The Detroit Lions defense could be getting a boost in talent over the final few weeks of the regular season, as coach Dan Campbell confirmed that C.J. Gardner-Johnson has been medically cleared and they could start his evaluation clock to return from injured reserve as soon as next week.
Gardner-Johnson was one of the Lions’ top free agent signings this offseason and his presence in the secondary was felt from the moment he took the field in Allen Park, both in ability and leadership.
Unfortunately, in Week 2, Gardner-Johnson tore his pectoral muscle, which required surgery and he was placed on injured reserve. The original outlook was that Gardner-Johnson could miss the entire season, and even Campbell stressed throughout the year, that a return to play seemed very unlikely.
Despite the grim outlook, Gardner-Johnson went to work, diligently rehabbing to get back to the Lions. He posted video updates on his progress and often took to social media to suggest he could potentially return this season, much ahead of schedule.
By early December, Campbell began to come around on the idea that Gardner-Johnson may actually return, but was still offering a guarded out look on the situation.
“He’s kicked it into overdrive,” Campbell said. “And he is—he’s healed quick and is healing quick. And most of it’s going to be about: is his body ready for that? Will he be able to do it without re-injuring and is it stable, strong enough? And I know this, he’s taken off, but we’ll see. Probably the same timeline if there is a chance, it’d be late December, January probably.”
While a potential timeline has been set, Gardner-Johnson continues to make stride and he recently posted on social media that he was medically cleared and ready to return, potentially even sooner:
On Thursday, Campbell updated his awareness of Gardner-Johnson’s status, confirmed that he was indeed medically cleared, and even suggested that he could start his evaluation window as early as next week.
“I got the same report, which is good news,” Campbell said. “It’s great news. So it is back to what we said, he’s one of the X-Men. He’s got these mutant genes because he has healed extremely quickly. He’s got his strength back, it is secure. So, yeah, he’s going to be ready to go here pretty soon.”
While getting Gardner-Johnson back would be a huge boost for the Lions defense, Campbell stopped short of saying when the defensive back may return, once again exercising caution.
“I promise he won’t play this game. Brad (Holmes) and I need to talk about it, but it’s good news. Certainly, the plan will be, let’s get him going ASAP. That would be the plan, get him practicing, getting his legs back under him. Get him in football shape, but that’s great news. That’s a credit to him, too. He’s been working.”