The Detroit Lions 2021 season has come to an end, and on Monday, the team made several of their key players available to the media.
2021 was a challenging first year for the organization's rebuild. Beyond the typical obstacles that teams encounter while overhauling a roster, the Lions were also hit with several significant injuries to key players. By the end of the season, 18 players landed on injured reserve or the non-football injury list, with over half of those players holding starting roles this past season.
While there were several injured starters not available to the media for updates—such as Jeff Okudah, Trey Flowers, Alex Anzalone—the Lions did have four of their most impactful players on hand, including Pro Bowlers T.J. Hockenson and Frank Ragnow, as well as high-profile defenders Romeo Okwara and Amani Oruwariye.
Let’s get caught up with where things stand with regards to their injuries and how quickly they may be able to get back on the field in 2022.
Injury: Thumb. Lions coach Dan Campbell called it a combination of a bone bruise and a tear in December.
When/how it happened: Some point during Week 13 vs. Vikings (12/5). Hockenson could not pinpoint when it happened during the game.
Current status: Still wearing a split, but said, “I’m good. It’s day-by-day, week-by-week. I’m almost there already and it’s only been a few weeks. Just a few more left and I’ll be 100 percent by the offseason.”
Estimated recovery time: A few more weeks. Should be ready for full offseason workouts.
Bonus quote: Last offseason several tight ends around the league gathered for a training event/competition called Tight End University, led by 49ers All-Pro George Kittle. Hockenson stood out amongst his peers, taking home the first TEU Heavyweight Championship belt. Hockenson assured the Lions media that he’ll be “more than ready” to participate in the second installment of the event this offseason.
“Obviously, I’m going to work out down in Nashville,” Hockenson said. “George (Kittle) and all those guys. Me going down there, I think every year I continue to get better. This year at the beginning of the year, that was the best I ever felt, best football that I thought I was playing. So, obviously, I’m just going to continue on that, continue to build.”
Injury: Ruptured plantar plate (foot ligament) — commonly referred to as turf toe.
When/how it happened: Week 4 vs. Chicago (10/3) during the first quarter.
Current status: “I’m feeling good,” Ragnow told the media. “I’m getting there. I’d say I’m right on schedule or a little bit ahead of schedule, so that’s good.”
Ironically, on Monday—the first day he had talked to the media in months—he ran for the first time since the injury, calling it “a big day for me” and noting he “was pretty pumped about it.” But as happy as he is with his recovery, he also understands he needs to be patient with the rehabilitation process.
“Just not being too aggressive, but yet being aggressive,” Ragnow elaborated. “Straight-line running right now and then we’ll start doing more football stuff. If it works out, we’ll be good.”
Estimated recovery time: Ragnow said he should be good to go in about a month, so he should not be expected to miss any offseason workouts.
“I think by a month from now, I’ll be normal,” Ragnow explained. “Hopefully, right, if everything goes well. But, then also, the blessing is there’s no rush now that we have the offseason. But a month from now, everything should be normal.”
Bonus quote: Ragnow’s tough, but shutting him down was the best thing for him and the team.
“I thought I could try to play through, because pain-wise, I think I could have handled it,” Ragnow said. “But player-wise, I don’t think I would have been nearly the player that I needed to be to help this team. What it really came down to is I ruptured the ligament or the tendon in my foot, it’s called your plantar plate. I completely ruptured it. Pain-wise, I think because it completely ruptured, at first I thought I could completely deal with it because there wasn’t much pain. But from a functional, balance, and a movement standpoint, it was very unrealistic for me to think that I could be the player that I could be. That was what was so frustrating for me, because I thought I could tolerate it, pain-wise.”
Injury: Ruptured Achilles
When/how it happened: Week 4 vs. Chicago (10/3), late first quarter.
Current status: Out of a cast and no longer in crutches, but has not started to run quite yet.
“Started to get into some more serious rehab—walking around, moving around pretty good now, which feels pretty good after being in a cast, then the boot and crutching around the building,” Okwara explained. “Feeling in a good place.”
Estimated recovery time: “I’m about three months out now,” Okwara said. When asked if he would be ready for offseason workouts, Okwara replied, “Taking it day-by-day right now. I guess we’ll see how rehab goes through the offseason.”
Bonus quote: “Yeah, absolutely,” Okwara said of using the injury as motivation. “I think it’s even more motivation to come back stronger next year. I’m going to attack the rehab process the same way like I attack my offseason training, so I’m looking forward to that.
Injury: Broken thumb, which required surgery
When/how it happened: Week 15 vs. Cardinals (12/19). Per Oruwariye, it happened on the last drive of the game.
“I just came up to tackle him and just banged it on there,” Oruwariye explained. “Was kind of a freak accident, but it is what it is.”
Current status: “Got the cast off a few days ago,” Oruwariye shared. “Just letting it recover and heal and do its thing.”
Estimated recovery time: 4-6 weeks, per Oruwariye.
Bonus quote: “Just getting back to the basics,” Oruwariye said of his offseason focus. “Obviously, my body is my temple, so just taking care of my body, making sure that it’s right. But just working with a purpose. Going out there and training and working smart. Not just working hard but working smart, working on stuff that can help me and help this team win next year. And then just bringing the young guys with me. I think that’s going to be huge this offseason. I want to get a lot of the young guys training with each other and just building more team chemistry.”