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Detroit Lions injury update: Where the team stands at the bye week

Here’s an update on the status of all injured Lions players.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The bye week is a time to take a step back for a moment and reset what you know. The Detroit Lions are using this time to examine what’s working well, come up with a game plan for what isn’t, and rest up so they can be as healthy as possible for the back half of the season.

So, let’s also use this opportunity to reset the health of the Lions roster to see everything they have gone through up until this point, and where they’re at for their final nine games.

Note: Starters and expected starters at the time of injury are bolded.

Reserve/Non-Football Injury

TE Hunter Bryant (undisclosed) — article
TE Charlie Taumoepeau (ribs) — article

Bryant entered the offseason expected to assume a TE3 role, but an undisclosed April off-the-field injury ended his sophomore season before it began. The Lions turned to Brock Wright to fill this role moving forward.

Taumoepeau was in the mix to replace Bryant, but he was a passenger in the vehicle when former teammate Alex Brown was in a car accident during training camp. Injuries sustained in the crash ended Charlie’s season prematurely. The Lions kept him on injured reserve, likely to help him with his recovery.

Season-ending injured reserve

C Frank Ragnow (toe)season-ending toe surgery
OL Tyrell Crosby (hamstring) — article
DT Joel Heath (ACL) — article
EDGE Romeo Okwara (Achillies)article
LB Shaun Dion Hamilton (undisclosed) — article
CB Jeff Okudah (Achillies)article

Ragnow injured his toe just four games into the season. After a follow-up medical exam, it was determined that it was better to shut the Pro Bowl center down for the season and allow him to recover properly, preventing any negative long term impact. Evan Brown has played well as his replacement, but losing your best player on the roster was a blow to this team.

Crosby went from starter in 2020, to reserve in the offseason, to bubble player at cutdowns. “We didn’t feel like he was one of the best guys,” Campbell said back in late August, which seems to suggest they would likely part ways, but at this time no injury settlement has been reached and Crosby counts for over $2.25 million against the Lions salary cap.

Heath tore his ACL in May but can often be spotted on the sidelines around Allen park getting in rehab. For a team deep at defensive tackle, there must be something they really like about him to keep him around and involved for the past six months.

Hamilton was impressing during training camp when players like Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Derrick Barnes were struggling. He seemed poised to earn a reserve role on the roster due to his coverage skills, but late in training camp he suffered a surprise (undisclosed) injury. Hamilton was then placed on injured reserve, ending his season. JRM and Barnes have since been thrown into the mix and stepped up in his absence.

Okwara and Okudah both suffered season-ending Achillies injuries, which have had a major impact on how the Lions' defense operates. Unfortunately, this type of injury suggests a long road to recovery and there is no guarantee either will be ready for next season.

Injured reserve, designated to return

QB Tim Boyle (broken thumb on right hand) — article
WR Tyrell Williams (concussion)article
WR Quintez Cephus (broken collarbone) article
OL Logan Stenberg (undisclosed) — article
CB Ifeatu Melifonwu (thigh)article
NB/Ret. Corey Ballentine (hamstring)article

Boyle broke the thumb on his throwing hand in the preseason finale and has been in a cast up until last week, when he was seen throwing in Week 8 pregame warmups. He appears close to returning, but as we have seen with Taylor Decker, that doesn’t necessarily mean he will be ready to take the field anytime soon. If/when he returns, he will challenge David Blough for a reserve role behind Jared Goff, who is still holding down the starting job.

Williams suffered a concussion in the season opener and his symptoms have been significant enough that he remains on injured reserve two months later. When a brain injury lingers this long, it’s typically not a good sign for the player’s ability to return to the field in the same season and could show long-term effects. When he was unable to return to his starting role, Quintez Cephus stepped in and performed above expectations.

Then in Week 5, Cephus broke his collarbone and required surgery. Although he has not technically been ruled out for the season, it would be surprising to see him back on the field in 2021. The replacements for Williams/Cephus have yet to step up and no reserve receiver has claimed the vacant starting roles.

It’s unclear why Stenberg landed on injured reserve, as the sophomore interior offensive lineman wasn't seeing the field often. However, two weeks ago he was placed on IR and can’t return until Week 11 at the earliest. Ryan McCollum is the only reserve interior lineman on the active roster at this time.

When Okudah went down, third-round rookie Melifonwu stepped into the starting lineup and looked ready to contribute, but immediately suffered a thigh injury that left him on the shelf for two months and counting. He is expected to return sometime this season, but there is no timeline for that to happen. The Lions turned to UDFA Jerry Jacobs to start, and he has thrived with the opportunity.

Ballentine was claimed off waivers, and within a week on the roster was inserted in the starting kick returner role. His time in that role didn't last long; a hamstring injury put him on IR and the team turned back to Godwin Igwebuike.

Returned from IR to the active roster

OT Taylor Decker (finger)article
DL Da’Shawn Hand (groin) — article
DL Kevin Strong (thigh) — article

Decker returned to practice three weeks ago. After just two practices, he suffered a setback and has been unable to practice since. The clock ran out on his 21-day evaluation period and the Lions opted to activate him to the 53-man roster rather than put him on season-ending IR. While back in the mix, he may still not be ready to play after the bye, but the fact that they brought him back suggests they expect him to play again this season. Expect him to return back to his starting left tackle spot with rookie Penei Sewell shifting back to right tackle and Matt Nelson to the bench in a reserve role.

Hand returned to action in Week 8 against the Eagles but he only played on eight snaps and all were in pass rushing situations. His role will likely grow, but the Lions are developing two rookies at the position—second-round pick Levi Onwuzurike and third-round pick Alim McNeill—which could impede his playing time.

Strong was also activated during the bye week. While he flashed early on in the season, he is likely even further down on the depth chart than Hand and will fight for playing time each week.

Currently injured, on the active roster

EDGE Trey Flowers (knee)
RB D’Andre Swift (groin)
RB Jamaal Williams (thigh) - missed last week’s game
NB AJ Parker (neck) - missed last week’s game
TE T.J. Hockenson (ankle/knee) - returned in full
FB Jason Cabinda (hip) - returned in full

Flowers, Swift, and Hockenson have all been on a similar practice routine this season. Each takes on limited practices during the week, and by game day they are ready to contribute at full capacity. Hockenson was able to return to full practices this past week, suggesting he is close to being removed from the injury report altogether. But with defenses focusing on him every week, his body is taking a beating on Sundays. He might not come off the injury report for the remainder of the season.

Cabinda also returned to full practices this past week and should be removed from the injury report next week.

Williams reaggravated his thigh injury last week and it forced him to miss the game against the Eagles. It’s unclear if this injury will carry over to Week 10; the bye week could provide him enough time to recover, but his status is uncertain at this time. Igwebuike and rookie Jermar Jefferson split the RB2 role last week, with the rookie scoring the first touchdown of his career—the Lions' only score of the day.

Parker’s neck injury isn’t as bad as initially feared, but he still wasn’t able to play last week. Like Williams, it’s 50/50 he will be able to return next week. The fact he has not yet been placed on injured reserve is a positive sign he will be back soon. Safety Will Harris shifted into the starting slot role versus the Eagles last week, while Dean Marlowe stepped into Harris’ starting safety spot.