Once again, Detroit Lions defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson is teasing a return to football this year.
Gardner-Johnson suffered a torn pectoral in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks and had to get subsequent surgery. Over on Instagram Thursday morning, Gardner-Johnson seems to have circled a potential return date. In a story, he posted simply the date December 20 followed by an emoji of a lion.
— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) November 30, 2023
December 20th would be the first practice of the week in the lead up to the first game vs. Vikings. pic.twitter.com/RbcHXgSgMw
Of course, with no context to the post, we’re only assuming this is a target date to return from injury. But given that Gardner-Johnson has been talking about playing this season for several months now, this feels like a safe assumption.
Before you get too excited about having Gardner-Johnson back in the lineup, it’s important to remember that just over a week ago coach Dan Campbell expressed serious doubt that he’d be able to return this regular season.
“I don’t foresee that, but yet I’m not gonna—never say never,” Campbell said about a potential return in a few weeks. “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.”
If Gardner-Johnson were to return on December 20, that would be just a three-month absence for the Lions defensive back.
Given Detroit’s struggles in defending the pass, Gardner-Johnson’s return would be a huge get for the Lions. The team, however, tends to take their time when it comes to player rehab. So approach Gardner-Johnson’s tease with a healthy amount of skepticism.