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Frank Ragnow Knew Penei Sewell Was 'Gonna Be Special' from Day One

Detroit Lions center Frank Ragnow provides an injury update, and shares his opinion of rookie Penei Sewell at his season-ending media session.

As rookie offensive lineman Penei Sewell emerged as one of the top linemen in professional football, his injured teammate could only stand by and smile.

Center Frank Ragnow, who knows a thing or two about what it takes to succeed in the NFL, was nursing what he revealed to be a ruptured tendon in his foot, and was unable to suit up for most of the 2021 season. Though he wasn’t on the field, he still took stock in teammates like Sewell.

Reflecting on the season, Ragnow shared his expectations going into the season for the rookie and how he lived up to them.

“I thought he was gonna be pretty good, he’s pretty good,” Ragnow said. “He’s got a long way to go too, man, which is nuts. For me, all I care about as a person is work ethic, especially as a rookie. He came in here just humble, quiet, just worked. He started developing that confidence, from day one, I knew he was gonna be special, and he’s gonna keep getting more and more special for sure.”

Sewell has drawn high praise from all levels of the Lions organization, including general manager Brad Holmes. The offensive lineman was the first selection made by Detroit’s new general manger and seems to have his new boss excited.

“Again, we love to talk about -- we’re gonna get guys that we love,” Holmes said. “So, you talk about first round, Penei, yes, he is what we thought he was going to be, and Penei is only going to get better. I mean, for what he was able to do, being a left tackle in college and opting out, and is coming in as a right tackle and then (Taylor) Decker goes out and he goes to left. And, Decker comes back, and he goes back to right. He’s the youngest -- I mean, him and Kyle Pitts were the youngest guys in the draft. He’s only going to get better.”

Sewell finished his rookie season with 16 starts, missing only the season finale.

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Ragnow injury update

Named a second-team All-Pro in 2020, Ragnow entered the 2021 season with high expectations. After a solid start to the year, he suffered a season-ending ruptured tendon in his foot in the Lions’ Week 4 loss to Chicago.

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The Arkansas product was relegated to the sideline. After initial objections, he decided to go through with the surgery prescribed to heal his injury. A competitor, Ragnow wanted to be on the field playing with his teammates.

Yet, the decision to put the season on hold turned out to be the right one.

“I really didn’t have an option, which I thought I could play through because pain wise, I think I could’ve handled it,” Ragnow said. “But, I think player-wise, I don’t think I could’ve been nearly the player I wanted to be to help this team.”

Heading into his fourth season as a pro, Ragnow anticipates a normal offseason. He’s been rehabbing the injury since it occurred in early October. Now, he’s focused on getting right, in anticipation for 2022.

“I’m gonna be able to have a normal offseason, I think,” Ragnow said. “I think I’m gonna. By a month from now, I should be normal if everything goes well. But, also the blessing is there’s no rush now that we have the offseason. But, by a month from now, everything should be normal.”

Hank Fraley works wonders with offensive line 

Ragnow wasn’t the only Lions player who dealt with injury issues. Starting left tackle Taylor Decker was placed on injured reserve prior to the season opener with a finger injury that required surgery, while guards Jonah Jackson and Halapoulivaati Vaitai both missed games, as well.

Due to the injuries, Detroit was forced to get creative with its offensive line unit. Evan Brown stepped in for Ragnow at center, while Matt Nelson and Will Holden got snaps at tackle and Tommy Kraemer saw action at guard.

Despite a lack of experience across the board, the group stood its ground when called upon. Ragnow told reporters this is a reflection of the work put in by offensive line coach Hank Fraley.

“Tommy Kraemer, undrafted this year and playing a bunch of games,” Ragnow said. “Evan Brown definitely wasn’t a household name by any means, and playing right up there with everybody really, really well. The list goes on and on, and that’s hats off to them as individuals. And, I think that’s a really big hat off to Hank Fraley. I can’t say enough about him as a coach, how he coaches us, how he communicates, how he keeps everybody ready and coaches everybody the same. It’s incredible, man.

"It’s been great to see those guys step up and, I mean, I saw some things. We had a pretty good season running the ball this year, and I was so frustrated that I wasn’t able to be a part of it. But, to see that, with as much injuries as we did have up front and the different lineups, it’s great for the future.”