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Dan Campbell on losing Halapoulivaati Vaitai: Nobody handles adversity better than us

Dan Campbell called the injury to Halapoulivaati Vaitai ‘frustrating,’ but he believe the Detroit Lions will handle the adversity just fine.

Detroit Lions v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

On Wednesday, the Detroit Lions placed starting right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai on injured reserve, shelving him for at least the first four games of the 2022 season. It’s an unfortunate blow to the Lions’ strongest unit, especially since many were excited to see the starting five line up in a regular season game for the first time. Last year, the Lions had the same starting five on the roster, but due to long-term injuries to both left tackle Taylor Decker and center Frank Ragnow, the Lions never got to see their starting lineup play a single snap together.

After spending all offseason building toward that moment again this year, the Lions will have to postpone, yet again, the debut of the starting five.

On Tuesday morning, Lions coach Dan Campbell responded to the news while on 97.1 The Ticket’s local show “Stoney and Jansen with Heather.”

“It hurts to lose Big V, man,” Campbell said. “He was a big part of what we did, and he was a great team guy. He’ll still be in the building, but that’s life in NFL and we move on, but we’ll be okay.”

But Campbell sounded optimistic about how the team will respond. Last year, the Lions incurred a ton of injuries—according to Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Games Lost metric, the third most of any other team—and Detroit managed to keep their head above water and even win three of their last six games. That experience, Campbell said, has prepared them for things like this.

“It’s frustrating, but at the same token, man, this is what we preach about all the time with our team,” Campbell said. “Nobody is going to handle adversity better than us. We went through so much shit last year, and we adapted. Our guys were ready to go and it was next man up, and so, man, this is nothing for us. We’ll overcome this. We’ll be fine.”

It’s unclear how the Lions will replace Vaitai. They have natural backups like second-year Tommy Kraemer or former fourth-round pick Logan Stenberg who could simply slip right in. But Campbell said the Lions have a ton of other options they could do.

“We can kick (Penei) Sewell down to guard. We could bump (Matt) Nelson up. We could move Frank over. We could put Jonah (Jackson) at right (guard), Logan left. We could bring Kraemer back up to right guard. We’ve got options, and we’re going to make this work.”