Detroit Lions fans will have to wait at least another week to see veteran defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson back on the field and playing in a game.
He returned to practice this week for the first time in just over three months, and head coach Dan Campbell said it's unlikely he suits up Sunday in Minneapolis vs. the Vikings.
"Yeah, he's looked good," Campbell said of Gardner-Johnson's week of practice. "Looks fresh, obviously, moving around pretty good. So, it's really just about get him – we just need to get him some more practices just to make sure he's ready to go, he's comfortable and we don't just throw him out there to the wolves. I don't necessarily see him going this week, but he's good, he's doing good."
Gardner-Johnson was ruled out on Friday's injury report, which certainly falls in line with how Campbell has handled players coming back from injury all season. There's never been a rush to get a player back until they are completely ready from a medical standpoint, or in this case giving Gardner-Johnson an opportunity to get his football legs under him after such a long layoff.
Players can practice for up to three weeks before they must be activated from IR to the 53-man roster or returned to injured reserve for the rest of the season, so the Lions have time with Gardner-Johnson. If practice goes well next week, we could see him back next Saturday in Dallas.
PASCHAL STEPPING UP
Second-year defensive lineman Josh Paschal had a terrific game last week in the win over Denver with a sack and two tackles for loss. The Lions have been looking for more production up front from players not named Aidan Hutchinson, and Paschal and veteran John Cominsky have provided that the last couple weeks.
"I've been really excited – if you look back at the last couple of games when (Paschal) has been in there you see him improving and making more plays and splash plays," defensive line coach John Scott Jr. said Friday. "One of the best things you can have is availability and now that he's healthy and playing you're seeing what he's capable of."
Paschal missed all of training camp and seven games last year due to injury. He missed another five games earlier this year with a knee injury, but he now has eight straight games under his belt dating back to Week 7. We saw last week the impact the former second-round pick can have when available and healthy.
"Look, Paschal is – he's explosive, he's explosive. He does have versatility to play inside on third down, play outside, kind of the big end," Campbell said. "He's strong, he's pretty headsy, but he is still a young, developing player too.
"I just go back – I don't want to give him an excuse, but really, last year was kind of a – he's learning on the run, he didn't get to go through camp or anything and he comes out Dallas, first game and so we kind of go, so this is, in some regards, his first year."
Paschal said his ability to stay healthy and on the field the last two months has really led to greater consistency.
"Being able to be out there and get those continuous reps just getting comfortable and bring back the game that I know that I have," he said.
Minnesota looks to be getting healthier at the end of the week.
The Vikings had everyone back at practice Friday except cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. (knee) and WR Jalen Nailor (concussion).
Defensive tackle Harrison Phillips (back), running back Alexander Mattison (ankle) and right tackle Brian O'Neill (ankle) all took part in the open portion of Vikings practice, per ESPN's Kevin Seifert. All three sat out practice Wednesday and Thursday.
View photos from the Detroit Lions practice on Thursday, December 21, 2023.
Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown leads the Lions with 94 receptions, 1,175 yards and seven touchdowns. He has 290 receptions in his career, which means he needs just 10 receptions to join Justin Jefferson (324), Michael Thomas (321) and Christian McCaffrey (303) as the only players in NFL history with 300-plus catches over their first three seasons.
In his previous four games vs. Minnesota, St. Brown had seven, 10, six and six receptions.