Levy back, expects to be ready for Lions’ opener

Justin Rogers, The Detroit News
DeAndre Levy

Allen Park – DeAndre Levy is back. Well, mostly back.

The Detroit Lions activated the veteran linebacker off the non-football injury list Tuesday, but his status for the three remaining preseason games remains in doubt as the team evaluates how quickly he can knock off the rust following his lengthy layoff.

“We’ll see how he does,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “Right now, we’re just trying to get him into the swing of things and we’ll make a decision a little later on.

“Guys who have played as much football as he has, oftentimes, they catch on rather quickly. He never really gets away from it, to be honest with you. He kind of keeps his head in it all the time.”

As expected, Levy was a limited participated in Tuesday’s practice. He worked through individual drills, but was held out from the team portions of the practice.

When he spoke to the media after the session, he wasn’t exactly enthusiastic when discussing his return to the field. Then again, that’s par for the course for the typically reserved player.

“I’ve been doing it for eight years,” Levy said. “It’s my eighth training camp. It feels the same.”

He did say he didn’t expect to be limited in practice for long and expressed a desire to play in an upcoming preseason contest, just to get some live reps under his belt.

Caldwell isn’t certain that will happen.

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“It’s not a necessity,” Caldwell said. “It’s not like it has to happen. We’ll kind of see where he is from a health-standpoint.”

More important to both the player and the coach is that Levy is ready to go when the team travels to Indianapolis to open the regular season against the Colts.

“I expect to be ready Week 1,” Levy said.

Levy, who finished second in the NFL with 151 tackles in 2014 and second in the league with six interceptions the year before, essentially missed the entire 2015 campaign due to a hip injury. He had been practicing throughout the early stages of the offseason program this year, before being unexpectedly placed on the non-football injury list the day the team opened training camp.

Throughout camp, the Lions had declined to reveal what was ailing Levy, but he, Caldwell and general manager Bob Quinn never displayed much concern the injury would keep the linebacker sidelined into the regular season.

"We don’t think it’s a long-term situation," Quinn said earlier this month. "All the information that we have today, we do not believe it’s a long-term situation."

There was also never any indication the current injury was related to the hip issue that plagued Levy last year.

That hip injury was suffered during a 2015 training camp practice, shortly after the team's second preseason game. Levy attempted to return in Week 5 of the regular season, but he aggravated the injury in the first half after playing just 17 defensive snaps. He ultimately underwent surgery to repair the issue.

That injury also occurred just two weeks after Levy, 29, agreed to a four-year, $33 million extension with the organization.

Without Levy, the defense floundered to start the 2015 season. By the midpoint, the Lions ranked at or near the bottom in almost every major statistical category. His return, assuming he can stay healthy and shake the rust after a year away from the field, should provide a big boost to this year's unit.

“That’s a talented guy, man,” cornerback Darius Slay said. “It was great to see him back out there working, just get him back in the groove. He’d been out for a minute, but I’m glad he’s out there.”