Lions’ DJ Chark, Romeo Okwara return to practice; Jameson Williams inching closer

Detroit News

Allen Park — The Detroit Lions’ got two players dealing with long-term injuries back on the practice field Wednesday. Defensive end Romeo Okwara took the field for the first time since tearing his Achilles 13 months ago, while wide receiver DJ Chark was back after completing his minimum four-game stay on the injured-reserve list.

Okwara led the Lions in sacks in 2020 and signed a new three-year contract ahead of the 2021 season. But he made it just five games into the campaign before his year was over. The rehab has been slow, but steady for the 6-foot-4, 255-pounder, who has been around the facility and taking part in team meetings since the offseason program.

“Yeah, it’s definitely one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with,” Okwara said during training camp. “It’s my first major injury playing this sport. So, it’s definitely been a mental challenge and physically, of course. But definitely learned a lot throughout the process, and I’m just really grateful to be out here.”

With Chark, he’s missed the past six games because of ankle issues, related to the surgically repaired fracture he suffered last year, while with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“Yeah, we’re going to let him run around today,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “We’ll start his clock and just let him do some individual work today and see how he feels.”

Both Chark and Okwara technically remain on IR and the Lions will have up to three weeks to add them back to the active roster once starting the practice clock. It’s likely Okwara would need the full acclimation period, which would put him on track to be activated for the team’s Week 14 home game against Minnesota.

Chark signed with the Lions as a free agent this offseason, inking a one-year, $10 million prove-it deal. In three games, he had just seven receptions for 98 yards and a touchdown, but he and quarterback Jared Goff failed to connect on multiple deep throws where the former Pro Bowl receiver was open.

Chark should provide a significant boost to a passing attack that’s been laboring in recent weeks. The Lions are averaging just 216.4 yards through the air in the past five games.

In addition to two returns, Campbell provided an optimistic report on rookie receiver Jameson Williams, who continues to work his way back from a torn ACL suffered in January’s College Football Championship game.

“I would say probably after Thanksgiving sometime would be the best way (to put it),” Campbell said about Williams’ timeline to return to practice. “I think that’s tentatively what we’re looking at. I don’t know if that would be the Jacksonville week (Dec. 4) or the week after. It could be next week, but it’s just we’re not doing a ton.

“He’s close,” Campbell continued. “It certainly won’t be this week and I don’t see him playing for Thanksgiving, but we’ll see where it goes. He’s progressing. There’re no setbacks.”

Williams, who was selected No. 12 overall in the draft after catching 79 passes for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns for Alabama last year, would likely need the full three-week acclimation window before appearing in a game. If he starts practicing ahead of Detroit’s matchup with Jacksonville, that would put him on track to debut Dec. 24 against the Carolina Panthers.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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