Mike O'Hara takes a look at today's news that Darius Slay underwent minor surgery

Posted May 7, 2013

Slay -- the Lions' second-round pick -- underwent minor knee surgery last week to repair a torn meniscus cartilage

Darius SlayCB Darius Slay
Any skepticism attached to rookie cornerback Darius Slay’s health – either for the short term or extending into training camp – is heightened by injuries to recent high Lions draft picks who either were injured in college or early in their pro careers.

Slay underwent arthroscopic surgery last week to repair a torn meniscus cartilage. The injury occurred while Slay was running a drill at his Pro Day workout at Mississippi State on March 6. According to NFL.com, Slay was hurt running the 60-yard shuttle. It originally was reported as a pulled muscle.

Slay will not participate in the three-day rookie minicamp that begins Friday at the team’s training center in Allen Park. However, arthroscopic surgery to repair a meniscus typically is not considered a major procedure, and the expectation is that Slay will recover well ahead of the start of training camp in late July.

It is not known when Slay will begin working out with the Lions. This week’s mini-camp is the start of that process for rookies. They will graduate into the full workout program with veterans, which includes the OTAs (organized team activities) and the full-squad mini-camp in mid-June.

Training camp begins in late July.

The Lions drafted Slay in the second round and 36th overall with full knowledge of the Pro Day injury. However, it was not certain at the time of the draft that Slay would need surgery.

When asked if Slay’s injury kept him from being drafted in the first round, Lions GM Martin Mayhew replied: “I think so. I think he’s high on a lot of boards.”

“We had a first-round grade on him,” Mayhew added. “I can tell you that right now. We had a first-round grade on Darius Slay.”

Mayhew also said the Lions were aware of Slay’s knee injury, but he would not predict when Slay could participate in workouts.

Slay sounded upbeat about the condition of his knee at his introductory press conference on April 27.

“I could do a full workout right now,” he said.

Obviously, that has changed. The reason could be as simple as workouts aggravating the injured area, and a decision was made to have surgery now rather than try to nurse it through the year.

Any injury to a rookie is cause for concern, if only for the image it presents that the player is arriving as damaged goods.

In the last four drafts, the Lions have experienced both sides of that issue with high picks. Players who were healthy in college were injured as pros, and others had an injury history that followed them to the NFL.

A look at some of the recent draft picks shows there is no clear-cut pattern, except for one: pro football is a violent game, and all players are at risk of injury at any time.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford, drafted first overall by the Lions 2009, was healthy throughout his three seasons at Georgia but missed most of his first two pro seasons because of knee and shoulder injuries. Stafford had surgery on his right shoulder after the 2010 season and has not missed a game since. His streak of 32 regular season starts is the longest of any NFC North quarterback.

In 2010, the Lions drafted running back Jahvid Best with the 30th pick in the first round. Best’s 2009 season at California ended early because of a concussion. Best played all 16 games as a rookie without another incident but went out in Game 6 of 2011 with a concussion and has not played since. His career appears to be over.

In 2011, the Lions took running back Mikel Leshoure in the second round. He was a workhorse back for Illinois in 2010, playing all 13 games. He rushed for 1,697 yards and was projected to provide the power complement to Best’s speed. Leshoure tore his Achilles tendon in a noncontact drill in training camp and missed his entire rookie season.

And last year, the Lions drafted wide receiver Ryan Broyles of Oklahoma in the second round. Broyles injured his left knee late in the 2011 season and underwent surgery. He recovered from that and showed promise as a rookie, but his rookie season ended with a knee injury in Game 12 against the Colts.

For Broyles, it wasn’t a re-injury that KO’d him. His left knee was fine. As a Lion, it was his right knee that was hurt.