August 20, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Chris McCosky

Playing Louis Delmas against Patriots isn't worth the risk for Lions

Jim Schwartz on Louis Delmas: 'If (playing Delmas Thursday) turns out to be the prudent choice, we'd be willing to make that choice.' (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)

Allen Park Louis Delmas wants to play against the Patriots Thursday. The coaching staff would love to see him play, see him gets some game-speed reps with his new running mate Glover Quin.

But when you do the risk-reward calculations, it's probably in the best interest of the team that he sits this one out.

"There is a balance there, for sure," coach Jim Schwartz said Tuesday. "It would be an ideal situation to be able to get him out on the field. But Lou is a guy we are not evaluating from any other standpoint than his health."

The plan from the end of last season until now has been to get Delmas ready for Week 1 and try, against long odds, to get him through a full season. He suffers from tendinitis in his surgically-repaired left knee. It's a bone scrapping on bone issue and the more pounding he puts on it, the more pain and swelling he has to deal with.

He practiced for an hour on Monday and said he felt fine. He was as happy and fired up as we've seen him in a while, chomping on the bit to play against the Patriots. But then he didn't practice on Tuesday.

He didn't practice for nearly two weeks after he went through a padded, full-contact practice the week of the first exhibition game.

"If (playing Delmas Thursday) turns out to be the prudent choice, we'd be willing to make that choice," Schwartz said. "But we have to take a look and do what's best for him physically and not have any other agenda.

"If we let that be the guiding force, then whatever decision we reach will be a good decision."

The Delmas plan

Schwartz made it clear before training camp that a plan had been devised for Delmas a plan probably not unlike the one the Redskins and quarterback Robert Griffin III are dealing with and that both the team and Delmas had agreed to be vigilant about carrying that plan through.

Their vigilance and discipline will be tested this week. Delmas is probably feeling as good as he had in some time and the coaching staff is going to be tempted to get him on the field for a series or two.

Don't do it. The risks far outweigh the rewards.

The reward is for him to get some game-speed reps and build some rapport with Quin and continuity within the defense. That's it. There is nothing more Delmas could gain from it, except to scratch what has to be an almost unbearable itch to play the game he loves.

But, like Schwartz has said, reps in an exhibition game aren't all that crucial for a veteran player. Delmas didn't play at all in the preseason last year. Didn't play at all until Week 5 at Philadelphia and, guess what, he played one of the best games of his career.

Honestly, in terms of communication and chemistry, a player like Delmas, who is in his fifth year in this system, can get just about as much out of controlled team drills in practice as he would in 10 or so snaps in an exhibition game.

As for the risks: Playing against the Eagles last year proved to be Delmas' last hurrah for 2012. The knee swelled up, the pain came back and even though he soldiered through seven more games, he never played at his normal high level.

Reckless abandon

The whole point of limiting Delmas' work through the offseason and training camp this year is to limit the stress on the knee and reduce the recovery time. What if it took him another two weeks to recover from playing Thursday? Then there would be concern about him playing against the Vikings in Week 1.

Maybe it wouldn't happen like that, but why risk it? Why put any unnecessary miles on his wheels?

You say, "Well, it's preseason, so it's not like he has to go all out like he would in the regular season." First of all, have you met Delmas? It is not in his nature to go half-speed at anything. He only knows one way to play football, and that's with reckless abandon.

Second, him going half-speed would defeat the entire purpose of playing him at all.

It's admirable that he wants to play as badly as he does. In a perfect world, with a guy with two healthy knees, it would certainly be beneficial for the defense to have a full dress rehearsal with all of its parts.

The reality is, this team is coming off a 4-12 season. The futures of the general manager, head coach and coordinators are very much on the line. There may not be another team in the league that can less afford to get off to a slow start than the Lions.

So, they need to do everything they can to make sure Delmas and all of their top players are healthy and ready for Week 1. That really is priority one as the Lions finish up the last two exhibition games.

Twitter@cmccosky