Allen Park — After missing the first three weeks of practice, Lions defensive end Jason Jones and offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle returned Sunday.
Neither player participated in team drills as the team eases them back with three weeks until the regular season begins, but both were glad to rejoin their teammates even for the hour-long session.
"As a player, I kind of want to be aggressive with it but I have trust in my training staff, trust in (coach Jim) Caldwell,” Jones said. “They've got my best interests at heart, so I'm going to continue to listen to them. As far as my knee and everything, I'm 100 percent."
The Lions removing Jones and Waddle now is a sign they’re on track to start Week 1. Teams place players on PUP before training camp to give them the option of keeping them on PUP into the season, which holds players out at least six games. That's no longer an option for Waddle and Jones, who both underwent knee surgeries this offseason.
“I’ve definitely been champing at the bit to get back out here, and it felt good to actually come out and do stuff with the team again,” Waddle said.
Running back Joique Bell (knee/Achilles) is the only Lions player left on PUP, but defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (hamstring) is on the non-football injury, which has a similar return protocol to PUP that allows to him to practice as soon as he's healthy.
While the Lions and Jones have consistently said he'd return before the season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in June, Waddle's return date is a bit surprising. He underwent surgery for a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in January.
Besides suffering the ACL injury in December, Waddle also dealt with a calf injury and concussion during 2014. He said the combination of issues has helped him learn how to fight through ailments.
Once they’re cleared for team drills, Jones should reclaim his spot at left defensive end ahead of veteran Darryl Tapp while Waddle steps in at right tackle, pushing Cornelius Lucas to a backup role. Caldwell said Waddle or Jones returning Sunday doesn’t guarantee they’ll be ready to play in Friday’s exhibition in Jacksonville.