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Levi Onwuzurike still dealing with back injury, expected to be ready by Week 1

Onwuzurike continues to miss significant training camp time due to a recurring back injury, but Dan Campbell downplayed its seriousness.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

On Tuesday morning, coach Dan Campbell provided an injury update on two Detroit Lions defenders who could be in for big roles in 2022: defensive linemen Julian Okwara and Levi Onwuzurike. Okwara has missed a few training camp practices, while Onwuzurike has already been out for a full week. Campbell suggested neither injury was serious, but it sounds like both will continue to miss time in camp.

“Both of them, I would say it’s not serious, yet it’s enough where I can’t tell you, ‘Is it going to be a week, two weeks?’” Campbell said, “But it’s not a serious, long-term issue (for) either one of the guys.”

The good news is Campbell does not expect either of them to miss the regular season debut a month from now.

“No, I don’t feel that way,” Campbell said. “Not right now, I don’t. It would have to be something crazy (that) would happen.”

The bad news is with Onwuzurike. The Lions’ second-round pick last year is again dealing with the back/hip injury that caused him to miss significant time last training camp and resulted in consistent pain throughout the season. Defensive line coach Todd Wash revealed this offseason that there were times during the regular season in which Onwuzurike could barely sit down during meetings.

Campbell, however, downplayed the seriousness of the current injury.

“We just gotta get it calmed down,” Campbell said. “The kid’s in a good place and he’s getting back from it. He’s put in a lot of good work, so we’ll get him calmed down, get him right, get him realigned, and I’ll think he’ll be fine.”

This offseason, Onwuzurike spent much of his offseason at the facility, building strength while also getting the proper rest on his back to fully recover from the injury.

“He’s finally healthy,” Wash said in June. “You know, last year, he could hardly get in a stance because he was all twisted up and all that stuff. So, I know for sure, Jill (Costanza, Director of Sports Science), Mike (Clark, Director of Sports Performance), Josh (I’m not sure who is referring to here), they’ve done an unbelievable job of getting him healthy. So that was the start, getting him healthy. And this year, the first time I seen him, I mean, he’s rocked and chiseled up right now.”

Unfortunately, Onwuzurike appeared to suffer a setback on the first day of pads last Monday. Now it appears, for the second straight training camp, he’ll be missing significant time—critical time for a young player like him.

“Certainly all the reps he can get is good for him,” Campbell said. “He needs ‘em. He needs all of them, just like all these young players do. But at the same token, he’s doing all he can do, and we’re doing all we can do to help him get back out there. He’s getting better every day, he’s progressing. We’ll just take it as it comes.”

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