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Taylor Decker 'Down' After Suffering Hand Injury, May Require Surgery

It is not looking good for left tackle to play this Sunday in the Detroit Lions season opener.

As the Detroit Lions approach their season opener against the San Francisco 49ers, they’ll be doing so without starting left tackle Taylor Decker.

“Taylor Decker had a hand injury early in the week and it looks like he’s gonna be down for a little bit,” said head coach Dan Campbell Friday morning. “So, we’ll adjust from there and we’ll move forward.”

Campbell said Decker suffered the injury during a pass protection drill. It’s uncertain whether Decker will need surgery, but did say, “It’s leaning that way.”

Decker missed practice Thursday with a finger injury and the Lions signed 27-year-old Will Holden to their practice squad. With the former Ohio State Buckeye not suiting up, rookie Penei Sewell could slide from right to left tackle for his NFL debut.

Sewell had ups and downs in the preseason as he adjusted to playing right tackle after playing on the left side throughout college. Despite the comfort at the position, the Oregon product won’t have an easy afternoon against the 49ers.

San Francisco’s front line includes Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead and Dee Ford. Bosa and Armstead will start at ends and likely be the matchup for Sewell on Sunday.

“We know that’s going to be a challenge for any tackle in this league, not just Sewell,” said offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn Thursday. “Like I said, we’ll have a protection plan and we understand what the issues are.”

Should Decker not be able to go, a hefty amount of responsibility will also fall on Matt Nelson. The converted defensive lineman out of Iowa is heading into his third season in the pros and is the only other option at offensive tackle.

“Luckily we have a lot of flexibility,” Campbell said. “Nelson’s played, a little bit. Certainly, we have Sewell and then having Logan (Stenberg) be able to move up and bump (Halapoulivaati) Vatai. So we’ve got some options we’re gonna play with.”

Detroit waived Tyrell Crosby, who started 11 games at right tackle in 2020, following the preseason. He reverted back to the Lions injured reserve list after going unclaimed. Nelson did play in all 16 games last year and played a total of 242 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.

Among Nelson’s appearances was a Week 14 start against Green Bay. In that game, a 31-24 loss, Nelson played a season-high 67 snaps and received a 90.6 run blocking grade from PFF.

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While Decker is looked at as one of the highest regarded players in Detroit’s locker room, the team seems composed in the fact that they may have to take the field without him.

“Obviously, Taylor is a great player and we’d definitely love to have him,” said tight end T.J. Hockenson. “When he comes back, whenever that is, we’ll keep rolling.”

Don Muhlbach returns

The other big news out of the Lions organization Friday was the announcement that Don Muhlbach was coming back to the organization as a special assistant. Muhlbach was cut in August, on his 40th birthday.

“This has been something we’ve asked him about when everything transpired about a month ago,” Campbell said. “We’ll be excited to get him back.”

Muhlbach played in 260 games over his 17-year career as Detroit’s longsnapper. He was expected to rejoin the team Friday afternoon in his new role. 

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