ request for an apology.
Williams said Thursday that the passage of time has not softened his attitude — and that he initially turned down the NFL’s offer to be an ambassador for this game “a couple of times” because of it. He said that the only person with a direct Panther connection who came to his mother’s funeral was former Carolina teammate Greg Hardy.
“I’m not one of those guys where, after time has passed, you show up and, ‘Oh, everything’s fine,’” Williams said. “It’s like no, let’s address it and move on and we can be kosher and good about it.”
What does he want exactly?
“Just a simple apology,” said Williams, who still lives in Charlotte. “That’s it. … And the reason I want the simple apology is — and I tell people this all the time — literally when you apologize to somebody and say we screwed up, whether you mean it or not, there’s something there that we did wrong. We’re acknowledging it, we’re apologizing for it. … We want to move on. If your kids were to do something and not apologize for it, how long do you stay on them until they apologize?”
As to why it’s important to get an apology from the Panthers organization more than five years after his mother’s death and with Richardson and Gettleman both gone, Williams said the organization’s apology would be more significant than any certain person’s. He wrote later on his Twitter account: “It’s the principle! Time doesn’t apologize people and organizations do! When someone in a company truck causes an accident the person isn’t the one u want answers from it’s the company right?”
Williams, who has rarely been around the team since he was released, said he enjoyed seeing some former Panthers teammates, such as Greg Olsen, Luke Kuechly, Trai Turner and Tre Boston, on Thursday. He also said that if he were ever to be in position to be asked to be in the Panthers Hall of Honor, he would “have no issue with it.”
After leaving Carolina, Williams played his final two seasons in Pittsburgh, where he said the ownership and front office maintained a more visible presence with the players.
“I think my whole nine years at Carolina, I saw the whole front office at practice two or three times,” Williams said. “Dude, it was every week (in Pittsburgh) that the front office was down watching practice. They were fans of the team.”
Williams said he is more proud of his work in the community than of anything he accomplished on the football field. He has been particularly involved in funding for mammograms since his mother and several other relatives all died of breast cancer before age 55. The DeAngelo Williams Foundation has covered the cost of more than 500 mammograms, according to its website.
While Williams said he would welcome the chance to talk with new Panthers owner David Tepper on this trip, he said his visit to England was about supporting the Panthers. Tampa Bay also has its own NFL alumni ambassador in Simeon Rice.
“I didn’t come down here seeking retribution or seeking for somebody to apologize to me,” Williams said. “I came here solely to let everybody know that I’m back in Carolina — that I do not have an issue with the team, the players, or the coaching staff. None of them are my issue.”
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