The Lions have ruled out rookie running back D’Andre Swift for Sunday's game in Carolina after Swift showed symptoms of a concussion Thursday and was placed in the concussion protocol.
Swift has 70 carries for 331 yards and 31 catches for 275 yards. He's also scored six touchdowns.
Without Swift, the Lions will lean on Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson, with veteran Jonathan Williams potentially mixed in some too.
Swift leads Detroit's running backs with 251 snaps this season, but Peterson has played 190 and Johnson 146, as Detroit's used a running-back-by-committee approach all year. While missing Swift will certainly hurt, especially after the performance he had last week in his first start, this is where Detroit could see the benefits of their committee approach.
"As a running back room we have to step up and handle our job," Peterson said Friday. "That is the good thing about having [a] running back by committee, you have a lot of guys that can do those exact things as well."
Peterson has rushed for 75-plus yards twice this season and has two touchdowns. Johnson is Detroit's best pass blocker and has played a third-down role all year with a couple touchdowns to his credit.
"We understand that it is a little bit more of a committee approach and we have great players in that position and confidence in all those guys," Lions head coach Matt Patricia said.
"So, obviously with Adrian (Peterson), with Kerryon and J-Will (Jonathan Williams), we're good. We'll just keep rolling with those guys too. If they're out there and if Swift's out there, great. I think that's really just part of the mentality of making sure you have enough depth at the running back position that you feel comfortable with."
SHORT ON RECEIVERS
Marvin Jones Jr., Marvin Hall and Quintez Cephus will need to step up to fill the void, along with the tight end group. It also means Detroit will likely promote one or more of the three receivers currently on the team's practice squad – Mohamed Sanu, Tom Kennedy and Victor Bolden.
The NFL is taking steps to try and manage the spread of COVID-19 around the league the rest of the season. The league sent a memo to all 32 teams this week informing clubs that they should operate under intensive protocol the rest of the year, according to the NFL Network. Teams will have to implement intensive protocol starting Saturday.
Under intensive protocol, players and coaches must have negative test results from the day before they enter a team facility. All meetings will be held virtually except in specific scenarios. Everyone must wear face masks.
The Lions were placed in intensive protocol a couple weeks ago, but Patricia said the Lions have tried to operate on the safer side of protocols all year, and have continued some of the policies of intensive protocol since going through them as mandated by the league.
"We're just kind of used to it," Patricia said Friday. "We did some things, maybe a couple weeks ago, to get into that mode ahead of time, trying to do the best we can to just stay in front.
"We're trying to be as safe as we can. So a lot of those protocols that are in place are really good. They're important for what we're trying to do. So we tried to implement as many as we could just as a part of our normal daily routine."
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Thursday Nov. 19, 2020.
Carolina offensive coordinator Joe Brady is in his first season in that role for the Panthers.
Last year he was the passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach for LSU, and before that he spent two seasons as an offensive assistant in New Orleans for the Saints.
Patricia said he sees a lot of LSU and Saints offensive concepts in what the Panthers have done this year. The Lions played the Saints Week 4 and lost 35-29. The Saints threw for 246 yards and rushed for 164 yards in the win.
Patricia expects that Brady took a long look at that Week 4 contest between the Saints and Lions to see if there was anything he could use that could help Carolina this week.
"Really I think he's done a good job of blending a lot of those offensive philosophies together," Patricia said of Brady. "There's definitely some Saints philosophies that you see in certainly how he calls it and some of the formations, really the terminology, some of the different looks that you see in the route combinations.
"So that'll be a big game for us, from a standpoint where we played the Saints earlier this year, understanding that that will be his background, and there's some things in there I'm sure he'll take a look at real closely."