Detroit Lions place Kerryon Johnson on injured reserve after knee surgery

Dave Birkett
Detroit Free Press
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Kerryon Johnson is headed to injured reserve for the second straight season.

Johnson underwent surgery on his right knee Tuesday morning, and Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia said the team is hopeful the running back will return later this year.

Players placed on injured reserve must miss a minimum of eight games, but can return to practice after six weeks.

Detroit Lions running back Kerryon Johnson pushes off Green Bay Packers safety Adrian Amos at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., Oct. 14, 2019.

Johnson is eligible to return Week 16 against the Denver Broncos.

“Obviously, you know how much we value Kerryon and what a great part of our offense and our team he is, and he’s still here and he’s still part of all that, certainly," Patricia said in a conference call announcing the move. "Obviously, feel really bad for Kerryon that he’s in this situation, but I know he’s a tough kid and he works really hard so very optimistic about everything going forward."

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Johnson injured his right knee in the first quarter of Sunday's loss to the Minnesota Vikings. He leads the Lions with 308 yards rushing through six games and has more carries (92) than the rest of the team's running backs combined (54).

Last year, Johnson missed the final six games of the season with a left knee injury that did not require surgery.

Detroit Lions running back Kerryon Johnson is tackled by Minnesota Vikings defenders during the first half Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019 at Ford Field.

A second-round pick out of Auburn in 2018, Johnson had a long injury history in college that Lions general manager Bob Quinn downplayed at the time he was drafted.

Patricia side-stepped a question about concerns over Johnson's durability Tuesday.

"We like to just stay in the moment with all of that stuff," he said. "We'll see how this goes as far as that's concerned. We know the running back position is one that is difficult position to stay completely healthy in, certainly from that aspect of it. If you guys remember, we actually talked about this last year about the overall running backs in the NFL and there's only a few of them that take every single snap during a game, there's only about a handful. We're prepared to go running back by committee or whoever's out there being ready to go."

The Lions have leaned heavily on Johnson to this point in the season, and while he averages just 3.3 yards per carry - down more than 2 yards from last year - he's clearly the team's best running back.

Rookie sixth-round pick Ty Johnson and backup J.D. McKissic split time in Kerryon Johnson's absence against the Vikings, and should see the bulk of the work going forward - at least for the time being.

The NFL trade deadline is next week, and players like the Los Angeles Chargers' Melvin Gordon and the Miami Dolphins' Kenyan Drake are among those who could be on the trading block.

"The interesting thing about the trade deadline is you can trade and acquire people much before the deadline so I think we're always kind of in the business of listening," Patricia said. "We're always trying to improve our roster every single day as best we can. Whatever those opportunities are, I'm sure Bob and his staff, they listen to a lot of different conversations that go on and things will take care of themselves when they present themselves. For us right now, we're just focused on the guys that are here. That's all that's really important to us is trying to improve our team currently and obviously get ready for a big game against the Giants."

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford hands off to running back Kerryon Johnson during the first half against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019 at Ford Field.

The Lions, losers of three straight, have three running backs currently on their 53-man roster.

Ty Johnson, one of the fastest players on the team, has 83 yards rushing on 23 carries this year. McKissic, claimed off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks last month, has 109 yards on 15 carries. And the Lions claimed Tra Carson off waivers from the Green Bay Packers last week.

McKissic said Sunday he was "very confident" in the Lions' running game no matter Johnson's injury status, a sentiment both Patricia and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell echoed Tuesday.

“I’ve said this to you guys many times is that our job here is to put the guys in the best positions possible and use the skill sets that they have," Bevell said. "So we have different set of guys and we need to learn what Tra does as quickly as we can, what are his strengths and weaknesses. We have a good feel for J.D. and Ty and we’re going to accentuate the positives that they have and minimize the areas that we don’t think that will help us and help them be able to put their best foot forward out there."

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. Read more on the Detroit Lions and sign up for our Lions newsletter.

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