At his Friday morning press conference, Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell delivered some sobering news, suggesting starting quarterback Jared Goff—who is on the reserve/COVID-19 list—was “highly unlikely” to play against the Atlanta Falcons this weekend, and top cornerback Amani Oruwariye would also likely miss the game with a thumb injury.
Goff was added to the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday but stated on Tuesday that he was hoping to return in time for the game as he only had mild symptoms and was “feeling good”. All he would need to do in order to be available was to test negative for COVID-19, but as of this morning, things weren’t looking good.
“I would say highly unlikely (Goff plays on Sunday) with where we’re at right now,” Campbell said. “He didn’t clear this morning, so I would say it’s looking doubtful.”
It’s still possible Goff could clear the NFL protocols but he is running out of time, and with this week’s game in Atlanta, he would have to test negative and travel to Georgia, on Christmas Day—a logistically challenging task.
If Goff can’t go, the Lions will likely turn to backup Tim Boyle. The former Packers' backup struggled in his previous start this season, but Campbell is confident in Boyle now that he’s had more time to practice after coming off IR midseason.
“I expect to get a guy who’s gonna be able to function in our offense,” Campbell said. “He’ll be able to move the ball. He’ll be a general for us out there. He’s gonna get us in the right play. He’ll make the right decision. That’s what I expect. I feel very confident in that.”
Oruwariye has been unable to practice all week, but it was unclear as to why he was sitting out beyond the “thumb” designation on the injury report. Campbell elaborated on Oruwariye’s injury on Friday, noting when it occurred and that things are up in the air right now.
“We’re getting him looked at,” Campbell explained. “It happened on the last drive of the game, and, really, he didn’t even know when it happened. So, we’re getting it checked out and we’ll see where he’s at. So he’s kinda up in the air right now... It’s kinda the ligament and the bone as well, but we’ll see. I would say, look, it’s probably not looking great, but we’re still hopeful.”
When asked if Oruwariye would require surgery, Campbell left the door open. He suggested that surgery “could be” required, but it was still unclear. Furthermore, if Oruwariye indeed did need surgery, it’s not clear when that may occur, now or in the offseason.
While surgery may be on the table, Campbell didn’t want to rule Oruwariye out for this Sunday’s just yet.
“Amani still has one good hand, so he can still catch with that hand if he needs to pick (the ball off), and he can cover. He’s got his feet.”
But if Oruwariye can’t play, it’ll be rookie Ifeatu Melifonwu who steps into the starting role at outside corner—likely opposite safety Will Harris, who has shown his positional range recently with the Lions’ cornerback group decimated by injury.
“But as far as ‘Iffy’ (Melifonwu), I’ll tell you what, man, Iffy it was good to see. He didn’t get a lot last week, but there again, he had already come back to practice before COVID, and then you saw him this week getting his legs back under him. So, look, we feel pretty good. There’ll be some things that’ll come up, but, man, I feel like he’s moving pretty good, and he’s conscientious, and if he gets an opportunity, then he’ll go make the most of it.”