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Walker nearing full return: 'It feels great to be back'

It was good to see No. 21 running around on the field at Thursday's open OTA practice.

It was the first time we've seen veteran Detroit Lions safety Tracy Walker on the field since Week 3 of last season when he was being helped off the field at U.S. Bank Stadium after tearing his Achilles early in a loss against the Vikings.

"It feels great to be back," Walker said after practice Thursday. "I can't hide the emotions, you know? It's a blessing. I'm very excited. Honestly, I missed it. It's hard to explain. It was cool I got time to spend at home with my family but at the end of the day I missed ball. I missed coming out here being around my teammates and being the leader that I am."

The exciting part about getting Walker back for the Lions is that their defense was playing considerably better the second half of the season and they've now added some significant veteran pieces in C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Cam Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley to make it even better. Getting Walker back will be a big boost as well.

Walker was Detroit's leading tackler in 2021 with 108 and also defended six passes with an interception. He had 20 tackles and a sack in two and a half games before the injury last season.

He said the toughest time last year was not being there when his team was going through a losing streak early in the season. That's where he thought he could have made the most impact.

Kerby Joseph got a lot more playing time early in his career because of the Walker injury and that can be looked at as a positive. Joseph showed he belongs, and now the two hope to be a formidable duo in the back end of Detroit's defense this season.

"To see Kerby step up and go out there and do what he did and a lot of younger guys as well ... those guys stepped in and had their opportunities," Walker said. "It was good to allow them to get that exposure. It's allowing them to come out here now and they look so much better because of that experience they gained. There's pros and cons to it. As a leader, that's exciting for me."

Walker was certainly enjoying practice Thursday. He's a vocal leader, and teammates feed off his energy at practice. He's also usually in the mix when some good-natured trash talking is going down and the intensity at practice ramps up.

If Thursday's practice was any indication, Gardner-Johnson brings his own fire and energy to practice and the two of them together should be fun to watch when training camp kicks off this summer and the competition really starts.

"Definitely a character. I love it," Walker said of Gardner-Johnson. "Me and him have a lot of similarities. We love talking our trash. There's going to be a lot of trash talking this year. Stay tuned for that. He's just energy. We have a lot of guys right now who are going to bring a lot of energy and make a lot of plays."

Walker is seven months out of post op and is running around and enjoying being back on the field. He said he'll be ready to return in a full capacity come training camp as long as the surgeon signs off on it ahead of time.

"Honestly, we just grinding. Being the best we can be," Walker said of his mindset this spring. "It's a great thing to be a part of. I'm excited for what we're going to do this year and like I said we're going to make a lot of noise this year."

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