By: Will Burchfield
Taylor Decker practiced on Wednesday for the first time since undergoing shoulder surgery in June, but it may be a while before he plays in a game.
Asked if it’s realistic to expect Decker to make his season debut Monday night versus the Packers, Jim Caldwell said, “We’ll see, we’ll see. I’m not putting any limitations on it. It could be two weeks from now, it could be three weeks from now. We’ll see.”
The Lions have three weeks to decide whether to activate Decker from the physically unable to perform list or place him on season-ending injured reserve.
Caldwell said on Thursday he can’t yet tell how much rust Decker has to knock off, but added, “It will take a little bit.”
Decker tore the labrum in his right shoulder during OTAs, and the initial prognosis had him sidelined for four to six months. It’s been about five months since the date of his surgery.
“It’s a progression for him,” said Caldwell. “It’s good to have him back, obviously, but when he’ll play depends upon when the doctors feel good about his progress and where he is.”
The Lions’ offensive line has struggled without the 2016 All-Rookie left tackle, particularly in pass protection. Matthew Stafford has been sacked 25 times in seven games, tied for the second most in the NFL. Stafford said it was “great” to see Decker back at practice on Wednesday.
“Anytime guys have worked as hard as he has to come back from stuff, it’s nice to see them back out there, moving around a little bit,” Stafford said.
Greg Robinson, Greg Cleary and Brian Mihalik have taken turns manning left tackle in Decker’s stead. Mihalik, the third option, may have had the best single-game performance of the three in Detroit’s loss to the Steelers on Sunday night.
“Those guys all did a nice job so far stepping in and competing their asses off for us at that spot, but anytime you get a starting player back obviously it gives you a boost,” said guard T.J. Lang. “Taylor’s one of the best young left tackles in the game right now. If we can have him this week, great. If not, we know he’s close.”
Decker has declined all interview requests since his injury, but he’s been seen frequently in the Lions’ locker room. On the Valenti Show on 97.1 The Ticket on Tuesday, Lang said Decker has been making good progress in his rehab.
“I’ve seen him in meetings, obviously seen him in the weight room working out, getting his rehab in. He’s looking pretty good,” Lang said. “Hopefully in the next couple weeks he can get back to helping us.”
Decker also participated in practice on Thursday. Robinson, who hasn’t played since injuring his ankle in Week 6, did not. Mihalik will likely make his second consecutive start at left tackle if Decker isn’t ready to go on Monday night.