A comment by Detroit Lions president Rod Wood last week that got largely overlooked shed a positive light on a critical position that is in doubt on the team's offense.
Wood offered a guardedly hopeful prognosis on the injured right shoulder sustained by left tackle Taylor Decker late in the offseason workout program. He underwent surgery June 5.
Head coach Jim Caldwell has not offered a timetable for Decker's return but said in announcing the injury on June 6 that he did not think it was season-ending.
Decker's injury occurred before the mandatory three-day minicamp that closed out the offseason program. He was on the field for minicamp practices as a spectator only.
There should be more clarity on Decker's immediate status when Caldwell addresses the media this weekend. Veterans report to training camp at the team's Allen Park headquarters Saturday, and drills begin for the full squad on Sunday.
However, Wood's comments in an interview on WJR-760 last week offered the possibility that Decker might return sooner than many have projected as possible.
"Hopefully, we'll get Taylor Decker back sooner rather than later," Wood said on WJR. "I think we have a better team. I think we have a better team in place.
"You've got to block, and you've got to give your quarterback time. We need to get our running game going. If we get that going, with the way Matthew (Stafford) played last year, we should have a really good offense."
Decker is a major part of general manager Bob Quinn's two-year project to build a strong offensive line. The sooner he's back, the better for the offense. Decker started every game at left tackle last year and played every offensive snap.
Based on Decker's rookie performance and the potential for development, it's logical to project him among the best NFL offensive tackles who can neutralize top pass rushers on a weekly basis without double-team help.
Decker was a first-round draft pick out of Ohio State in 2016, and the first of three offensive linemen drafted by Quinn. Quinn signed two veteran free agents as starters this year – right guard T.J. Lang and right tackle Rick Wagner.
Quinn acted quickly after Decker was injured acquiring young tackles Cyrus Kouandjio and Greg Robinson. Both were high picks in the 2014 draft and have starting experience.
Robinson, drafted second overall out of Auburn by the Rams, was acquired in a trade for an undisclosed draft pick. Robinson played 46 of 48 games for the Rams with 42 starts.
Kouandjio was signed as a free agent after three years with the Bills, who drafted him in the second round and 44th overall out of Alabama. Kouandjio played 25 games with seven starts for the Bills.
View photos of the offensive tackles competing for roster spots entering training camp.