Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell addressed the media on Thursday and he gave injury updates on a few players, including rookie wide receiver Jameson Williams (reserve/NFI), cornerback Jerry Jacobs (active/PUP), and defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike.
Williams was placed on the reserve/non-football injury (NFI) list last Tuesday, which removed him from the active roster and he will be required to sit out practices and games for the first four weeks of the regular season. This move was expected, as Williams is still recovering from an ACL injury suffered in the National Championship game last January, and Campbell reinforced what went into their decision-making process.
“He’s progressing,” Campbell said. “He’s continued to get better, it’s just—with the nature of the injury and where he’s at—everybody is on different paths. Jerry (Jacobs)—they were (injured) kind of the same time, but Jerry is farther along.
“But, (Williams) is progressing, there’s no setbacks, we just felt like—particularly being a rookie—he’s got a ways to go. So, the best thing for him and for us was to make that move. Get him right, make sure the knee is stable, and he’s got strength in that leg. And (then) he can cut, he can decelerate, he can accelerate, everything before we put him out there and start getting him reps. And we felt like this was the right move.”
Jacobs’ situation is a bit different, as he remains on the active/physically unable to perform (PUP) list due to his own ACL injury, meaning he still counts against the active roster, and remains eligible to have that designation removed so he can return to the roster at any time.
“Certainly he’s closer (to returning),” Campbell said of Jacobs. “Now, what does that mean (for when he can return)? I don’t know. We know he is farther along than JaMo (Jameson Williams) is. He’s really further along than any of those guys (referencing the trio of players who landed on the reserve/PUP list), that’s why we did it.
“A lot of it is not so much ‘We’re going to have him Week 1, Week 2, Week 3’, it’s more (about), can we begin to get him some practice reps? Just slowly implement him into what we are doing in practice. Whether it’s scout team or running our defense (for) just a couple of plays, and then it’s off to the side to continue his rehab. Strengthen. Then maybe the next day, he’s able to get a little bit more. And then, hypothetically, he’s ready Week 5, let’s say—well shoot, he’ll have gotten practice for four weeks and he’s ready.”
While the Lions are hopeful this is the path Jacobs can take, there are still some factors that could impede this plan and result in him still landing on the reserve/PUP list and therefore having to miss the first four weeks of the regular season, like Williams.
“And that (plan works) bearing we feel good about the roster and are able to do that” Campbell continued. “There’s still a chance we put him on PUP, next week. That could happen.”
What Campbell is alluding to here is: if they feel like they can allocate a spot for Jacobs to rehab with the team, knowing he probably won’t be available to play in game for roughly the first month of the season, then they would like to. But if they don’t have the luxury of an extra roster spot, then they may still move him to reserve/PUP and continue his rehab off the field first, then bring him along later on in the season.
Meanwhile, Onwuzurike does not carry an injury designation because he injured his back during training camp, and Campbell indicated he might not be close to returning to the field any time soon.
“It’s hard to say (when he will return) right now,” Campbell said. “I would say there’s (been) no setbacks, he’s trending the right way, but it’s at a snail's pace, is the best way to say it. He’s doing everything we’re asking him to do, it is getting better, but—if you’re asking me right now and twisting my arm, I’m saying he’s not available for (Week 1 vs.) Philly. But we will see.”
If the Lions believe Onwuzurike will return to the field sometime this season, but won’t be ready to play during the first four weeks, they may consider keeping him on the active roster through next week's final roster cuts, then placing him on injured reserve and allowing him to continue rehabilitation. Placing him on injured reserve ahead of cuts would end his season, and while that would open up a roster spot, it doesn't seem like that is something they’re considering at this time.