Quarterback Jared Goff is hopeful he can return to the field this week and try to help the Detroit Lions finish off the regular season strong.
Goff returned to practice Wednesday after sitting out practice all last week and missing Sunday's game in Seattle with a bone bruise.
"It's progressing," Goff said after Wednesday's practice. "I hope to play. We'll see how the week goes. It's a bone bruise is the best way to describe it. It's just pain management and try to avoid any setbacks. I moved around quite a bit today and I hope to be able to go."
Goff suffered the injury in the Arizona game three weeks ago, but was able to finish the game. He missed the following week in Atlanta after testing positive for COVID-19 the Monday following the Cardinals game, though the knee was probably going to keep him out anyway, as it did last week in Seattle.
Goff's played really well down the home stretch, especially in his last two games at Ford Field, both wins over Minnesota and Arizona. He's completed 46 of 67 passes for 512 yards with six touchdowns and just one interception in those two contests for a combined passer rating of 114.8.
He said it's important for him to play Sunday and finish the season on a strong note heading into an important offseason.
"It's very important. I want to be out there," he said. "Ultimately, it's kind of not up to me, it's up to where my knee is at. I really do want to be out there. I'd be pretty disappointed if I wasn't able to make it happen. Really do want to be out there."
Reserve tackle Matt Nelson has been in head coach Dan Campbell's ear all year long about getting an opportunity to catch a pass near the goal line. Nelson finally had his number called last week in Seattle, and he dropped the ball.
"I got the most flak from my wife," Nelson said Wednesday. "She's like, 'It hit your hands. You've got to catch it.' I got a lot of crap from the guys on the sideline after, so (I've) got to make the most of the next one, if granted the opportunity."
Two plays later the Lions called on left tackle Taylor Decker to make the play, and he caught the ball for his second career touchdown.
"He was like, 'hey, that's how you catch the ball,'" Nelson said of Decker's reaction to his drop on the sideline after the score. "But I was like, 'hey, if I would have scored maybe you don't have the opportunity, so you're welcome for that.' Everybody has just been giving me friendly jabs here and there."
On a serious note, Nelson has been a bright spot for the Lions this season. The defensive lineman turned tackle started eight games at right tackle when Decker was out to start the year, and he's been the main jumbo tackle all season.
He's been a great example of the next-man-up-mentality, taking advantage of his opportunities. He's allowed three sacks and four quarterback hits in 384 pass-blocking reps this year, per Pro Football Focus statistics, and he has been solid as a run blocker as well.
It has been an up-and-down rookie campaign for second-round pick defensive end Levi Onwuzurike.
A back issue forced him to miss a lot of training camp, which certainly wasn't ideal, especially considering he opted out of the 2020 college football season at Washington. His playing time has steadily increased throughout the season, but it hasn't translated to consistent production, especially in some of the pass-rushing metrics.
In 15 games, Onwuzurike has 34 tackles (15 solo) with two tackles for loss, but he's registered just two quarterback pressures, one sack and one quarterback hit.
"With Levi, we've had some ups and downs," Lions defensive line coach Todd Wash said Wednesday. "Some of the inconsistency with technique. He's still kind of at the spot where we sit and say, 'oh boy, that's a heck of a play, and oh boy, that's not what we're looking for.'"
Wash says Onwuzurike has all the physical traits the Lions are looking for, it's just about cleaning up some technique stuff and getting him playing with better pad level more consistently.
This will be a big game for Onwuzurike Sunday to finish the season strong. The Lions want to see him use those physical traits to flash more of the plus plays.
Wash likes the upside with Onwuzurike, and says the big focus heading into the offseason is for him to take care of his body and increase his lower body strength, and hopefully that builds more consistency going into his second season.
The Lions are in line to coach the Senior Bowl the first week of February. The annual all-star game attracts some of the top senior talent from the college football ranks entering the NFL Draft down in Mobile, Alabama. The two teams with the worst records in the NFL get the invite to coach one of the two Senior Bowl teams, and the week of practice is invaluable to those staffs as they get an inside perspective on the players. How do they retain information? Are they versatile? What are their practice habits? How do they fit Detroit's scheme? All things you get an inside look at from coaching that week.
"I've coached the Senior Bowl before. It's really nice to get your hands on players and you really get to know who they are in depth," Wash said. "I think it's a good opportunity for us and our scouting department and the whole Detroit Lions to get your eyes on a lot of different guys. Not only the guys on your roster, but guys on the other roster. I think it's an advantage. It's an opportunity for us to get a step up on the competition when it comes to the draft."
Campbell on if he'll call offensive plays next season: "I know that I'm getting a lot more comfortable and I feel like this is something that I do believe I can do and be good at. But I'm not ready to commit to what I'm doing next year yet. I got to sit down and process this at the right time."