Conflicting Reports Surround Mike Williams’ Need for Season-Ending Back Surgery

San Diego Chargers rookie wide receiver Mike Williams (7) trains during an NFL football practice Tuesday, May 23, 2017, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Gregory Bull/Associated Press

There are conflicting reports on whether Los Angeles Chargers rookie wide receiver Mike Williams needs back surgery that would cause him to miss his entire first season in the NFL.

On Wednesday, Adam Schefter of noted the Chargers remain hopeful a second epidural on a herniated disk will help rectify the problem and allow Williams to return during training camp. But Schefter reported the team understands there’s a “real chance” he could be forced to sit out his rookie campaign.

“The Chargers remain uncertain about when Williams initially injured his back,” Schefter said, “but one source said it’s possible it was injured at the combine and during his pro day, but he did a good enough job masking it so that teams would not know and his draft stock would not be impacted.”

However, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported surgery was considered three to four weeks ago but isn’t on the table now, adding Williams is “improving.”

NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported Williams will likely start training camp on the PUP list.

The Chargers selected Williams out of Clemson with the seventh overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft. He made 98 catches for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns during his final collegiate campaign while helping lead the Tigers to the national championship.

Injuries are already starting to become a concern at the pro level, though. The 22-year-old South Carolina native missed most of Los Angeles’ offseason program after suffering the back injury, later identified as a mild disk herniation, during the first practice of rookie minicamp.

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The latest news could further impede his efforts to prove worthy of a top-10 selection. It could also be an opportunity for the likes of Dontrelle Inman and Travis Benjamin to carve out more prominent roles in the receiver pecking order behind Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams.  

Williams’ long-term potential remains his biggest asset, and that’s why the Chargers invested in him early on draft day. He’ll eventually need to stay healthy for an extended period of time to showcase the talent he did at Clemson.