Nick Bawden is headed to injured reserve for the third straight season, paving the way for converted linebacker Jason Cabinda to win the starting fullback job.
The Detroit Lions placed Bawden on IR before practice Monday, either ending his season prematurely or forcing them to cut him with an injury settlement.
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A seventh-round pick out of San Diego State in 2018, Bawden tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a minicamp practice as a rookie and missed the entire season. Last year, he suffered a foot injury in a November practice that kept him out the final six games.
Cabinda saw spot duty at fullback in Bawden’s absence last year and changed positions permanently earlier this month, with Bawden still struggling to get on the field because of injuries.
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A record-setting running back in high school who ran for nearly 4,000 yards and 50 touchdowns, Cabinda has embraced the position change.
“I think it helped last year being able to take some reps in practice and a couple in-game, obviously,” he said. “I think it’s definitely a simpler position than most offensive positions, being that you obviously have your guy, go hit him, go do what you got to do. But it’s a gritty position, no doubt about that. You got to be in the trenches, you got to go out there and block and make holes, and make some catches in the flat, kind of make plays as you can. I’m excited about whatever is in front of me right now.”
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The Lions have until 4 p.m. Saturday to trim their 80-man roster to 53 players, and Cabinda seems like a good bet for a roster spot.
Though fullbacks are used sparingly across the NFL, the Lions still have room for one in their offense and Cabinda was a solid special teams contributor during his cameo last year.
He said running pass routes out of the backfield has been the trickiest part of the position change.
“I got good hands. I ain’t tripping about catching the ball,” he said.
But overall, he’s played well in training camp, even catching a pass in last week’s controlled scrimmage.
“Back when I did play on offense in high school, I really honestly didn’t play much defense so that was kind of my natural position,” Cabinda said. “So it feels more natural than I thought it would being back in the backfield and playing offense again. It’s fun. Offense is fun. It’s fun to score touchdowns, it’s fun to make plays, it’s fun to have the ball in your hands. So I’m excited, and whatever touches I get I’m going to make the most out of them. That’s what I know.”
Injured running backs D’Andre Swift and Bo Scarbrough returned to the field for individual drills Monday. Swift suffered a leg injury Aug. 20 in the third padded practice of camp, while Scarbrough has been dealing with an undisclosed ailment.
Defensive linemen Danny Shelton and Julian Okwara did not practice Monday, tight end Hunter Bryant remains out with a hamstring injury, and wide receiver Danny Amendola was limited in individual drills.
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