Injuries and COVID-19 have hit the Detroit Lions secondary especially hard, but first-year Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said neither will change his approach for this week’s game against the Arizona Cardinals.
“This has been my motto,” Glenn said Thursday. “Everybody cashes a check, so I expect you to know what to do when you’re on the field. And that’s just what it is. In everything that we do. If you’ve been here long enough to understand our system, then we expect you to go out there and operate the way we need you to operate.”
The Lions are currently down 10 defensive backs due to either long-term injuries or a COVID outbreak that continues to ravage the secondary.
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Jeff Okudah, Jerry Jacobs and A.J. Parker are on injured reserve, the first two with season-ending injuries, and Tracy Walker, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Bobby Price, Mark Gilbert, Jalen Elliott and practice squad defensive backs Nickell Robey-Coleman and Corey Ballentine are out with COVID.
The Lions placed Elliott on the reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday. He is the 10th Lions player and seventh defensive back to contract COVID in the past 11 days.
Parker returned to practice Wednesday and is expected to be activated before Sunday’s game, but the Lions currently have two healthy cornerbacks on their 53-man roster: Starter Amani Oruwariye and Saivion Smith, who they claimed off waivers this week from the San Francisco 49ers.
Glenn, who played 15 NFL seasons at cornerback for five different teams, said he never has seen a secondary so shorthanded in his coaching or playing career.
“But again, honestly — and I’m being honest with you — I think about the next player,” he said. “I think about the next opportunity for that player, but I think about moving on. That might be a harsh thing to say, but that’s how this league is cause the NFL’s not going to stop the game for you. You got to go out there and play some. I have to make sure that I get that next player ready, cause I don’t have time to be soft. I don’t have time to sit back and think about what did happen with the injury. I have to spend a lot of my time on making sure the next guy’s ready to go play. And make sure defensively as a system that we try to put that guy in a position to be successful.”
The Lions have had their projected starting secondary together for three quarters of football this season.
Okudah ruptured his Achilles tendon with about 10 minutes left in the Lions’ season-opening loss to the 49ers.
Melifonwu, his replacement, suffered a serious quad injury that kept him out two months, the next week. Parker, the Lions’ starting slot cornerback, has been out since mid-November with an ankle injury. And Jacobs, who has started the past nine games, was the latest to go down last week with a torn ACL.
While the Lions could get some of their COVID-stricken defensive backs back before Sunday, Glenn said he is preparing Smith and practice squad cornerback Parnell Motley for potential starting roles this week.
“I know it’s a cliché and everybody says it, but this league is really like, it is next-man-up mentality,” Glenn said. “So that’s how you’ve got to operate. Even with all the issues that’s going on with COVID-related stuff, it’s still next man up. We make no excuses. Everybody gets coached, everybody’s in the meeting room and we just got to make sure that we play at a high level.”