The mood at Day 2 of Detroit Lions training camp practice changed rather quickly when veteran defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson went down with a right leg injury.
Gardner-Johnson, 25, was down on the field for several minutes as trainers attended to him. A cart took him into the building.
The Lions signed Gardner-Johnson to a one-year deal this offseason as one of the main pieces to their revamped secondary, along with Cam Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley. Gardner-Johnson tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions in 12 games last season with Philadelphia. He has been playing both nickel corner and safety early in training camp.
"Just a player that caliber and how he fits like a glove in our defense and what he's going to bring to our culture and our style and how we want to play," Lions general manager Brad Holmes said in March after signing Gardner-Johnson in free agency.
The hope is Gardner-Johnson's injury wasn't as severe as it looked to be after he goes through more medical testing. NFL Network's Tom Pelissero tweeted Monday afternoon that there's optimism Gardner-Johnson avoided serious injury.
"More tests to come after CJGJ went down in practice today," Pelissero tweeted. "But as one source put it: 'He's fine.'"
Head coach Dan Campbell is expected to speak to the media Tuesday morning before practice, and he could have an update on Gardner-Johnson's status.
Defensive lineman Alim McNeill said Monday he's dropped 22 pounds from 327 to 305 since we spoke to him in the spring.
"I feel a lot better," McNeill said. "A lot lighter and faster and I still have the same strength."
McNeill is expected to play a lot more three-technique and to be a big part of Detroit's defensive attack upfront this season.
McNeill started all 17 games for the Lions in 2022 and saw his snaps increase from 422 as a rookie in 2021 to 782 last season, which was 69 percent of the snaps on defense. He finished with 41 tackles, six tackles for loss, seven quarterback hits and a sack.
CATCHING CAMPBELL'S EYE
Keep an eye on undrafted rookie cornerback Starling Thomas V.
After a terrific spring in which he made play after play, Thomas has been running with the second-team defense at one of the outside cornerback spots to start camp.
"Yeah, Starling, he caught our eye in the spring. Just his movement skills," Campbell said. "He's got some awareness about him. He's built the right way. There's some things on special teams that are really intriguing.
"And so it's always – for us that's kind of the starting point for us is if there's some intrigue on special teams and then you go to the next level of it, like alright, now he's playing the position. So, we want to get a look at him."
With Justin Jackson recently added to the running back room, the competition for the No. 3 running back job behind David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs just got a lot more interesting. Jackson, Craig Reynolds and Jermar Jefferson are all vying for the job, along with undrafted rookie Mohamed Ibrahim.
"He did a number of things for us last year," Campbell said of Jackson. "He's a good special teams player. He's a reliable third back for us, in the run and pass game. I mean there was – it got to the point where he was doing one or two critical things a game to help us, and so it just made sense (to re-sign him).
"He brings competition back and really, he brings what we feel like is – he's at least a number three back. And now that's competition with Craig (Reynolds) and (Jermar) Jefferson and those guys. We've talked about just making it more competitive in every room, if we can and it does that."
- Veteran wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., who is currently on NFI to begin camp, is dealing with a back injury, per Campbell.
- Campbell also said Moseley is expected back in Allen Park at the end of the week after missing the first few days of camp with some medical testing.