Running back Kerryon Johnson is headed to injured reserve for a second straight season.
Detroit's second-year starting running back injured his right knee in Sunday's loss to Minnesota and underwent surgery Tuesday morning.
Lions head coach Matt Patricia said in a conference call Tuesday afternoon he hoped Johnson could go on IR with the hopes of returning later this season. Each team can bring back two players from IR during the season. Johnson would be eligible to return for a Week 15 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It's obviously a blow for the Lions in the meantime, as Johnson was their top running back in carries (92), yards (308) and touchdowns (2) this season.
Johnson missed the final six games last year with a knee injury, cutting short a terrific rookie season where he finished second in the NFL in average yards per carry (5.4).
The Lions will now have to lean on rookie Ty Johnson and veteran J.D. McKissic, and the recently acquired Tra Carson from Green Bay last week. There's also the trade deadline still open until next week.
"I mean obviously you know how much we value Kerryon and what a great part of our offense and our team he is, and he is still here and he's still part of all of that, certainly," Patricia said.
"On the field we'll push forward as normal and we think that we get good production with Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic, and we think those guys are ready to step into roles. We were able to acquire Tra Carson last week, so another guy that is on our team, and everyone is going to have to step up and keep pushing forward."
A second stint on IR for Johnson in as many seasons does put into question his long-term durability, however.
"I obviously feel really bad for Kerryon that he is in this situation, but I know he's a tough kid and works really hard, so (I'm) very optimistic about everything going forward," Patricia said.
"I've been around players before where they've had a lot of injuries early in their careers and setbacks and had nothing for six or seven years after that, so we'll just take them all case by case and we'll just see how it goes."
The Lions are currently 18th in the NFL in rushing (103.8), but are averaging just 3.8 yards per carry. Johnson was having a tough start to his 2019 season averaging just 3.3 yards per carry with one 100-yard performance Week 4 vs. Kansas City.
Johnson, McKissic and Carson have combined for 192 rushing yards on 38 carries and no touchdowns this season.
"That's the biggest thing we're trying to do is make sure that when situations come up here in the year – which it always will for every team in the NFL – that we're just prepared to get ready and move forward," Patricia said. "Be as productive as we can no matter who is out there on the field."