‘Extraordinary’ measures help Detroit Lions contain flu outbreak ahead of Broncos game

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Lions went to great lengths to limit the spread of the flu, altering two days of practice this week, and Lions coach Dan Campbell said those measures have his team in a better spot health-wise heading into Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos.

“We’re on the tail end of it,” Campbell said before Friday’s practice. “Guys are coming back and they’ll be out there practicing so you’d like to feel like it was a step in the right direction. We’ll find out.”

The Lions placed two players on the reserve/COVID-19 list this week, cornerback Bobby Price and center Evan Brown, and held 21 players out of practice Thursday for various reasons.

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Ten players appeared on the Lions’ injury report this week because of illness. Starters Jared Goff, Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Alim McNeill were among those deemed too sick to practice.

Goff returned to practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday’s split-session walk-through with the flu, Vaitai returned Friday, while McNeill sat out Friday for the second straight day.

Campbell said three or four players would not practice Friday because of virus-related reasons. Defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike and safety Tracy Walker were others who missed practice Friday.

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“I didn’t foresee that being how our Wednesday was going to go after this game, getting ready for Denver,” Campbell said. “But it’s the hand you’re dealt and so we make the most of it and I just bring this up, it’s like, just because we’re young doesn’t mean that we’re immature. I want to hope and feel like we’ve grown and we are growing up and we can handle this. And you know what? We have to. We’ve just preached to our guys, there’s no excuses, it’s just results. Nobody cares. So we got to go make it happen.”

The Lions revamped their practice schedule after the flu began making its rounds at their Allen Park practice facility last week.

On Wednesday, the Lions held a split-session practice, with offensive players taking part in a morning walk-through and meetings and defensive players doing the same in the afternoon.

On Thursday, the Lions held a light practice for offensive skill players, linebackers and defensive backs, but sent most linemen on both sides of the ball home after a morning workday.

Campbell, who attributed his team’s play in a sluggish performance against the Cincinnati Bengals earlier this season to their workload in practice that week, said he made the decision to scale back practice this week in conjunction with Lions head athletic trainer Kevin Bastin.

“I respect his input greatly,” Campbell said. “He’s been around in this league for a long time and he’s got a real good feel of what’s best for the players, but also what’s best for trying to get ready to play a football game, and so there was a lot of input that was taken from him in regards to that. And it just, I felt like we needed to do this. It was a little extraordinary, if you will.”

Apart from the flu, the Lions are dealing with a handful of injury issues that will could leave them shorthanded for Sunday.

Tight end T.J. Hockenson (hand), running back D’Andre Swift (shoulder) and linebackers Jalen Reeves-Maybin (shoulder), Okwara (ankle) and Austin Bryant (shoulder) did not practice Friday because of injuries.

Campbell said Swift likely will miss his second straight game.

“I would say it’s unlikely,” Campbell said. “I would say right now it’s unlikely.”

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

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