When Detroit Lions returner/cornerback Jamal Agnew tumbled into the endzone during the team’s Week 5 game against the Green Bay Packers, the outlook was pretty grim. Agnew was clearly in a ton of pain on the field, initial reports were concerned about a torn ACL and the Lions eventually placed Agnew on injured reserve.
But on Monday in the locker room, Agnew was much cheerier. With a big smile on his face, the second-year player beamed about his current physical state, which could mean a return to the roster if the Lions choose to designate him to return from IR.
“I’m feeling pretty great right now,” Agnew said. “Like I said, it’s not my decision to be activated or not. I’ve been working hard, putting myself in that position to make that decision a little bit easier for them.”
Agnew headed into 2018 coming off an All-Pro rookie season as one of the best punt returners in the NFL. He led the league in yards (447), yards per return (15.4), and punt return touchdowns (2).
This year, he was blossoming into the multifaceted threat of both a special teamer and a contributor as a nickel cornerback. Against the Cowboys, Agnew played 44 defensive snaps, signaling that he was becoming a big part of what the Lions wanted to do on defense.
However, the knee injury set all that back, and it was frustrating for Agnew, who had never been sidelined so long with an injury in his career.
“I just want to get back and help the team win,” Agnew said. “I don’t like watching football. I’ve been doing it all my life. I’m trying to get back out there and play. I’m just itching to get back out there.”
The Lions have to wait six weeks from placing Agnew on IR before they can return him to practice. Then they have to wait another two before they can bring him back to the active roster. That means the earliest Agnew could play is Week 15 against the Bills.
For now, Agnew is focusing on his rehabilitation, which means keeping his head in the game. Head coach Matt Patricia brought in a new defensive scheme, and it appears Agnew may be a part of those long-term plans. Considering all of the physical strain rehab has, Agnew admits it’s not always easy to stay fresh mentally, but he’s working through it.
“I’m just trying to stay locked into meetings, filmwork, all that stuff,” Agnew said. “It’s tough just because I’ve got to be over there doing my rehab most of the day. So it’s hard to stay locked in with the gameplan week-by-week when you’re trying to come back from injury. Like I said, I battled through it. Mentally, physically, I’m in a really good place right now.”
Detroit has a tough decision ahead of them. While it appears Agnew is getting closer to full health, the Lions’ season is slowly slipping away. At 4-7, the playoffs are a distant dream, and Detroit may not want to risk pushing Agnew back too soon. After all, the team just placed Marvin Jones Jr. on injured reserve despite reports that he had only suffered a bone bruise.
That being said, Agnew is young and hungry. The final few weeks of the season for a team out of the playoff race are good opportunities for getting young players experience, and for the coaching staff to evaluate their future talent.
One thing is clear with Agnew: The motivation is there.
“I’ve been doing a lot of things, and I feel like I’m getting back to where I used to be. It’s just a matter of time now.”