The Ravens reacted quickly, signing former New Orleans Saints wide receiver Terrance Copper to take Williams’ place.
Williams has been dealing with the injury since June minicamps, and didn’t practice last week prior to catching a 70-yard touchdown in a 29-10 victory over the Oakland Raiders. The former fourth-round draft pick from Oregon appeared to pull up hurt after crossing the goal line.
"He’s been kind of off and on throughout the season, he’s been fighting through it," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We tried to work it and hoped that it would improve and he could get through the season. It’s just not getting any better."
Williams consulted with a Los Angeles doctor, who recommended immediate surgery. However, he’s expected to recover in time to play next season.
"It’s going to be a pretty delicate surgery," Harbaugh said. "I think he’ll be fine next year."
Williams finished the season with 13 receptions for 180 yards, one touchdown and a 13.8 yards per catch average. It’s the highest average for any player on the team except for rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, who caught one pass for 43 yards against Oakland.
"We’re all going to have to pick up the slack with Demetrius out," tight end Todd Heap said. "That’s a big blow."
Copper is regarded as more of a special-teams ace than a wide receiver.
The Ravens are mulling over their options to fill Williams’ position as the third wide receiver. That includes speedy, drop-prone return specialist Yamon Figurs, who is recovering from a left knee contusion, Copper and inexperienced rookie wideouts Marcus Smith and Ernie Wheelwright.
"We’ve got a lot of options in there," Harbaugh said. "Whatever guy or combination of guys gives us the best chance will be active and will be playing. It could be any one of those guys or a combination of those guys.”
Copper, 26, was signed by Baltimore after a tryout at their training complex along with three other wide receivers.
It has been a minor odyssey for the former East Carolina star.
Days ago Copper was in London playing for the Saints against the San Diego Chargers in the NFL’s latest international game before flying back to New Orleans and being cut from the team Sunday night.
"It’s been a strange week, flying across the Atlantic Ocean then winding up here," Copper said. "It’s definitely kind of an emotional swing to switch teams in midseason, but it all worked out for the best.
"Whatever they need for me to, special teams or receiver, I’ll be ready. I try to bring toughness and ability to the table. This is a good opportunity."
The 6-foot, 207-pounder has caught 46 career passes for 600 yards and six touchdowns in 56 career games, recording 39 special-teams tackles.
Signed by the Saints in 2006 after two seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, Copper has caught 38 passes for 511 yards and five touchdowns over the past two years.
He has returned 24 kickoffs for a 19.5 career average.
"We feel like he’s the best guy for us," Harbaugh said. "He’s been a return guy pretty much his whole career and in college, and he’s been a really solid special-teams guy throughout his career. So, he’ll be contributing in some way or another."
Copper has a lot to learn in rapid fashion as he tries to absorb offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s intricate playbook, cramming in some study time at his locker prior to his first practice with the Ravens.
"I don’t really even know what they run here, but I’ll do what I have to do to get up to speed," Copper said. "I’m not afraid of hard work."
Meanwhile, Figurs hasn’t caught a pass this season. However, he’s one of the faster players in the league when healthy. He hasn’t played in a few games due to his knee problem.
"I’m going to be out there this week running around to see what I can do," Figurs said. "The knee is pretty good. It was just a bad bruise. The swelling has gone down a lot. I’m sure I’ll be playing more receiver now with the routes I’m running at practice and the things they know I can do."