Detroit Lions All-Pro return man and starting nickel cornerback Jamal Agnew couldn't slip out of the locker room quick enough Monday before reporters started surrounding his locker.
"They got you," a teammate said in the background.
Agnew hasn't been around much in the locker room since hurting his knee in a Week 5 win over Green Bay, but as the reporters surrounded his locker, the second-year corner turned around with a big smile, almost looking forward to speaking with media once again after grinding through rehab.
"I'm feeling pretty great," Agnew said. "Still taking it day by day. Itching to get back out there, as you guys probably can imagine. Injuries happen, but that's the name of the game. We sign up for that, so just got to deal with it."
It was feared the injury was a season ender at the time, but Agnew avoided surgery and said the Lions told him when they placed him on injured reserve Oct. 15 they hoped he could return this year.
"My thought process was, 'What can I do to get back as soon as possible,'" Agnew said. "Their decision was to put me on IR designated to return and I took it with a grain of salt. I saw it as a challenge. Coming back from a serious injury is pretty challenging mentally and physically. I just got myself ready for the whole roller coaster of emotions and that whole marathon.
"Right now mentally I'm in a good place, physically and mentally, and I feel great."
Every NFL team can designate two players to return per season after that player spends eight weeks on injured reserve. Agnew has reached the period this week where he can return to practice. Once designated to return, players then have two weeks to practice before being activated for games. Agnew could be activated for the Buffalo game Dec. 16.
The Lions have not used either of their designations this year. Agnew was cleared to return to practice Wednesday.
The Lions have missed Agnew over the last six weeks. Not only was he coming along nicely in his nickel cornerback role, but his injury left a huge void in the return game. Agnew was an All-Pro last year as a return man, leading the league in punt return average and touchdowns.
The Lions could be mathematically out of playoff contention at the time of Agnew's potential return to game action in two weeks, which leaves the team with a decision to make on playing Agnew the last three weeks of season or shutting him down. Although if left up to Agnew, the decision would be easy.
"My goal is always to win," Agnew said. "Obviously back of my head I'm thinking longevity, protect myself. But I'm feeling pretty great right now. Like I said, it's not my decision to get activated or not, but I've just been working hard, putting myself in that position, make that decision a little bit easier for them.
"I just want to get back and help the team win. I don't like watching football. I've been doing it all my life. I'm trying to get back out there and play. But I'm just itching to get back out there."
COMMITMENT TO THE RUN
Rams head coach Sean McVay has deservedly gotten a lot of credit for Los Angeles' success on offense this season. The Rams are averaging 35.4 points per game and are ranked second overall on offense, averaging 448.6 yards per game. McVay has been called one of the most innovative offensive minds in the NFL.
But what makes McVay and the Rams so innovative? That was the question posed to Lions head coach Matt Patricia, a coach considered by many to be one of the best young defensive minds in the game.
"I think the word 'innovative' in the game of football is always an interesting word, because I think it's very cyclical," Patricia said. "I think things come back up. I think there's a lot of stuff from the college game that comes up, I think there's a lot of stuff from the NFL that goes down to college, and I think there are things that just trend and repeat but maybe look a little bit different than they have in the past."
Patricia said the biggest thing with the Rams isn't that they're doing things the league hasn't ever seen before, they're just doing them at a higher level. And for Patricia, everything they do on offense starts with the commitment to their run game.
"I think when you do that and you can run the ball along with the dynamic pass game – they use a lot of play action based off the run game to kind of get those chunk yardages downfield – but that run game is really good," Patricia said. "(McVay) does a great job with it. It's all working together really well."
Rams running back Todd Gurley ranks in the top two in the NFL in essentially every major rushing category including rushing yards (1,043), yards per game (94.8), 10-plus yard rushes (29) and rushing touchdowns (13).
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018.
WHAT COULD'VE BEEN
Lions fans will have to wonder 'what if' Sunday when they see Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh line up next to one another on the interior of the Rams' defensive line. It's a combination the Lions could have featured themselves, if things had gone a little differently.
The Lions drafted Suh with the No. 2 overall pick in 2010, but he left following the 2014 season to sign a free agent contract with Miami.
In 2014, the Lions drafted tight end Eric Ebron with the No. 10 pick. The Rams took Donald at No. 13, and the rest is history.
Detroit will now have to contend with both Suh and Donald on Sunday.
STAT OF DAY
Wide receiver Brandin Cooks leads the Rams with 964 receiving yards this season.
Cooks, who had 1,173 receiving yards with New Orleans in 2016 and 1,082 yards with New England in 2017, needs 36 yards on Sunday to become the first player in NFL history to have at least 1,000 receiving yards with three different teams in three consecutive seasons.