Last week, the Detroit Lions brought left tackle Taylor Decker back to practice even though the veteran offensive lineman remains on injured reserve. That decision set a 21-day clock in motion. During that time, Decker can practice with the team but cannot play on Sunday until they put him back on the 53-man roster. The Lions must activate him in that 21-day window or he’ll revert back to injured reserve for the remainder of the season.
So his return to practice was a clear sign that Decker was close to playing. Unfortunately, it hasn’t stayed that way. After practicing on Wednesday and Thursday last week, he has been sidelined for three straight practices. On Friday, head coach Dan Campbell admitted Decker suffered a setback last week.
“He’s doing okay. The fact of the matter is he had a little bit of a setback last week,” Campbell said. “We talked about the knuckle and everything, but I don’t see him playing this week, and we’ll just take it as it comes.”
Campbell is referring to something he said on Wednesday, when he noted that Decker has been trying to adjust and feel comfortable with the protection on his hand he continues to wear after finger surgery.
“It just takes a minute to get used to, that’s first of all,” Campbell said earlier in the week. “That alone takes a minute. Well then when you do that, he kind of hits somebody, and now it – well, it’s not like you just nick it, so when you hit it, it all bends backward, and now the knuckle gets pissed off. And so, ‘Alright man, let’s do this a little different and maybe we crop it down.’ So, a little bit of it is just getting comfortable with what that’s going to feel like.”
While that’s obviously worrisome news about Decker’s future in 2021, the Lions will catch a little bit of a break with the timing of everything. Decker’s 21-day window ends on November 3—right in the middle of the team’s bye week. According to Campbell, that actually gives them another week of evaluation before having to make a decision on Decker.
“My understanding is we get the extra time. The bye week (doesn’t) count. So I think we’ll have to make that decision probably the Tuesday after the bye.”
Campbell also gave updates on two other players who have returned from practice but remain on injured reserve: defensive tackles Kevin Strong and Da’Shawn Hand. Strong returned to practice last week, while Hand practiced for the first time on Wednesday.
“I would say Strong is just a little bit closer than where Hand is, but the fact that we started Hand’s clock, that’s a good sign,” Campbell said. “Actually, he may work in the team (drills) today. He started (with) individuals, now he’s going to take a couple team reps. So that’s good, certainly a step in the right direction. Certainly no setback.”
Additionally, Campbell provided a short update on rookie cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu, who suffered a leg injury back in Week 2 and has been on IR since. Campbell said he won’t return by the team’s Week 9 bye, but he’s hopeful he’ll play before the season is over.
“We’re still a little ways away. Now, what is that? I don’t know. Certainly not before the bye, but he is progressing. He is getting better. He’s getting better. I wish I could give you a timeline, but I do feel like we can get him to return before the season’s out. I feel that way. Now, I’m not a doctor, so don’t hold that on me.”