Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell joined 97.1 The Ticket for his weekly radio appearance on Tuesday morning. In a nice chat, Campbell expressed the feelings he had about winning the NFC North, gave owner Sheila Hamp a bunch of credit, and also gave some important injury updates.
For those wondering if C.J. Gardner-Johnson could play this week after returning to practice last week from his torn pectoral, Campbell seemed to suggest it was certainly possible
“C.J.’s close. He’s close,” Campbell said. “We’ve got to decide what we’re going to do there and just how close is ‘close.’”
The Lions could certainly wait to be safe. They are only playing for playoff seeding at this point, with any playoff spot between the one and three seeds possible. Additionally, the Lions are getting excellent play out of safety Ifeatu Melifonwu right now.
“He’s a factor. He’s just getting better and better. He’s instinctive,” Campbell said after Sunday’s win over the Vikings. “You see the athletic ability. He plays physically. He’s just getting better and better. I mean, he really is. We’re going to have a good problem to have when ‘Ducey’ comes back here. It just brings another playmaker to the mix.”
Perhaps more notably, Campbell gave a very promising update on edge rusher James Houston, who has been sidelined with a fractured ankle since Week 2.
“There’s a good chance we start Houston’s clock,” Campbell said.
UPDATE: Campbell backtracked his comments a little bit during his Tuesday press conference.
“I made a comment this morning about it, I don’t know. We may (start his clock), we may wait a week. We’ll see where he’s at. He’s close to starting the clock.”
While Campbell wasn’t 100 percent clear with his words, the implication seems to be here that Houston will return to practice this week. Given their short week—the Lions play the Cowboys on Saturday—Tuesday’s practice is expected to be a walkthrough. After that, we may see Houston on the field.
Getting him back in the lineup could potentially produce big results for Detroit. The Lions have struggled to find a consistent pass rusher across from Aidan Hutchinson all season, and Houston’s explosiveness could be the spark they’re looking for. Last year, Houston earned 8.0 sacks in just seven game appearances.
Campbell also provided a generic update on Alim McNeill, who has missed the last three games while on injured reserve, noting that the Lions defensive tackle “continues to get better.”