Allen Park — Describing an athlete as “sick” typically doesn’t have much to do with their health status.
But it did last week, as Detroit Lions rookie defensive end Aidan Hutchinson played the week after battling an illness. Despite coming up with five tackles and one for-loss, Hutchinson said Wednesday that he was still not feeling well entering Sunday’s win over the New York Jets.
“It was kind of a weird game last game for me, just playing a little sick,” Hutchinson said. “I’ve never really done it before and it was definitely a weird game for me, just being in there playing and not really feeling like myself, but I’m glad I’m past that now and I feel like I’m back to healthy and normal, so we’re happy about that.”
Hutchinson played 54 snaps Sunday, the most of any Lions defensive lineman. Besides the sickness, that’s nothing new: Hutchinson has taken the third-most snaps of any defensive linemen this year, behind only Carolina’s Brian Burns (829) and Las Vegas’ Maxx Crosby (893).
After 14 games, one would think his usage, double-team rates (second-highest, behind Crosby) and the fact that the most games he played in one season during college was 14, would have his body on its last leg right now, but Hutchinson said the complete opposite.
“I’m actually pretty good. I think when you get past Week 5, you got kind of a callus on your body, so I honestly feel like it’s like, Week 3 right now,” Hutchinson said. “I feel like I’ve adapted pretty well, so I’m feeling pretty good.”
Rushin’ with Rome
Romeo Okwara, the forgotten man of Detroit’s defensive line, finally began to look like himself against the Jets on Sunday. Okwara, playing in his second game since suffering a torn Achilles in Week 4 of last season, came up with a pair of sacks of Jets quarterback Zach Wilson.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Okwara said. “It felt good to go out there and make some plays, and I kind of felt like my old self a little bit again, so I think that was definitely an improvement from the first week back. A little rusty, obviously I’m still a little rusty, but I think there’s a lot to improve on.”
His return has been a welcome sight to a defensive line that lost its top veteran pass rusher, Charles Harris, earlier in the season.
“We’re rolling right now,” Hutchinson said. “We get some guys back healthy late in the season and we’re pretty dangerous right now, so man, it’s fun rushing with these guys. I think the sky’s the limit for us.”
And from a leadership standpoint, well, Lions head coach Dan Campbell is definitely glad to have him back, too.
“You wish they were all like (Okwara),” Campbell said. “I mean, he’s a blue-collar guy. He puts in the work and this has been a long — it’s been a long process. Everybody heals differently, and so he just — man, I’ll tell you what, I never saw him get down. I know it can get frustrating, that’s for sure, but he never let it break him. He never let it bleed into having a bad day, and he’s somebody that believes in just stacking the days, man.
“Putting in the work, day after day, and he’s a smart guy, hard worker, and there again, we’re three weeks with him, and he’s gotten better every week. … I think it’s just a testament to the kind of character guy he is…and he’s only going to get better and better the more he plays.”
We’re offering a great rate on digital subscriptions. Click here.
From the brain of Ben
Ben Johnson would never assume he’s going to score a touchdown from midfield. But he knew that Brock Wright‘s game-winning 51-yard touchdown catch against the Jets had a chance when he called the play.
“I knew someone was going to be wide open. I wasn’t sure exactly who that would be, and I didn’t know that it was going to be a touchdown. I thought it was going to be an explosive, though. I thought it was going to be big, and that’s kind of — every week, we kind of have the game plan set up where, ‘Shoot, man, I really hope we can get these, I don’t know, call it five to 10 plays off the sheet.’
“Situation really dictates that, so it kind of depends…on whether we can get to it or not, but that’s ever yweek, we’re feeling really good about certain plays, and you can’t just call them out of the blue and hope they work. We would just try to set them up in the right spots.”