It has been 10 months since Levi Onwuzurike last played football, but the Detroit Lions are cautiously optimistic he’ll be back on the field this summer.
Coach Dan Campbell said Onwuzurike recently began running in his rehab from back surgery and could be cleared for football activities at some point in training camp.
“I would say he’s probably about right on schedule for what we thought,” Campbell said. “He just got on the grass, really about a week ago, to where he can begin to run. And so, then, really it’s, OK, how fast can — now that he’s moving, he’s out there on the grass, he’s able to run, he’s off the Ultra G — how fast can his body come back? We don’t entirely have that answer.”
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Onwuzurike played in 16 games as a reserve in 2021, making 35 tackles and one sack, but he missed two weeks of training camp that year with a back injury that dated to his college days at Washington.
A second-round pick in 2021, Onwuzurike reinjured his back in a training camp pileup last Aug. 1 and underwent October surgery to fix a disc problem.
He did not play a defensive snap last season, but has been on the field as an observer during portions of organized team activities this spring.
The Lions return most of their defensive line from last season and drafted defensive tackle Brodric Martin in the third round in April, but remain light on interior pass rush and could use Onwuzurike in a rotational role once he’s healthy.
Although Campbell indicated he’s hopeful that happens this summer, he said it still is too early to put a timetable on Onwuzurike’s return.
“Certainly, we’re hoping that we get him in camp at some point,” Campbell said. “But I can’t give you a timeline of that right now.”