Allen Park — Frank Ragnow didn’t want to have season-ending surgery. He wanted to try to return this year and he didn’t want to let his teammates down, but the Detroit Lions convinced their Pro Bowl center that surgery was the best decision for his long-term health.
“It’s tough, especially for someone like him,” Lions coach Dan Campbell explained Wednesday. “He feels guilty and he doesn’t need to feel guilty. That’s why you love him, too. He wants to be part of this and he feels like he’s letting guys down. It’s just the opposite. … You’re being unselfish when you need to be selfish about this.
“Maybe there’s a chance you get him back at the very end of the year, but there’s a bigger chance, however, it scars in, it’s not properly healed the right way and we’re dealing with this for the rest of his career. Or it gets arthritic sooner than later, and now it’s like, what are we doing? It was the right thing to do. It was significant enough where it needed to be fixed properly and let it heal properly.”
Ragnow voiced some of that frustration, as well as acceptance of his situation, on social media Wednesday morning.
“It has been an extremely frustrating past 48 hours,” Ragnow wrote in an Instagram post. “I take a lot of pride in reliability and knowing I won’t be there to have my guy’s backs going into battle sucks. But the train keeps on rolling and the fellas will be just fine. Had a successful surgery yesterday on my stupid toe and can’t wait to attack the process and get back to 100%. Thanks for all the kind words and support and let’s keep supporting the fellas this Sunday!”
Ragnow suffered the turf toe-like injury — a sprain of the largest joint of the big toe — during Detroit’s loss to Chicago on Oct. 3. He stayed in the game after it initially occurred, exiting after a botched snap near the end of the first quarter, when he was replaced by Evan Brown.
Brown made his first career start this past Sunday against Minnesota.
“I thought he did a good job last week and he’s our guy, man,” Campbell said. “I expect him to continue.”
The news Ragnow is out for the year is the latest in a growing list of troubling injuries for the Lions, particularly to key players.
“I will say, we were upstairs, looking at the big board two days ago, the roster board,” Campbell said. “I took a scan of that IR pack and was like, ‘Whoa, I guess that is right. We have lost (Jeff) Okudah, (Romeo) Okwara, Ragnow.’
“But honestly, maybe because I’ve been around it enough as a player and a coach, it’s like, man, I’m not shocked. Maybe I should be, but I’m not shocked because I do know that’s the nature of this game and what we’re asked to do, to deal with, and that’s why depth is important. That’s why it’s important to develop players, because they’ve got to be ready to go at a moment’s notice and then they’ll be your starter the rest of the year.”
On a positive note, Lions left tackle Taylor Decker returned to practice on Wednesday after missing the first five games with a finger injury that required surgery just ahead of the season opener.
He’ll test things out the next couple days, with his status for Sunday’s game against Cincinnati to be determined at the end of the week.
“We’ll just see how Decker goes and how he feels and just take it from there,” Campbell said. “Matt Nelson has gone in there and done a nice job, so we’re prepared to move either way. If it’s Nelson for another week at right tackle while Decker is still getting his feet under him and getting everything right and the feel of that, we’re good with that.”