The moment Kerry Hyder Jr. fell to the ground and immediately reached back to grab the back of his lower leg early in Detroit’s preseason opener in Indianapolis last year, it didn’t look to be a good situation for Hyder or for the Detroit Lions.
It turns out the third-year defensive end, coming off his best season as a pro in 2016, suffered a significant Achilles injury and was lost for the season.
Hyder was forced to watch as his teammates struggled at times to consistently rush opposing quarterbacks last season. It was a long four months for Hyder.
After Detroit was eliminated from playoff contention in late December and the players had packed up their lockers and headed home in early January, Hyder was just ramping up his rehab and workouts. There’s been no offseason for him as he battled all the way back to being a full participant during OTAs and minicamp in Allen Park this spring.
“I haven’t thought too much about last year,” Hyder said after a minicamp practice earlier this month. “I’ve been focusing on the future, moving forward and getting better every day. That’s pretty much been my focus.”
A defensive tackle turned defensive end in 2016, Hyder led the Lions that season with 8.0 sacks. He also recorded 36 tackles.
Hyder has a motor that never stops, and a variety of pass-rushing moves at his disposal. Pair that with the added motivation he has to get back on track, and Hyder is an interesting player to watch once training camp starts later next month.
But Hyder says he’s not out to prove to anyone he can be the same player he was before the injury. He says the motivation comes strictly from wanting to prove to himself he can still be that player.
“I don’t have to prove anything to nobody,” he said. “I’m just trying to get better and if I do that it’ll show itself.”
If Hyder does in fact come back strong as ever, then his addition could be a big boost to a Detroit defense that ranked 20th in the league last season with 35 sacks.
The Lions plan to rush the quarterback from a lot of different areas in their new multiple scheme on defense, with Hyder, Ziggy Ansah, Anthony Zettel and others playing key roles on the edge.
“I always feel at home on the football field,” Hyder said. “It’s just good to be back out there with my guys and being on the field with the d-line are just some of the things I missed the most.”
The 2017 season is a distant memory for Hyder, and his sole focus right now is finding a way that he can help make the Lions a better football team.
“I haven’t given (last year) too much thought,” Hyder said. “Since the day it happened it was about the future and getting better. Chopping wood and getting better.”