Flu outbreak forces more changes to Detroit Lions practice as 22 players sit

Detroit Free Press

A serious flu outbreak continues to wreck havoc on the Detroit Lions‘ practice schedule ahead of Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos.

The Lions held an abbreviated practice Thursday, bringing healthy skill position players together for work against their back seven while sending most of their offensive and defensive linemen home early.

Twenty-two players in all were held out of Thursday’s practice, and 10 players were listed on the Lions’ daily injury report with an illness that took root in the team facility last week.

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Of those 10, four — offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai, running back Jermar Jefferson and defensive linemen Alim McNeill and Levi Onwuzurike — were deemed too sick to practice.

Quarterback Jared Goff was a full participant in practice one day after he was told to stay home because of the flu, and five others who are battling some sort of illness — Michael Brockers, John Penisini, Nick Williams, Penei Sewell and Jonah Jackson — were held out due to a coach’s decision.

The Lions also placed cornerback Bobby Price on reserve/COVID-19, the second player they’ve placed on the list this week.

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Rookie center Ryan McCollum, who is in line to start Sunday against the Broncos with Evan Brown on COVID-IR, was the only lineman to take part Thursday’s practice, snapping the ball to Goff and other quarterbacks during position drills open to the media.

On Wednesday, the Lions brought offensive and defensive players into the facility in shifts, with offensive players taking part in a morning walk-through and meetings and defensive players doing the same in the afternoon in an effort to limit exposure across position groups.

“This mess is going around right now,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said Wednesday. “It’s just kind of spreading through and I think we’re on the back half of it, I really do. I think we’re on the downward slope of this, but we’re just trying, if we can buy ourselves a day to try to flush this out, we just felt like we needed to do it.”

Running back D’Andre Swift (shoulder), tight end T.J. Hockenson (hand) and linebackers Jalen Reeves-Maybin (shoulder), Julian Okwara (ankle) and Austin Bryant (shoulder) missed practice Thursday for injury reasons.

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Swift and Reeves-Maybin could miss their second straight games, while Hockenson, who watched practice with his left hand and thumb wrapped, said he expects to play.

Hockenson leads the Lions with 61 catches, 583 yards receiving and four receiving touchdowns. Swift is second with 56 catches for 429 yards, and leads the Lions with 555 yards rushing and six total TDs.

“It’ll be fine. No worries here,” Hockenson said. “I mean, nothing else has (kept me out of the lineup), so I don’t know if a hand will.”


Running back Jamaal Williams is the Lions’ nominee for the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award. The award is presented annually to an NFL player who demonstrates on-field sportsmanship and integrity in competition.

Williams, the Lions’ second-leading rusher, is one of the team’s most effervescent players. He plays catch with fans during pre-game warmups every week and is considered one of the top veteran leaders in the locker room.

“We’ve been leaning on Jamaal all year long and we will continue to lean on him,” running backs coach Duce Staley said last week. “Just what he brings to the table leadership-wise, the type of guy he is. His focus and his finish on the field, off the field is second to none.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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