ALLEN PARK -- As the Detroit Lions prepare to open their regular season on Sunday afternoon, the team is finally, relatively healthy.
All of the team’s projected starters will be available for the game. Also, with Titus Young and Alphonso Smith back at practice the only players who remain completely sidelined are defensive tackle Nick Fairley and offensive tackle Jason Fox. Smith's recovery, however, is ongoing as his practice repetitions remain limited. Fairley, Detroit's top pick in April, remains out of his walking boot and seemed to be walking without a noticeable limp.
Of course, the biggest injury the Lions have sustained – thus far – was to rookie running back Mikel Leshoure, who will not be returning this season.
“Obviously, we lost a player during training camp and we have a couple of guys in Jason Fox and Nick Fairley still working their way back,” said Schwartz. “The guys we are going to put out there are healthy and ready to go. It’s always that way first week of the season. It’s really not how you are then, it’s how you can be…. You can’t plan for injuries, they are going to happen, you have to have good players around them and alternative plans so you can get through stuff like that.”
Many outside the organization have been disappointed with Fairley’s injury due to the hype that was generated when the Lions drafted him. Although he is still a few weeks away (at least), he continues to make progress. Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham is among those anxiously awaiting his return.
“He’s worked hard in the rehab,” said Cunningham. “What he’s got to do now is make sure he’s working hard in the conditioning. From what I’ve heard he’s doing that. I spent a lot of time one-on-one just visiting with him to see how he’s doing emotionally, which is really good.
"He’s really got skill. He is a fine, fine athlete…. he’s graceful, he’s quick, he’s powerful. He’s a really, really bright kid. He fits right in. I can’t wait until he gets back out. We’re really blessed to have him.”
One moment that provided some comic relief was when Schwartz was asked about what the team’s strategy would be if they won the opening coin toss (would they prefer to kick or receive?). With a grin on his face, Schwartz said, ‘Well in overtime, we might take the wind," of course a reference to the infamous decision by former coach Marty Mornhinweg.
Schwartz went on to say that the team has a high level of confidence in both the offensive and defensive units, so no matter the decision, they aren’t too worried about it.
Are the Lions destined for the playoffs?
Join the discussion in The Den, the most active online
Detroit Lions fan community. Go Now!