On Tuesday morning, the Detroit Lions announced they signed nickelback/return man Corey Ballentine to the practice squad. After signing receiver Tom Kennedy from the practice squad to the active roster over the weekend, the Lions had an open spot on the practice squad, so no corresponding move was necessary for this transaction.
The Lions claimed Ballentine off waivers in mid-September and he immediately challenged running back Godwin Igwebuike for the kick returner job. With Igwebuike struggling, Ballentine took over in Week 3 and averaged 23.5 yards per kickoff return over the next three weeks. Unfortunately, he injured his hamstring in Week 5 and was placed on injured reserve.
Finally healthy, Ballentine was activated from injured reserve last Thursday. But with Igwebuike firmly entrenched as the Lions kick returner, there was no clear immediate role for Ballentine and he was released on Friday in order to make room for quarterback Tim Boyle’s return from injured reserve.
After clearing waivers on Monday, Ballentine was brought back to Detroit and will offer the team an insurance option at the kick return spot, as well as depth at nickelback. Because this is his first stint on the practice squad this season, he will have the standard two elevations available, if the Lions need his services in any of their remaining games.
It’s worth noting that the Lions starting nickelback, A.J. Parker, is dealing with an ankle injury and was estimated to have not practiced on Monday. If Parker is unable to play, Ballentine or Nickel Robey-Coleman could be potential elevation candidates—though it was safety Will Harris that took over slot snaps the last time Parker missed a game.