Over two months since suffering a groin injury at training camp, Detroit Lions defensive tackle Da’Shawn Hand made his return to practice on Wednesday. Hand remains on injured reserve, but by putting him out at practice, the Lions have activated his 21-day window in which he must return to the 53-man roster or be placed on season-ending IR.
The Lions have not officially announced Hand’s return to practice, but head coach Dan Campbell said last week that Hand may still have a while to go before playing on Sundays.
“I would say Hand is probably a little further away right now,” Campbell said last Monday.
Initially, it appeared that Hand’s groin injury—which occurred on August 10—was not considered serious, but after a couple weeks passed and he did not return, Campbell clarified that it was a more severe injury than initially believed.
“Obviously, it ended up being a little more than we thought it would be. He’s going to be out here for a little bit,” Campbell said back in August. “There again, we’re kind of hoping this thing—maybe we get him back before the season starts, but we will see where it goes.”
The Lions did not end up getting him back by the start of the season, and, instead, placed him on IR. Counting the six games he’s been sidelined for this season, Hand has missed 28 games in over three years in the NFL. Entering the final year of his rookie contract, 2021 was supposed to be a critical year to Hand’s future.
When Hand does return to the roster, the Lions will have an interesting dilemma on their hands. The Lions have five productive interior defensive linemen in Michael Brockers, Nick Williams, Alim McNeill, Levi Onwuzurike, and John Penisini. They also have Jashon Cornell and Eric Banks on the active roster, though both have been inactive each of the last three weeks. With Hand and Kevin Strong—who is also on IR but returned to practice last week—the Lions will have to figure out which defenders are worth keeping on the 53-man roster and who will be activated on game days.
“That’s going to be a battle once everybody gets back healthy, which five are we taking to the game,” defensive line coach Todd Wash said when I asked him of the challenge. “But the five we take to the game, they’re all going to play, no matter what. Everybody has a different skill set in that room. Levi’s is different than Kev’s, Kev’s is different from Hand. Everybody has a different skill set, so when they play, that skill set, when we get in those situations, that’s where they’ll play. It’s a good problem to have.”