Marvin Jones was walking behind an end zone at Detroit Lions practice last week when Jared Goff lofted a ball downfield to Josh Reynolds, who climbed through the air and stretched trying to make a catch over Cam Sutton just as Tracy Walker flew in for a deflection.
“I’ve been waiting to get one of those,” Jones said with a smile.
On Monday, Jones finally got that chance, practicing for the first time this training camp after the Lions removed him from the nonfootball injury list. He sat out most competitive periods, but went through individual drills and told the Free Press on Sunday he is fully recovered from the minor back injury that kept him out last week.
“It’s always, when you’re on the sideline looking at everybody having fun you’re like, ‘Ahh,'” Jones said. “But I knew it was going to come soon, so yeah, it just felt good overall to be out there, being in the flow, listening to the plays and all that stuff.”
Jones, who spent the first week of camp working on the side with trainers, signed a one-year deal to return to Detroit this offseason after the Lions lost DJ Chark in free agency.
Amon-Ra St. Brown is the team’s No. 1 receiver and Kalif Raymond has had a strong camp, but the rest of the Lions’ receiving corps is in flux and the team is hoping Jones can contribute to a passing game that should be one of the most diverse in the NFL this fall.
Josh Reynolds, Denzel Mims and rookie Antoine Green are among other receivers in camp, and Jameson Williams took part in full-speed team drills Monday for the first time in a week after missing time with a hamstring injury. Williams will miss the first six games of the season while serving a suspension for gambling.
Jones, 33, said his goal is to help the Lions “in the same way” he did during his first go-round with the team in 2016-20, when he caught 289 passes for 4,296 yards and twice led the team in receiving. He caught 46 passes for 529 yards in 16 games with the Jacksonville Jaguars last season.
“Just whatever the team needs from me, and if that’s big plays, third downs, red zone obviously, I plan on doing the same thing that I’ve done when I was here,” he said. “But I’m just excited. I’m just excited to be here with this team. Obviously, it’s a new look from a while ago and it’s a great look, so I’m just excited overall.”
Levi Onwuzurike, the Lions’ second-round pick in 2021, had a quiet first week of camp in his return from back surgery, but defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said he’s pleased to see Onwuzurike back on the field at all.
“Take the coaching hat off, just as a former player to see someone be able to have the injury, especially a back injury, at that position, to come back and be able to just fight, strain and grind, man, it feels good for him,” Glenn said. “It feels good for us to see that. I mean practice the other day, he had a situation where he got bent back quite a bit and my first reaction was like, ‘Whoa,’ and man, he just got up, got back into the huddle and got to the next play, and I felt really, really good about that. The fact of the matter that he can go through that, it tells me, it tells him more than anything, ‘I’m OK. I’m OK.’”
Glenn said he had a conversation with Onwuzurike about his return this offseason in which he told the big defensive tackle, “If you’re going to do this, then let’s go all in. Let’s go all in. Let’s go play,” Glenn said.
“And he said, ‘I’m with you, Coach,’” Glenn said. “And that showed up in practice, especially on that play.”
Onwuzurike is competing for backup snaps at defensive tackle behind Alim McNeill and Isaiah Buggs. Glenn said he’s hopeful Onwuzurike can add a pass rushing presence to the interior line this fall.
“Levi’s naturally strong as a player,” Glenn said. “Obviously, he didn’t get a chance to do all of the weight room work that you want him to do, so I will say that player is still in the developmental phase also, because he didn’t really get a chance to do the things that’s expected of a defensive lineman coming into the NFL. So he still has a ways to go, but I like exactly where he’s at.”