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Dan Campbell throws cold water on C.J. Gardner-Johnson’s return from injury

Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell did not seem very optimistic about C.J. Gardner-Johnson returning from injury this season.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Detroit Lions Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

In an Instagram Live during the Detroit Lions comeback victory over the Chicago Bears, safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson seemed to indicate that his return from a torn pectoral was imminent.

“And I’ll be back,” Gardner-Johnson was yelling, seemingly to the Bears. “Y’all got two weeks to get y’all shit together. Three weeks to get y’all’s shit together.”

Via social media posts and conversations with his teammates, Gardner-Johnson has indicated several times he intends on coming back to play this season. But on Monday evening, Lions coach Dan Campbell slowed that conversation down a bit.

“I want to talk to the doctor he’s talking to,” Campbell said with a smile.

When asked more directly if he expects Gardner-Johnson to be back practicing in the next couple weeks, Campbell expressed serious doubt.

“I don’t foresee that, but yet I’m not gonna—never say never,” Campbell said. “I’m not going to do that. He may have mutant genes like Wolverine, but, believe me, that would be unbelievable. I just think it’ll be hard, but you never know.”

This offseason, the Lions eagerly signed Gardner-Johnson to a one-year, $6.5 million contract. The veteran safety, though, lasted just two games before suffering his pectoral injury, which required surgery.

In his vacancy, the Lions have played both Tracy Walker and rookie Brian Branch at the safety position. While both have played adequately, the Lions are certainly missing some of Gardner-Johnson’s playmaking abilities. Gardner-Johnson led the league with six interceptions last year. Through 10 games, the Lions have just eight picks as a team (t-17th).

The Lions have seven more weeks before the end of the regular season. Campbell would not provide much insight as to whether it’s realistic to believe Gardner-Johnson could return toward the end of the regular season or during a playoff run.

“I don’t know. We’ll just have to see,” Campbell said. “I really think that timeline, it would be a very, very fast recovery. But I love where his head’s at. You’ve got to think that way and you’ve got to be positive, because I think that leads to quicker healing if you allow yourself to think that way.”

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