Lions guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai will miss the first four games at least, but head coach Dan Campbell offered some clarity on the injury Wednesday.
The Detroit Lions will open a second straight season without one of their starting offensive lineman, as right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai was placed on IR Monday. He will of course miss at least the first four games of the season.
Head coach Dan Campbell spoke to the media on Wednesday. He offered an update on Vaitai, confirming “Big V” has a back injury and that the issue flared up in the preseason finale against the Steelers.
Vaitai exited practice the Monday the week of the Lions’ joint practices against the Colts with an undisclosed issue. But he was on the field that Thursday, when those sessions started, without any apparent issue. Concern about whatever it was that caused him to leave that practice early went away, at least until Vaitai was not seen during the open portion of last Thursday’s practice.
Campbell said Vaitai is not deemed to need surgery right now, and the injury should not be season-ending. But it appears that’s up in the air, as Campbell stretched into atypical for him coach-speak.
No,” Campbell said. “I mean, it could, I don’t know. But right now, we’re taking it day-by-day, week-by-week.”
Dan Campbell reiterates options to replace Halapoulivaati Vaitai
On Tuesday on the radio with 97.1 The Ticket, Campbell outlined some options to replace Vaitai. He reiterated them on Wednesday.
-Moving All Pro center Frank Ragnow to right guard and having reserve Evan Brown start at center
-Moving right tackle Penei Sewell to right guard and promoting Matt Nelson to right tackle
-Moving Jonah Jackson from left guard to right guard and bringing up Logan Stenberg to start at left guard
Tommy Kraemer, who was listed as the starting right guard in place of Vaitai on a depth chart released Tuesday, was not seen at Wednesday’s practice.
Moving Sewell inside to right guard could be a move made with Week 1 and Week 2 particularly in mind, when the Lions will face the good defensive lines of the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Commanders (even without Chase Young in the latter case). Logan Stenberg took reps at both guard spots on Wednesday, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
The Lions had to reshuffle their offensive line on short notice heading into last season’s opener, when left tackle Taylor Decker was sidelined by a finger injury. So this is nothing new, unfortunately, now with Vaitai out into a new season.