One of the last players off the practice field Sunday after Detroit's first practice of training camp was third-year defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike. He was taking extra reps with rookie guard Colby Sorsdal working on some things off to the side for about 20-25 minutes after practice.
When Onwuzurike finally walked off the field there was a small group of reporters there to meet him. He had a big smile on his face and agreed to chat for a bit.
It's been a long journey for Onwuzurike to get back on the football field so there's no blaming him for wanting to savor the moment Sunday and spend a little extra time working on his craft. He missed all of the 2022 season with a back injury and even when he played in 16 games his rookie season in 2021, he was dealing with back pain.
Finally pain-free, Onwuzurike plans to make good on the promise the Lions saw in him when they made him a second-round pick in 2021.
"It felt good to be out on the field and actually feel good," Onwuzurike said. "I feel good. Really sturdy and really strong."
His return could be a huge boost to the interior of Detroit's defensive front. Onwuzurike, Alim McNeill and Isaiah Buggs form a nice trio inside with Christian Covington, Benito Jones and rookie Brodric Martin adding depth.
Onwuzurike cleared the final hurdle for his return two weeks ago and is eager to show coaches, teammates and fans what he can do when he's finally healthy.
"A lot of speed and strength to that D-line," Onwuzurike said of what he plans to add to the defense. "You know I'm excited. You see the smile on my face."
MOSELEY STARTS CAMP ON PUP
One of the big free-agent additions for the Lions in their secondary this offseason along with Cam Sutton and C.J. Gardner-Johnson was veteran cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, who is expected to compete with Jerry Jacobs for a starting spot opposite Sutton.
That competition will have to wait.
Moseley wasn't in Allen Park for the start of camp Sunday for medical reasons, per head coach Dan Campbell, though Campbell didn't want to go into any more detail than that.
"It's probably going to be a little bit longer (for his return) than what we hoped for," Campbell said.
Moseley was progressing nicely in the spring from the torn ACL he suffered last October, which had given the Lions hope he could return ahead of schedule.
"I don't want to say it's a setback," Campbell said. "It'll just be a little longer."
TOOLS TO WORK WITH
The Lions traded the Jets a conditional late-round draft pick in 2025 for veteran wide receiver Denzel Mims earlier this week. Mims (6-3, 207) gives the Lions some size and speed (4.38) on the outside.
"He's a guy that's got tools," Campbell said of Mims. "He's a big receiver. He's got speed. He's got length. What do you want to work with? This guy has the ability and let's see if we can do something. Let's see if a change of scenery helps this guy."
Mims has 42 catches for 676 yards and no touchdowns in 30 games over three seasons in New York. He appeared in 10 games last year (four starts) and caught 11 passes.
View photos of players arriving for 2023 Detroit Lions training camp.
EYE ON THE GIANTS
Coaches love joint practices with other NFL teams because the competition and intensity ramp up and they get to see where their players stand early in camp against fresh competition. The Lions will host the New York Giants (Aug. 8-9) and Jacksonville Jaguars (Aug. 16-17) for joint practices in Allen Park this year.
Campbell said the first two weeks of practice is all about getting his team ready to compete with New York.
"We are in a race to get ready for the Giants," he said. "I break it into those segments. We need to really, in my opinion, identify who is who and who we can count on to an extent before the Giants. Because I'd like to have a really good feel of those guys and now you're getting those guys to work together for the Giants and Jacksonville, which in turn is going to get you ready for Kansas City."
- Wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. will begin camp on the NFI list, but he was running and working off to the side of practice with trainers Sunday.
- Campbell on the release of kicker Michael Badgley: "It was hard to let Badgley go. It was tough. I've got a lot of respect (for him). We wanted to get another look at (Riley) Patterson. We feel like they are very similar type players – Badgley and Patterson. We like (Parker) Romo. He's kind of the wild card with the big leg. Between those two guys let's get a look at it and let them compete against each other."