Last week, the Detroit Lions left tackle Taylor Decker began practicing again. While still on injured reserve, due to finger surgery early in the season, returning to practice begins a 21-day window in which Decker can be activated to the 53-man roster. However, at the end of that window, if the Lions have not made a move with Decker, they would be forced to place him back on injured reserve for the remainder of his season.
On Wednesday, Lions head coach Dan Campbell admitted he didn’t wasn’t sure if Decker would be activated in this 21-day window and left open the possibility that he won’t see the field again in 2021.
“Yeah there’s a chance,” Campbell said. “We’ve only got another two-week window here on him since we started his clock. So we’re going to have to figure something out in the next couple of weeks on him. One way or another, whether he’s on the roster, activated, ready to go, or if not, we have to put him down for the rest of the season, it’ll come. I really don’t know where this is going to go short-term. I don’t. I really don’t right now. We’ll just have to see how he feels.”
The problem isn’t exactly the injury. Per Campbell, the injury itself is actually “good to go.” However, the issue appears to be Decker’s ability to play through the current limitations of the support on his hand, whether it be a cast or a splint.
“It just takes a minute to get used to, that’s first of all,” Campbell said. “That alone takes a minute. Then when you do that, he hits somebody and now it’s not like you just nick it. When you hit it, the whole thing bends backward and now the knuckle gets pissed off.”
Last week, the Lions tried several different protections on Decker’s left hand. But even with the smaller limitation, it sounds like Decker would have to operate in a severely limited manner.
“Can you be comfortable with being a one-armed man? Because that’s really what it becomes,” Campbell said. “You can use it to punch, but to be able to grab is going to be hard. That’s what we’ve got to figure out, and he’s got to figure out.”
For now, the Lions are continuing to operate as they have all season: rookie Penei Sewell as their left tackle, Matt Nelson as their right tackle, but their time is running out on Decker. They brought him back to practice last week, meaning they have until November 3—in the middle of their bye week—to either activate him to the 53-man roster or end his season. The one thing the Lions want to make sure of, though, is that if he’s on the field, he’s helping the team, not hurting them.
“If you don’t feel like you can function with it the way that you need to or you feel like you’re going to be a liability to us offensively, then that does us no good, either,” Campbell said. “The last thing we want is, we take him, he goes in and then it doesn’t feel right or somethings not going, and now we’ve used a roster spot for it. So we’re taking it as it comes.”
For now, Decker has missed two consecutive practices: Friday last week and the first practice of this week (Wednesday).