The Detroit Lions were back in Allen Park on Wednesday preparing to travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers in Week 10. The bye week appeared to do the Lions some good health-wise as they are moving in the right direction with several injured players.
Before we get to today’s injury report, let’s take a quick look at the Lions’ designated to return from injured reserve players, keeping in mind the Lions activated LT Taylor Decker (finger) and DL Kevin Strong (thigh) during the bye, as well as DL Da’Shawn Hand (groin) just before the Eagles game.
Returned to practice, Still on IR
- QB Tim Boyle (thumb on right hand) — Day 1 of the 21-day evaluation period
- CB Ifeatu Melifonwu (thigh) — Day 1 of the 21-day evaluation period
- NB/KR Corey Balentine (hamstring) — Day 1 of the 21-day evaluation period
Boyle broke his right thumb in the preseason finale and required surgery. During the first seven games of the season, He was seen wearing a brace on his hand while on the sidelines, but in Week 8, he shed the safety device and was throwing passes during warmups ahead of the Eagles game. He will challenge David Blough for the backup quarterback job when he is officially back on the active roster.
Melifonwu injured his thigh in Week 2, and after spending two months on injured reserve he is finally ready to begin practicing again. Once healthy, he is expected to challenge fellow rookie Jerry Jacobs for a starting role.
Ballentine was claimed off waivers in mid-September, and he immediately filled the role of Lions kick returner. Unfortunately, he was only active three weeks before injuring his hamstring. Godwin Igwebuike—who Ballentine beat out for the job—has been holding down the position and has responded well after his early struggles. This figures to be a full-on competition once Ballentine is healthy.
Boyle, Melifonwu, and Ballentine will have three weeks—nine practices—to be evaluated before the clock runs out and if they are determined to be healthy ahead of schedule, any of them can be activated at any time.
Now, Let’s take a closer look at the official injury report for Wednesday. (New injuries are in bold)
No practice on Wednesday
- RB Jamaal Williams (thigh)
Williams’ thigh injury forced him to miss the Lions last game and while he was back on the practice field on Wednesday, he was only seen working with trainers off to the side. If he is unable to play again this week, expect rookie Jermar Jefferson—fresh off his first career touchdown—to be active as his replacement.
Limited at practice
- EDGE Austin Bryant (shoulder)
- DL Jashon Cornell (illness)
- K Austin Seibert (right hip)
Three new injuries popped up for the Lions this week, and it’s unclear if these injuries were from Week 8’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles or injuries suffered during Wednesday’s practice.
Bryant—who we chatted with on Tuesday—has seen his playing time steadily rise throughout the season. If he’s unable to play, the Lions could use Jessie Lemonier, who was signed up from the practice squad about a month ago.
Cornell has only been active once this year after serving a suspension to start the year. Given that the Lions returned both Da’Shawn Hand and Kevin Strong from injured reserve recently, Cornell may not play this week even if he returns to full health.
As for Seibert, the Lions have again protected backup kicker Ryan Santoso on the practice squad. Santoso was active for two games for Detroit this year and has been a perfect 4-for-4 on extra points. He also kicked a high-pressure, go-ahead field goal against the Ravens, which he discussed with us on the podcast last week.
- CB AJ Parker (neck)
- LT Taylor Decker (finger)
Decker is back at practice but the Lions are being “very mindful” in not rushing him into action.
“He’s going to go out there and practice,” Campbell said of Decker in his pre-practice press conference. “If he feels good, then we’ll see what tomorrow looks like and we’ll just go from there. But, I know he’s ready to go and I know he wants to go out there and he wants to test it, he wants to use it. But, until we test it, we’re not going to know and it’s time to test it. He’ll know. I think he’ll be able to tell pretty quickly how it feels.”
Obviously, it’s a promising sign that Decker was a full go on Wednesday, but his participation rate on Thursday will be telling to see how he responded to a full day of practice.
Parker being a full participant is good news for the Lions' secondary. Detroit’s starting nickel missed last game against the Eagles but appeared to be close to returning. Assuming he does not suffer a setback, he should be expected to play this week.
No longer on the injury report
- RB D’Andre Swift (groin)
- TE T.J. Hockenson (knee/ankle)
- FB Jason Cabinda (hip)
- EDGE Trey Flowers (knee)
Good to see several players who have spent week after week on the injury report—Swift, Hockenson, Flowers—have now fully healed. The power of the bye week.