Lions notes: Health, not revenge, source of Chark’s motivation heading in Jaguars matchup

Detroit News

Allen Park — In March, the day DJ Chark signed with the Detroit Lions, he was thrilled about the prospect of facing his former team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, later in the year. But time and circumstances have altered Chark’s perspective.

It’s not that he’s not excited to play this Sunday, but the reasons are different. Instead of seeing an opportunity to show his former team he’s in a better place, somewhere that appreciates him, he’s simply happy to be healthy enough to suit up for the matchup.

“I’ve missed six games, so at this point, every game is circled on the calendar,” Chark explained. “I jut want to get out there and show myself what I can do. I’m happy that I was able to get back in time to play in this game, but for me, really, every game is the same. The season is coming to an end. We could have a chance to push further. We’ll see how that goes. I just want to go out there and showcase my talent, and help this team win because we can.”

Chark has had a tough run with injuries the past two years. He fractured his ankle in the fourth game last season, his final year with the Jaguars, the franchise that drafted him in the second round of the 2018 draft. That sidelined him the rest of the year, the first time in his football career he had missed an extensive stretch like that. And this offseason, after signing with Detroit as a free agent, that surgically repaired ankle caused him more issues, putting him on the shelf nearly two months.

“Missing those six games kind of felt the same way,” Chark said. “It felt identical. I’m just happy to be able to run a route and play ball. Everything else comes second. As long as I’m out there, anything can happen. But if I’m not out there, I can’t do anything.”

The injury has put a huge dent in Chark’s ability to produce this season. Through the first three games, he mustered seven catches for 98 yards and he’s caught just two balls for another 16 yards in the two contests since returning to the lineup.

He’s hoping he’ll be able to make up some ground the final six weeks, reminding the Lions why they signed him while re-establishing his value as he closes in on entering free agency again.

“They’ve seen it on the practice field and in the few games that I have played, got my opportunities,” he said. “They’ve seen it, but, me personally, I feel like I owe these guys a lot. Those six games were really tough. But these guys was always good brothers for me. When I was able to come back, you know, they welcomed me in quickly. And that was huge for me.”

As for Jacksonville, Chark carries no lingering animosity. He’s mature enough to realize he needed a fresh start, and he’s excited to see the success his former teammates have been having in recent weeks. He’s impressed with the culture and competitiveness new coach Doug Pederson has been installing with the franchise.

“(He’s) starting to build a foundation, which was really, truly needed there, a culture,” Chark said. “So hats off to him. Hats off to (quarterback) Trevor (Lawrence), as well. I feel like he’s been definitely taking some big leaps. I have a great relationship with him, so I’m proud of him. And the receivers have been playing pretty well, too, as far as the offense, making plays. …I think they are definitely much better than last year, and they’re trending in the right direction.”

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Shoe on the other foot

The Lions and the team’s fans are plenty familiar with lengthy losing streaks. Among some of the more memorable were the 24-game skid on the road against the Green Bay Packers, as well as the NFL record road losing streak, which extended 26 games from 2007-10.

In recent weeks, the Lions have been more about snapping negative trends, including a winless streak on the road that extended back to 2020, plus winning three in a row for the first time in five years. The means the most notable losing streak this week belongs to the visiting Jaguars, who have dropped 19 straight to NFC opponents.

Jacksonville hasn’t beaten an NFC team since a season-opening victory over the Giants in 2018. Included in that slide against the opposing conference was a 34-16 loss to the Lions in Week 6 of the 2020 season.

“I don’t get caught up in a lot of that,” Pederson told local reporters this week. “Different team, different times, but those are real numbers, real stats. Those are things I don’t talk to the team a whole lot about. We’re just focused on the Lions and preparing to be ready to go.”

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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