MIKE O'HARA

O'HARA: Lions getting healthy at the right time

Posted Nov 2, 2017

If it’s a coincidence, it’s a welcome one for the Lions that some of the storm clouds are moving away on the injury front that has hovered over them since long before the season began.

If it’s a coincidence, it’s a welcome one for the Detroit Lions that some of the storm clouds are moving away on the injury front that has hovered over them since long before the season began.

Offensive left tackle Taylor Decker’s return to practice Wednesday comes at a critical point in the schedule as the Lions are starting to benefit from some good fortune with injuries.

To borrow from baseball’s “all hands on deck” edict for Game 7 of the World Series Wednesday night, the Lions are in need of all the healthy bodies they can put on the field for the rest of the season.

The Lions have lost three straight games and four of the last five to drop their won-loss record to 3-4.  If Monday night’s road game against the Green Bay Packers is not a “must win” situation, it’s as close as it gets for the Lions to make a serious run at the NFC North title or a wild card berth in the NFC playoffs.

Having Decker cleared to begin practice is a giant step in that direction. As he demonstrated in playing every offensive snap at left tackle as a rookie in 2016, he has the potential to be a foundation-caliber player at the most important position on the offensive line.

Wednesday was the first time that Decker had practiced with the team since injuring his right shoulder during the offseason workout program in early June. Decker underwent surgery, missed all of training camp, and was put on the Physically Unable to Perform list when the mandatory roster cut to 53 players was made after the last preseason game.

Under NFL rules, the Lions have 21 days from Wednesday’s first practice for Decker to decide if he is healthy enough to be put on the 53-player active roster.

Decker’s return cannot come soon enough, whether it’s Monday night against the Packers or if the full 21 games are needed to decide if he is healthy enough to be put on the active roster.

One man’s opinion: While Decker’s workouts have been on his own and out of media scrutiny, seeing him in the locker room of late with his workout clothes soaked with perspiration indicates he has been far along in his rehab program and training hard, and with a purpose.

The Lions also caught a break with how some veteran starters were able to recover from injuries with the timing of the bye week and play in Sunday night’s loss to the Steelers.

Guard T.J. Lang, who missed the New Orleans game before the bye with a back injury, played every snap against the Steelers. Free safety Glover Quin, who went out of the New Orleans game with a concussion, played every snap and contributed an interception and a fumble recovery.

Wide receiver Golden Tate, who also went out of the Saints game with a shoulder injury, played a heavy snap rotation, had a team-high seven catches for 86 yards. Tate also had a weird fumble at a crucial time after a fourth-quarter catch but said it had nothing to do with the injury.

Also, punter and kickoff specialist Sam Martin played for the first time after being out with a foot injury sustained in the offseason.

And quarterback Matthew Stafford was noticeably fresher with the week off. Stafford has played every snap, but the pounding he has taken – with 17 sacks and numerous other hits in the first six games before the bye – had taken an obvious toll.

The return of Decker to left tackle – where Greg Robinson started the first six games and Brian Mihalik the last one against the Steelers – should add another level of protection and comfort for Stafford and the entire offense.