The Detroit Lions are just over halfway through training camp and that means they are approaching the time of the offseason where they have to start looking towards the regular season with regards to players dealing with injuries.
On Monday, coach Dan Campbell gave the media injury updates on fullback Jason Cabinda (PUP, ankle) and defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike (back) and suggested both are in jeopardy of not being available for Week 1 of the regular season—the Lions' first game is September 11th, at Ford Field against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Cabinda is currently on the team’s active/PUP (physically unable to perform) list with an ankle injury, meaning the team has a few options on how to approach his situation.
Their first option comes during the roster cutdown phase from 85-80 players (on August, 23rd) when the team has the option to shift him from the active/PUP to the reserve/PUP. If the team elects to take advantage of this new roster rule, they can gain a roster spot during cutdowns, but Cabinda will be required to miss the first four weeks of the regular season. The Lions can also decide to use this option during the 80-53 player cutdown phase (on August 30th) if they feel they need more time to assess his injury. The third option for the Lions is to carry Cabinda on the roster as part of their 53-man team if they believe he will be ready to play ahead of Week 4.
At what point Cabinda will be ready is difficult to predict, and Campbell said that the injury is lingering longer than anticipated, noting they expected him to miss the preseason, but were not sure beyond that.
“That’s tough to say,” Campbell said of how long Cabinda might remain out. “That’s tough to say right now. It’s certainly going a little longer than we anticipated, but it’s hard to say. I think it’s highly unlikely that we see him at Pittsburgh. So what is that window? That’s the best way to say it.”
Onwuzurike was injured during training camp and therefore can’t be placed on the PUP list, nor is eligible for some of the options the team has with Cabinda. The only injury list the Lions can utilize here is injured reserve, but it comes with its own rules as well. If they place him on IR ahead of final cutdowns, Onwuzurike would miss the entire 2022 season, but if they wait until after the 53-man roster is established, then place him on IR, he would only be required to miss the first four weeks of the season.
The Lions are heading to Indianapolis for joint practices this week, and on Monday Campbell suggested Onwuzurike, along with some other injured Lions, will likely remain in Allen Park to rest and recover. The idea is that these players will take the week to work with trainers, skip the second game of the preseason against the Colts, and potentially be healthy for the third (and final) preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“We’re going to keep a number of guys back this week who we know won’t be ready to practice and just continue to treat them and get them ready to see if we can get them going for Pittsburgh next week or that week of practice,” Campbell said. “So they all kind of fall in the same bucket. I don’t really have a timeline on (Onwuzurike).”
Onwuzurike was originally expected to be ready for Week 1 of the regular season, but this update suggests that his timeline for return may need to be adjusted.