Detroit Lions' preseason injuries tough to swallow, even if 'hindsight is 20-20'

Dave Birkett
Detroit Free Press
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One after another they approached Jarrad Davis as he sat on a cart, waiting for a ride up the Ford Field tunnel he could no longer walk.

Mike Daniels, A’Shawn Robinson, Devon Kennard and a host of other Lions had hugs and handshakes for the leader of their defense, a player whose season now hangs in the balance after he injured his right leg on the second snap of Friday’s 24-20 preseason loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Detroit Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis goes down with a right leg injury during the first quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Ford Field, Aug. 23, 2019.

“I let him know I was praying for him, and just hope it’s nothing serious and he bounces back quickly,” Kennard said. “I’m just hoping to get him back as soon as possible.”

Davis and center Frank Ragnow are scheduled to undergo more medical testing Saturday after both left Game 3 of the preseason with non-weight-bearing leg injuries.

Both players were expected to be key members of the Lions this fall, Davis the team’s third-year middle linebacker and Ragnow its second-year center, and their injuries underscore the conundrum the preseason has become: How much, if at all, should teams play their starters in largely meaningless games that are supposed to prepare them for the regular season?

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“I think we can argue either side of the coin on all this,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “Hindsight is 20-20. So for us, we try to stick to the plan. We’re looking at reps, we’re looking at numbers, we’re looking at possibilities of when we can get guys out there, when we think they’ve had enough during the course of the week to take a look at it. Guys can get injured during practice, guys can get injured during the game. I mean, it’s football, to some aspects of it. Injuries are part of the game and that’s something that we all have to deal with.”

Before Friday, Patricia and the Lions had tread carefully with all of their starters, especially those dealing with injuries, this preseason.

Detroit Lions' Matthew Stafford takes the handoff from center Frank Ragnow during the first half against the Buffalo Bills, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019 at Ford Field.

Davis did not play in either of the first two games after he suffered an undisclosed injury early in training camp, and Matthew Stafford, Marvin Jones (knee), Mike Daniels (foot) and Damon Harrison were among a host of Lions made their preseason debuts Friday.

Davis told the Free Press last week that he felt fine and was ready to play, and his injury was the kind of contact injury that’s impossible to avoid.

As he was pursing Bills running back LeSean McCoy on a running play up the middle, Kennard crashed into the side of his leg.

“It’s unfortunate, but it’s football,” Kennard said. “It happens, and you can’t be out here playing scared or worrying about things like that. We have to be able to adapt and be ready to go. For me, I want to be out there. This is the time of year you get into a rhythm, you build that camaraderie as a unit, understanding the terminology and communication and all that. I think this is a pivotal time for that. It’s unfortunate, but that’s just the part of the game.”

Stafford called playing in preseason games “an interesting, I guess, feeling” because of the risk of injury and the knowledge that games like Friday are exhibitions at best.

He said Ragnow’s injury was “a little bit more frustrating considering it is a preseason game.”

Detroit Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis (40) is helped off the field by medical staff during the first quarter of the preseason game against the Buffalo Bills in Detroit, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019.

“You prepare as hard as you can to go play and you’re just hoping that nothing too bad happens,” Stafford said. “And you do that in the regular season, but your mind is just on winning, whatever it takes. I’d crawl around on the field if it helped us win a regular-season game. So, a little bit different, but I think our guys, you go out there and play with a bunch of tempo. Any time you step between the white lines you got to know anything can happen. You go out there and play as hard as you possibly can.”

The Lions suffered three serious injuries in their preseason opener two weeks ago against the New England Patriots. Backup wide receiver Jermaine Kearse was lost to a season-ending broken leg, and backup quarterback Tom Savage and offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby suffered concussions and have yet to return.

Friday’s injuries could be even worse in terms of both impact and timing, given that the Lions lost two starters and open the regular season two weeks from Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, and they could ultimately change the way Patricia approaches preseason games in the future.

“I think there’s a lot of things that could change with all that,” Patricia said. “I think in the end, we got to play football. That’s what the game is, and we got to go out and certainly for us, injuries can happen at anytime. And like I said earlier, hindsight is 20-20 on all of it. We’re always trying to do things that are from a standpoint of getting the team ready to go for the regular season, and also about evaluating the players. At some point, we’ve got to do a great job of that.”

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