Allen Park — On the one-year anniversary of the Oxford High School shooting that claimed the lives of four students, Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell took the stage for his daily news conference wearing a hat displaying the school’s Wildcat logo.
“If you’re outside of that community who was directly impacted, you go about your lives and you forget about it,” Campbell said. “You’ve got other things going on, this and that, and I think just for this moment, I want them to know we’re thinking about them, that there was just a little bit of thought that went into the fact that, ‘Hey, this happened a year ago and we feel your pain.’ And just because time has passed doesn’t mean that those scars aren’t still there. I think that more than anything, we just want you to know, hey, we see you, we still see you, and I think that’s a big thing.”
After the shooting last year, the Lions made an effort to pay tribute to both the victims and the community. As part of that weekend’s game against Minnesota, there was a moment of silence at Ford Field, while the team wore Oxford shirts during pregame warmups and a decal on their helmets during the game.
After the game, which Detroit won with a touchdown as time expired for their first victory of the season, Campbell opened his postgame comments addressing the emotion of the moment wrapped around the tragedy.
“This game ball goes to whole Oxford community, all those who were affected,” Campbell said.
In April, a commemorative game ball from the victory was delivered to Oxford high school by the team.
“It was important,” Campbell said. “Look, I go back to that time last year and, really, there was more to it than just we’re going out to win a game. It was about, at the very least, you wanted to just take their mind off of it even for a little bit and know that, hey, we were playing for them. So, I was glad we were able to give that to him and give them the ball.
Expanded role incoming
For obvious reasons, Campbell and defensive line coach Todd Wash were big fans of rookie James Houston’s debut against the Bills on Thursday. He became the first Lions player to achieve two sacks in his NFL debut — and he did it on just five snaps.
Charles Harris’ lingering groin injury led to Houston getting called up from the practice squad for the Thanksgiving Day game against Buffalo. After Harris was placed on injured reserve earlier this week, the Lions signed Houston, a sixth-round pick out of Jackson State in this past year’s NFL Draft, to their active roster.
“We found a spot for that in a hurry,” Campbell said. “I think anytime you’re a young guy, you have this idea in your head of what you can be, right? What you’re going to do the first time you step on the field. It doesn’t always work that way, but I think for him, for five snaps, I think it went about the way he thought it was going to go. It’s not always going to be that way.
“But yet, his confidence in his own ability … we knew we had something there. There is something about him as a rusher.”
In case you were wondering, yes, that also means the Lions plan to up his usage against Jacksonville (and probably every game after that).
“We obviously see some good pass-rush skills when he’s going against our tackles at practice. But obviously the situation, we were able to get him up (off the practice squad),” Wash said. “We had him out there in a limited role, just because he hasn’t been running our defense.
“So the limited role he had last week will be expanded on again this week in pass-rush situations.”
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Dropping the club
For the past several weeks, since returning from surgery to address a broken thumb, Lions defensive lineman John Cominsky has been playing with a club. And while he was initially limited to a handful of snaps the first couple weeks, he’s averaged more than 54 the past three games.
Prior to the injury, Cominsky was leading the team in pass-rush pressures. With limited use of one hand, he’s struggled to recapture that early-season success, but he’s impressed his teammates and coaches with his dedication to being on the field.
“Yeah, you’ve seen it on a couple (snaps) last week, he was rushing on the right, he went speed to power and the quarterback ran right by him,” Wash said. “He couldn’t get off (the block). So that stuff shows up. But I think that he’s close to taking (the club) off.
“He and I have the discussion and I said, ‘It’s more important that you’re playing. Don’t worry about the hand. There is going to be some stuff that happens, but we’ve got to make sure you’re healthy before we take that thing off,'” Wash continued. “It does limit him a little bit, but that’s just part of the game. He’s a tough S.O.B. by playing through this thing. He probably shouldn’t have played a couple weeks ago, but he’s going to play no matter what and there’s a lot of respect for him there.”
Claimed off waivers from Atlanta this past offseason Cominsky has 13 tackles, two sacks and 26 quarterback pressures. He’s set to be a free agent at the end of the season.
Boyle departs for division rival
With the Chicago Bears battling multiple injuries at the quarterback position, the team poached Tim Boyle off the Lions practice squad Wednesday.
Boyle had been with the Lions the better part of two seasons after spending his first four years with the Green Bay Packers. Serving as Detroit’s primary backup after returning from a preseason thumb injury in 2021, he was called upon to start three games the second half of the campaign. In those contests, he completed 64.9% of his passes for 526 yards, three touchdowns and six interceptions.
Boyle re-signed with the Lions this offseason, re-entering a competition with David Blough for the opportunity to back up starter Jared Goff. But when both contenders failed to impress, the team signed veteran Nate Sudfeld to fill the role.
The Lions were ultimately able to sign Boyle back to the practice squad, and similarly tried to retain Blough, but he opted to join the Minnesota Vikings practice squad.
The Bears are currently dealing with injuries to starter Justin Fields and backup Trevor Siemian. Fields missed last week’s game with a shoulder injury, while Siemian played through an oblique injury he suffered during pre-game warmups.
The Lions were without four players for Wednesday’s practice, including two starters along the offensive line. Right tackle Penei Sewell joined guard Evan Brown on the injury report with an ankle injury. Also sitting were defensive end Julian Okwara (elbow) and safety Ifeatu Melifonwu (illness).
Additionally, guard Jonah Jackson (concussion), center Frank Ragnow (foot), cornerbacks Jeff Okudah (concussion) and Chase Lucas (hamstring) and defensive lineman Josh Paschal (knee) were all limited.
Wednesday marked a return to practice for Paschal, who has missed the past two games.