Lions captain, ‘big cog’ Tracy Walker confirms injury as season-ending

Detroit News

The Detroit Lions had their worst fear on Tracy Walker’s injury status confirmed Monday.

Walker, who left Sunday’s 28-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings with an injury in the first quarter, said on Twitter, “I appreciate all the support from my fans and friends. It is true that I tore my Achilles and I’m done for the season but I’ll bounce back and be better than ever for the following years to come.”

Walker, 28, signed a three-year, $25 million extension ($16 million guaranteed) with the Lions this past offseason. He was in his first season as a captain on the Lions defense and had recorded 18 tackles the first two games before adding two more in eight snaps on Sunday.

“Look, losing Tracy hurts,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “Since I walked in the door last year, he’s been all in. And he’s one of our team captains this year. Nobody has put in more work than he has since the spring. He is one of the smartest players we have on defense. That’s huge. And he’s productive. And so you’re losing a big cog in the piece that helps you over there. It’ll hurt.”

The injury timeline for Walker is unclear but Achilles injuries typically take about a year to recover from. Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah suffered an Achilles tear in Week 1 of last season and was ready to go for the season opener this year. Defensive end Romeo Okwara, on the other hand, suffered a torn Achilles in Week 4 of last season and still doesn’t look anywhere close to playing, with the one-year anniversary of his injury coming up next Monday.

With Walker’s injury, the Lions will need to figure out a contingency plan in a hurry. Juju Hughes — who played 63 defensive snaps Sunday in Walker’s absence — looks like the next man up for Detroit, especially with Ifeatu Melifonwu and Kerby Joseph still rounding into form as pros.

“I thought JuJu was solid,” Campbell said. “He can be better, but I thought for, man, not getting those reps and stepping in and doing some of the things he did, that was good. And that’s kind of what we know about JuJu. He’ll go in there and he’ll be able to function and give you what he’s got. But listen, we’re going to look at everything and see what gives us the best chance to win personnel wise, scheme wise, everything.”

More: Lions weighing options with injured D’Andre Swift, including shutting him down through bye

One option the Lions don’t seem to be considering is shifting Will Harris back to safety after moving him to cornerback this offseason.

“I don’t know if I see that move right now,” Campbell said. “We kind of like Will right where he’s at. If anything, he could get some more corner work. I don’t want to totally say he’s not getting the safety, but we just think there’s a real good spot where he’s at right now that maximizes him and us, what he’s able to do for us.”

Whatever the plan is, it’ll require some quick calibration; Detroit has frequently seen poor communication and breakdowns in coverage lead to back-breaking touchdowns this season, such as Minnesota’s go-ahead score to K.J. Osborn on Sunday, when Hughes sank down in coverage to play the middle of the field as Osborn found himself wide-open in the end zone.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

Twitter: @nolanbianchi

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