The Lions activated rookie defensive end and fourth-round draft pick Austin Bryant to the active 53-man roster Wednesday from Reserve/Injured.
The team placed fullback Nick Bawden (knee) on IR to make room for Bryant on the roster.
Bryant, 6-foot-6, 261 pounds, adds length, versatility and some fresh legs to Detroit’s defensive front as an edge rusher.
“I’ve been sitting on the side for 11 weeks, so I hope I can do a little something,” Bryant said with a chuckle in the locker room. “Legs are a little fresh, but you still have to get into the flow of just playing football.”
Bryant admitted he was pretty excited at practice Wednesday knowing there’s a chance he can play Sunday. If he gets that opportunity against the Redskins, he hopes to bring a “relentless pursuit” attitude to the defense. He doesn’t care if that’s rushing from the edge with his hand in the dirt or standing up in the JACK linebacker role.
The Lions drafted Bryant out of Clemson, where he started all 15 games for the Tigers in 2018, recording 14.5 tackles for loss with eight sacks, while playing through a pectoral injury that needed surgery following the season.
“I would say, something I think he’s doing a really good job of, especially for as much time he’s missed – I thought his pad level is really good,” Lions head coach Matt Patricia said of how Bryant’s looked in practice over the last 21 days since his return to the practice field.
“I think his hand placement is pretty good. He’s incredibly long. He’s just kind of a different body type out there. You can see where he’s starting to get comfortable using his leverage and being a little bit more confident in kind of the injury situation.”
The Lions will face a familiar foe Sunday in Washington in running back Adrian Peterson. The first 10 years of Peterson's career were spent with the Minnesota Vikings, and during that time he played against Detroit 14 times. Peterson rushed for 100 or more yards in eight of those contests and scored 11 touchdowns.
He’s Washington’s leading rusher (516 yards) heading into Sunday’s matchup against Detroit in Washington with a 4.2 average per rush.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and the way he plays the game,” Patricia said of Peterson. “I’ve had some great battles with him through the years. Just every time, I think for me, even just turning on the tape this week and watching him and what he’s able to do still at a high level is just pretty amazing.
“I think it’s similar to like last year with Frank Gore, when we were getting ready for him. You see those guys that have that longevity that sort of ability to keep going. It’s so impressive from a coaching standpoint. I would say that he’s so dangerous for us right now.”
Detroit’s defense has been better against the run in recent weeks, holding three of their last four opponents under 100 total rushing yards. Detroit enters Sunday’s game 24th in the NFL (124.2) against the run.
The Lions were down six starters Wednesday as they began on-field preparations for Sunday.
Defensive end Trey Flowers (concussion), center Frank Ragnow (concussion), safety Tracy Walker (knee), kick returner Jamal Agnew (ankle), punter Sam Martin (abdomen) and quarterback Matthew Stafford (hip/back) all sat out Wednesday’s practice.
Stafford is on track to miss his third straight start with the back injury, while Flowers and Ragnow remain in concussion protocol to begin the week after suffering their injuries Sunday vs. Dallas.
“He’s kind of on the same program,” Patricia said of Stafford. “He’ll be out at practice. He’s out on the field. He’s kind of helping us with a lot of that stuff, he can do some things that he can do from that standpoint, but we’re still kind of in the same ballpark with that week by week as far as that goes.”
Also missing Wednesday’s practice was defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand.
The Lions did get right tackle Rick Wagner back at practice. He sat out the Cowboys game after suffering a concussion against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 10.
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019.