After 13 months of surgery, healing and rehab, Lions veteran pass rusher Romeo Okwara returned to the practice field in Allen Park this week.
Okwara didn't do a lot, stretching and taking part in individual periods in front of reporters, but after a long 13 months, Okwara said he felt like a kid again out there with the guys.
"I feel like I was like finally let to go out on recess," Okwara joked in the locker room Thursday. "I've been like locked inside, so it felt really good to just go out there and just like run outside, especially in the snow (Thursday). It was a blessing."
It's been over 400 days since Okwara was last spotted at practice the week before tearing his Achilles Week 4 vs. Chicago last season. He opened training camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, but said he got the green light from his surgeon to resume football activities after a checkup last week went well.
"It was a huge relief because it'd been a long, long, long, long journey and I just feel really blessed and lucky to be able to come back and be with this team," he said.
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Thursday, November 17, 2022.
It's been a slow and frustrating rehab process, Okwara said, but Achilles injuries can be finicky things. He declined to say if he suffered any setbacks along the way in his rehab process.
Okwara was just happy to be back running around and practicing with the guys again. He said he felt great after a couple days of practice and said the plan is to return to game action at some point this season.
"Oh, I'm going to play," he said. "I want to play. It's just a matter of time."
The Lions have 21 days to activate Okwara to their 53-man roster.
"I do know it was good to see him out at practice yesterday," Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said Thursday. "So, I mean he's going to be a guy that's going to give us pass rush also, we know that from his past.
"We haven't had a chance to really get to utilize that. So, I'm looking forward to him getting back, so we can utilize that."
Okwara led the Lions with a career-high 10 sacks in his last full season in 2020. He said football is his happy place, and he's just glad to be back doing what he loves.
BIG FRIDAY FOR CHARK
Today is a big day for wide receiver DJ Chark to see if he can potentially return to the lineup Sunday.
Chark returned to practice Wednesday after spending the last four weeks on IR with a left ankle injury. He's eligible to come off IR on Saturday, the day before Detroit's game against the Giants Sunday.
Detroit's top deep threat at the receiver position, Chark hasn't played since Week 3.
"Chark looked better than he did the day before, so we'll see what it looks like today," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said Friday.
OPTIMISTIC ON RAGNOW
Center Frank Ragnow returned to the practice field Friday after sitting out Wednesday and Thursday with a foot injury.
"Frank took the boot off both feet today," Campbell joked. "He will be out there running around today, so I'm pretty optimistic. For Sunday, I'm pretty optimistic for Frank, we are, yep."
Having Ragnow available Sunday would be big for the Lions as they face arguably the top nose tackle in football in New York's Dexter Lawrence. The Giants typically line Lawrence up right over the center. Lawrence has five sacks and 17 quarterback hits on the season.
It's a quick turnaround for the Lions after Sunday's game in New York as they come home and face the Buffalo Bills for their annual Thanksgiving Day Game on Thursday.
As soon as the players come into the building on Monday after Sunday's game in New York, it's on to Buffalo. The coaches must have a plan in place to start preparing the players. That makes this week a little longer for Campbell's assistant coaches.
"This is the hardest part of this profession is going into the short game, the Thursday games because this is where it's a grind, and you're trying to prepare for this, this opponent because this is the most important game right now, but you also have to have enough prepared for when the players come in the next day," Campbell said.
Coaches will be working through some Buffalo things over the next couple days. Campbell doesn't like the coordinators doing it, he wants them focused solely on New York, but the assistants will have some ideas ready to roll for Monday.