Frank Ragnow thought he was through with the toe problem that cost him most of last season.
Ragnow underwent surgery to repair a torn plantar plate in his left foot last October, returned to practice in the spring and made it through training camp without any issue.
Then the first quarter of the Detroit Lions’ season-opener came. As Ragnow was back-blocking on a goal line play, he fully extended his foot as he engaged with a defender and felt something give.
“Honestly, training camp and preseason, it was gone. I was cruising,” Ragnow said Friday. “So I think this is just super unfortunately unlucky. And it was good like after bye week, those first couple games, I’d say I was above like 85% and it just has — it has pops or slipups, I don’t even really know what it is.”
Ragnow played all 62 snaps in the Lions’ win over the Chicago Bears last week, but wore a walking boot on his foot after the game.
He sat out practice Wednesday and Thursday, returned on a limited basis Friday and said he absolutely will play Sunday against the New York Giants, though he is listed as questionable on the Lions’ official injury report.
The Lions ruled out defensive linemen Charles Harris (groin) and Josh Paschal (knee) for Sunday. Receiver Josh Reynolds, who did not practice Friday because of a back injury, safety DeShon Elliott, who remains in concussion protocol, and linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez (elbow) also are questionable.
“It’s frustrating,” Ragnow said. “It’s really frustrating, to be honest. Especially the same injury going season to season. What do you do?”
What Ragnow, a Pro Bowl selection in 2020, has done this season is spend most of his downtime in the training room.
He joked Friday that “I fricking live in that place” and said he has tried every rest and recovery method possible while becoming best friends with the Lions training staff.
He sat out the Lions’ Week 2 win over the Washington Commanders, but has not missed a snap in seven games since, even though the injury often flares up in-game.
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“I mean, I’ve been playing well, man, but I haven’t been playing to my standard, which is frustrating,” he said. “But I have to understand whatever I can do to help the team, and it definitely messes with your footwork. And the hardest thing is like the focus, cause it’ll be play-to-play I am hurting. And I’m trying to focus on everything, and there’s some things that usually don’t get me, get me sometimes.”
Lions offensive line coach Hank Fraley said Ragnow’s toe has made both anchoring and driving off his foot problematic. Essentially, Ragnow is playing on one leg, Fraley said, and still has been better than most linemen in the league.
“It affects him, but he doesn’t try to show it,” Fraley said. “And I think he’s playing well with the, call it one leg. He just toughs it out. We’ll see this week. But he’s telling me he’s going. We’ll see though. We’ll see about it hopefully by the end of the week and if he’s not going it’s always that next-man mentality in our room.”
Ragnow said he does not believe he will need another surgery after the season, and that rest should nurse him back to health in 2023.
That could be wishful thinking for a 26-year-old who signed a contract extension 18 months ago that made him the highest-paid center in the game, but it’s the only approach Ragnow can entertain with eight games left in the season.
“I just need rest and unfortunately that’s not an option right now, which is fine,” he said. “I’d rather do what I’m doing than miss games.”
The Lions placed receiver Trinity Benson on injured reserve Friday. Benson suffered a knee injury last week against the Bears.