Detroit Lions’ Shane Zylstra injury ‘preventable’; Julian Okwara in fight for roster spot

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell said the likely season-ending knee injury that tight end Shane Zylstra suffered in practice this week was “preventable” and that Lions players must do a better job taking care of each other, even in physical practices.

Zylstra was injured late in practice Monday when he caught a short pass on the sideline and took a low hit to the knee from teammate Khalil Dorsey.

“Honestly, it shouldn’t have happened,” Campbell said. “No, we’re not OK with that, and it’s been addressed. So these things happen, the physicality of the game, the pads, but that was preventable. That’s not what we do. And believe me, Khalil feels awful, too. We get that, but we got to take care of each other. We still have to be physical, we got to work each, we got to compete, but we still have to take care of each other. So that was, we talked about it, and we move on.”

Dorsey’s hit was legal, but it was the kind rarely seen during training camp.

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Veteran cornerback Cam Sutton grabbed his head and turned around in obvious disgust after the hit, safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson approached Dorsey to counsel him about the play and many Lions players took a knee as trainers tended to Zylstra on the field.

Zylstra, who fractured his kneecap late in the 2021 season, caught 11 passes for 60 yards with four touchdowns last season and was competing for a backup job this summer behind Sam LaPorta, Brock Wright and James Mitchell.

The Lions waived Zylstra with an injured designation Tuesday and signed tight ends Darrell Daniels and Daniel Helm and waived tight end Derrick Deese on Wednesday. Zylstra will revert to injured reserve once he clears waivers.

“Feel awful for Zylstra, my gosh, man,” Campbell said. “He had the injury two years ago that was, that, man, was a tough one. That was a tough injury that he fought his way back from and then you saw what he was able to do for us. He was a pivotal part of our success last year once we started turning the corner, and he just does everything right, man. He works, he’s a grinder and then this one happens, so harsh with him.”

Grandfather clock

Julian Okwara’s 2021 season, , when he had five sacks in 13 games and closed the season with a two-sack performance against the Green Bay Packers, seemed like he might be a big part of the Lions’ future.

But Okwara played sparingly last season and is in the midst of a training camp battle for a roster spot now, taking snaps behind Charles Harris and James Houston at the outside linebacker spot.

“Listen, no one’s grandfathered in here,” Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said. “It’s been like that since we got here. You earn your keep, and I’ve said that before. That’s not going to change.”

Glenn said Okwara’s path to playing time this fall is to “keep practicing. That’s what training camp’s for.”

Campbell said he wants to see more consistency out of the 2020 third-round pick. Okwara has played 29 games in three seasons with the Lions. He made two fill-in starts for the Lions last season, while Harris was battling a groin injury, and had two sacks as a situational rusher.

“He’s a flash player, man,” Campbell said. “He does something really impressive and then it just kind of reverts back at times. He doesn’t use what he’s been taught and so he — man, he just has to continually put on tape what he’s been taught and those little flash plays, they have to become the norm. We’re at the point now, we’re Year 3 with him, with us, and so those things have to show up every time because he’s too talented, he just is.”


The Lions officially placed cornerback Emmanuel Moseley on the physically unable to perform list Wednesday, after he reported to training camp following an offseason clean-up procedure on his knee. Moseley tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last fall with the San Francisco 49ers. He’s expected to play a key role in the Lions secondary once healthy. … Safety Ifeatu Melifonwu missed practice Wednesday with a knee injury, and center Frank Ragnow was out for personal reasons. Ragnow’s wife, Lucy, is expecting the couple’s first child this week.

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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