Allen Park — The Detroit Lions have several injured players currently eligible to return, but it doesn’t sound like they’ll be getting any of them back this week, and maybe none before the team’s bye.
Chief among that group is offensive tackle Taylor Decker, who hasn’t practiced since last Friday as he works his way back from a surgery to correct a finger injury he suffered in early September.
“He’s going OK,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “The fact of the matter is he had a little bit of a setback last week. We kinda talked about the knuckle and everything, but I don’t see him playing this week and we’ll kinda take it like it comes. I know he wants to play, man. Hell, I talked to him yesterday, he’s dying to play, but we just gotta get through and get this thing to feeling right. That’s the bottom line.”
The Lions would normally have 21 days to make a decision on Decker after allowing him to return to practice last week, but that window expires during the bye week, giving the team an extra week to make their assessment. At the latest, that decision must come on Nov. 9, ahead of that weekend’s matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Two other players who had their return clocks started recently are defensive linemen Kevin Strong and Da’Shawn Hand. Campbell said Strong is a bit ahead of his linemate in the process, but the coach was also optimistic about Hand’s progress after missing the first six games with a severe groin injury.
“Actually, we may work in team (drills) today,” Campbell said. “He started individual and now he’s going to take a couple team reps. That’s good. That’s a step in the right direction. Certainty no setbacks.”
Ifeatu Melifonwu is also on injured reserve, but has yet to return to practice after suffering a thigh injury against Green Bay in Week 2. The rookie cornerback was spotted on the sideline during Thursday’s practice and Campbell remains hopeful he’ll be back this season.
“Yeah, I still say we’re a little ways away,” he said. “What is that? I don’t know. Certainly not before the bye, but he is progressing, he is getting better. I wish I could give you a timeline, but I do feel like we can get him to return before the season’s out. I feel that way, but I’m not a doctor, so don’t hold that one me.”
Detroit’s other lingering injury issue is even more challenging to put a timeline on as No. 1 receiver Tyrell Williams remains out with lingering effects from a concussion he suffered in the season opener.
Position coach Antwaan Randle-El said he’s been in regularly communication with Williams, who continues to meet with specialists as he navigates through his recovery.
“He’s doing good,” Randle-El said. “We try to talk once — started off twice, now it’s once a week. But he’s just going to see different neurologists because the way he feels is not himself. I’ll just leave at that. That’s what you don’t want. You want him to get back and feel like he can go out and be himself. He just hasn’t felt that way yet. That’s what matters most. The health, more than anything, is what matters. That’s going to be the focus.”
Randle-El said it’s critical a player doesn’t rush back in these situation because they would be both a detriment to themselves and the team.
“Well, you don’t really coach them, you just encourage them,” Randle-El said. “At the end of the day, I need all of you. When you step in and you’re ready to go, I need all of you to be here and be ready to go. You don’t want a guy that’s half in and half out. Will that player still be the same guy? Is he going to run in and get that block, catch that ball when the safety is coming?
“That’s what you want, you want them to be able to say, ‘I’m ready to go,’ and when they come out it shows that they’re ready to go,” Randle-El said. “Until he’s ready, that’s what’s most important is his health.”