The Detroit Lions are officially onto Week 4 of the regular season and that means it’s time to take stock of players on injured reserve and the suspension list.
The NFL changed its injured reserve rules last season, decreasing the time a player must spend away from the team and removing the limits on the number of players eligible to return. Previously players on IR were required to sit out a minimum of eight weeks, but a change last season reduced that number to just three weeks.
That means, Lions’ players Taylor Decker, Da’Shawn Hand, and Tim Boyle—who were all placed on injured reserve ahead of Week 1—are now all eligible to return to action once they are healthy and cleared for contact.
Additionally, defensive lineman Jashon Cornell, who was on the reserve/suspension list for the first three weeks of the season, has completed his requirements and is also eligible to return to action.
Boyle’s broken hand is expected to keep him out at least half the season, but at Monday’s press conference, coach Dan Campbell updated the media on Decker, Hand, and Cornell’s statuses.
Decker injured his finger in practices leading up to Week 1 and it required surgery to fix. The initial timeline called for Decker to miss a “month or so”, and with just 16 days passing since then, expectations were that he would require more time.
Coach Dan Campbell confirmed that today when asked if Decker would be coming off of IR:
“I would say as of right now no. We don’t expect him back. I can’t totally rule him (out), but I would say it would be very slim for him to be back.”
Decker was with the team on Sunday and participated with the other offensive linemen during pregame warmups, working out with his left index finger in a brace/wrap. That’s a good indication he is on the right path to return, bringing us to the next popular question: where will he be lining up once he returns?
Seventh overall pick Penei Sewell has been performing well at left tackle while Decker has been out and the rookie has looked markedly more comfortable than when he was taking reps on the right side. With Sewell’s lofty expectations for what he could become left tackle, it’s fair to wonder if the team will opt to keep him there and shift Decker to right tackle.
While it’s a hot-button topic for fans and media, Campbell insists the team isn’t thinking about what they will do at this time.
“We’ll wait for Decker to get back before we decide what to do with that,” Campbell said.
Hand suffered a groin injury on August 10 and landed on injured reserve a day after making the 53-man roster. Although he was seen running on the sidelines during practice last week, his status remains bleak.
“I would say Hand is still a little bit away (from returning),” Campbell said on Monday
With Kevin Strong placed on injured reserve last Saturday, the Lions could’ve benefitted from Hand getting healthy, but they’re not out of options on the interior defensive line as Jashon Cornell will soon be able to provide the team with some depth.
“Certainly, Cornell will be back,” Campbell said. “I don’t know if, as of right now, if he goes to the game per se, but I know we’re getting him back and we’re happy to have him back.”
After rupturing his Achilles during the first week of training camp during his rookie season, Cornell said he “mistake that was out of my character” while coping with the loss of a “dear friend”. That mistake, per Justin Rogers the Detroit News, was a “fourth-degree driving while impaired” incident in July of 2020, that resulted in a March 2021 conviction, and eventual suspension from the NFL.
Cornell was eligible to participate in Lions training camp, and he had moments where he shined, but it’s difficult to say how far down the depth chart he has dropped as he has been away from the team for the last month, during the suspension.
Expect Cornell to be activated sometime in the coming days, and with the roster currently sitting at just 52 players (one fewer than the maximum), a corresponding move may not be necessary.
While Campbell didn’t provide an update on Boyle Monday, quarterbacks coach Mark Brunell provided a little bit of news last Friday.
“He’s healing up,” Brunell said. “He’s making some progress there. The only reason I know is because he was in a hard cast two days ago and now he’s in a softer cast. So I imagine that’s a good sign. Can’t wait to get him back, of course. It’s hard like that. It has to heal. There’s nothing you can do to speed that up. It’ll be a few more weeks, I imagine.”
While Boyle is improving, it would be surprising to see him before the team bye in Week 9.