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NOTEBOOK: Hutchinson to face the team that passed on him

Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown memorized all 16 receivers taken before him in the 2021 draft. He used it as motivation early in his career to help him become one of the best young receivers in the game in just his second season.

For teammate Aidan Hutchinson, remembering his draft day slight is a little easier. There's just one team that passed on Hutchinson in this year's NFL Draft, and they are coming to Ford Field Sunday to take on Hutchinson and the Lions in a key game for both teams to keep their playoff hopes alive.

"I guess I'm lucky to only have to remember one name," Hutchinson joked this week. "I'm in a good situation here and I'm happy, but draft day you still remember and that will stick with me forever.

"It was weird, I thought I was going there for about three months and then about a week before the draft, something changed. I guess my arms were just not quite long enough, but that hit a week before the draft, so we'll see if that extra couple inches was the difference."

The Jaguars selected Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker No. 1 overall, who many draft experts dubbed as a bigger, stronger, longer-armed and more athletic player than Hutchinson. But it was clear to Lions coaches quickly after Hutchinson arrived in Allen Park he was a better athlete than even they projected in their pre-draft process.

So far Hutchinson has been the more productive of the two through 11 games. Walker has 37 tackles, three tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and six quarterback hits in 11 games. Hutchinson has 31 tackles, four tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, two interceptions and 10 quarterback hits in 11 games.

"The Jags are obviously the one team that passed on me," Hutchinson said. "So that will definitely be in the back of my head playing that game."


The Lions are the healthiest they've been in a long time heading into Sunday's game vs. Jacksonville.

They've got their top three receivers – St. Brown, DJ Chark and Josh Reynolds – as healthy as they've been since probably Week 3. Wide receivers coach Antwaan Randle El said having all those guys back will allow offensive coordinator Ben Johnson to call the game differently with their playbook becoming more versatile.

Detroit's defense is also as healthy as they've been in weeks with the expected return of defensive lineman Josh Paschal (knee) and cornerback Jeff Okudah (concussion) this week.

Detroit's offensive line should get Pro Bowl guard Jonah Jackson back after he missed the Bills game with a concussion.

Only guard Evan Brown (ankle) and linebacker Julian Okwara (elbow) haven't practiced this week among the players on the 53-man roster.

"Brad (Holmes) and I talked about it early in the year. It was like we really felt like we were going to take our lumps early just with the way everything was going (on an injury front)," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said Friday. "About the time some other teams were going through what we went through early, we start getting healthy late in the season. It's a good place to be at right now. Hopefully it stays that way."


Speaking of Chark, he is looking forward to finishing his first season in Detroit on a strong note, and it starts Sunday against his former team.

Chark signed with the Lions in free agency this offseason after spending his first four seasons in Jacksonville, including a Pro Bowl season in 2019. He played in just four games last year for the Jaguars because of an ankle injury and the two sides decided to part ways as Chark became a free agent.

Chark was one of Detroit's top free-agent targets this offseason, but his ankle troubles followed him to the Lions. He missed six games Weeks 4-10 because of the same left ankle he had surgery on last year while in Jacksonville. He has just nine receptions for 114 yards and two scores in five games played this season.

But he says he's back to feeling like his old self again after getting his legs under him the last couple weeks. He wants to show his teammates, coaches and fans why the Lions signed him in free agency.

"I feel like I owe these guys a lot," Chark said. "Those six weeks, seven weeks, six games was really tough. But these guys was always good brothers for me. When I was able to come back, you know, they welcomed me in quickly. And that was huge for me."

Chark said he's excited to go out, showcase his talent and help this team win down the stretch.

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