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Dan Campbell casts doubt on James Houston’s availability vs. Bucs

This week the Detroit Lions activated James Houston from IR, but it doesn’t sound like he’s a sure thing to play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Detroit Lions v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

On Thursday, the Detroit Lions were forced to make a decision on edge defender James Houston: either activate him to the 53-man roster or keep him on injured reserve for the rest of the postseason. The Lions opted to activate him, seemingly setting him up to play in this weekend’s Divisional Round playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

But on Friday morning, coach Dan Campbell halted the optimism quite quickly. When asked what kind of role can be realistically expected for Houston, considering he hasn’t played since Week 2, Campbell responded by saying they have to figure out if he’s ready to take the field at all.

“We still gotta gauge if we feel like he will be ready,” Campbell said. “I know this, he’s better. He’s a lot better this week than he was last week. That’s the progression of it, right? Every week, he should start to get his legs back under him, feel good about it. We’ve got to decide if we really believe that if he goes, are we going to get the production relative to who we’re sitting?”

What can Houston do to prove that between now on Sunday’s 3 p.m. ET kickoff? As always, it’s about how he performs in practice.

“Practice. Everything is practice-related,” Campbell said.

If Houston doesn’t play this week, why would the Lions activate him at all—and cut Julian Okwara in the process? Well, for one, they had to make a decision on Houston on Thursday. And if they believe there’s a chance he could be of serious help in the Conference Championship or Super Bowl—should the Lions get there—this was the only way to do it.

Houston has now practiced for three straight weeks after breaking his ankle in mid-September. The athletic pass rusher has only played in nine career NFL games, but in his rookie season, he turned heads by notching eight sacks in his first seven games.

He appears to be near full health, as he’s been a full participant in practice for five straight practices now. It’s just a matter of getting his football legs under him again and showing he can be an effective player. Houston talked to the media on Thursday, expressing his expectation to play.

“I know he wants to go. I mean, who wouldn’t?” Campbell said. “But he’s done a nice job coming back.”

We’ll see what Houston’s fate is when inactives are released on Sunday 90 minutes before kickoff.

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