We got news earlier this week that defensive end James Houston may not be returning until the very end of the season—if at all—but things could be looking better for Detroit Lions safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson. In an Instagram Live stream this week, Gardner-Johnson was shown doing some pretty aggressive lifts, despite having torn his pectoral muscle almost two months ago to the date.
Looks like that shoulder is working for C.J. pic.twitter.com/ARvIcsBgUN— Mike Payton (@AtoZ_Payton) November 15, 2023
Gardner-Johnson has been going back and forth to Detroit for his rehab, and just two weeks back he dropped by the Lions locker room to provide some levity and tell players he plans on returning this season.
“He just keeps saying it,” teammate Jerry Jacobs said. “That means he really wants to come back, and he’s going to push forward to get back. Shit, if we can get him back, with good, successful surgery, I’d love to have him back.”
Coach Dan Campbell was a little more ambiguous in his updates for Gardner-Johnson, saying it is “hard to say” whether he’ll return this season and that “rehab’s going well.”
If the Lions could get Gardner-Johnson back this season, it could be a huge boost to a passing defense that has struggled recently. Against, the Los Angeles Chargers, the Lions gave up 323 yards and four touchdowns through the air. Campbell pointed to communication issues in the secondary as part of the problem.
“There was a lack of communication in some areas,” Campbell said. “We weren’t really clean. We really have got to get to where even if it’s the wrong call, it’s right if we’re all on the same page.”
That is something Gardner-Johnson specifically would help with, as that was highlighted as one of his strengths by the coaching staff all offseason.
“He’s an excellent communicator as well, excellent communicator,” Campbell said back in August. “So, you just kind of see the growth of he and Kerby (Joseph) together and I believe it’s elevating Kerby’s game as well.”
Time is ticking— C.J. Gardner-Johnson (@CGJXXIII) November 14, 2023
Hopefully, we can see those two side-by-side again, if not in the regular season, then somewhere down the line in the playoffs.