It’s been a precipitous fall for Detroit Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye. In the offseason, there was talk amongst the coaching staff about Oruwariye taking the next step to be a “top-flight cornerback” in this league. Now, the fourth-year cornerback is coming off a benching when he was not only taken out of the starting lineup but made inactive for Week 5’s game against the New England Patriots.
That move can be frustrating enough for a player, but it was especially tough for Oruwariye during that game. Detroit suffered injury after injury to their secondary, and he had to watch helplessly from the sidelines.
“(It was) just killing me as much as you can imagine, man,” Oruwariye told reports on Wednesday. “It hurt me to my core just seeing I was healthy and wasn’t able to go out there and do anything.”
That said, Oruwariye understands why the move was made. The defense wasn’t playing well and needed a shakeup. He admitted he wasn’t playing well, either. Oruwariye specifically pointed to his own failure to make plays in key situations, like his missed open-field tackle on Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny on a critical third-and-14 draw play.
“I would just say that maybe putting in a lot more critical situations, and not coming up with the plays,” Oruwariye said of his struggles. “For example, the Penny run, just open-field tackle. Whatever happens, I got to get him down. That’s just the end all, be all of it. So just making the plays when they come to me.”
Oruwariye is taking his situation in stride. He understands this is a business, and if you don’t perform, you don’t play. But he hardly thinks this is the end. In a way, this benching has been a nice time for self-reflection, which is exactly what he did during the Lions’ bye last week.
“This isn’t it for me at all,” Oruwariye said. “Like you said, just a bump in the road. Just adversity. Testing me that you can’t take anything for granted, and that was good. I needed that reflection.”
Oruwariye is at a pivotal point in his career. He’s in the last year of his rookie contract, meaning he’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2023. But he refused to blame the pressure of that situation—or a back injury suffered earlier in the season—for his performance thus far.
“I try not to worry about any of that, because worrying about that, especially right now with the position I’m in, isn’t going to do anything for me,” Oruwariye said. “I’m just worried about going out there and practicing, putting one rep at a time together, and I know it’ll pay off in the games.”
Oruwariye will still have an opportunity to compete for a starting spot. His replacement—Will Harris—quickly suffered a groin injury against the Patriots and is still listed on the injury report. Reserve cornerback Bobby Price is out with a knee injury. And while it appears the Lions will be getting Jerry Jacobs back soon, the coaching staff clearly communicated to Oruwariye that this is not necessarily a permanent benching.
“Amani’s going to get a chance to compete,” Campbell said this week. “I told him he’s not out of the boat, so he’s going to get a chance to compete this week and see where he can help us.”
At this point, it isn’t clear who is in line to start opposite Jeff Okudah on Sunday against the Cowboys, and while Oruwariye said he “hopes” it’ll be him in line for the job, he told reporters he’s willing to step into whatever role the team needs him in.
“If I’m out there with the ones, I’m doing my thing,” Oruwariye said. “If they need me on scout team, I’ll do my thing. That’s just the type of player I am. I’ll be ready to go.”
Again, special thanks to the Lions beat writers for providing player transcripts while I am out of town.