Lions' Austin 'planning on having' Levy for home opener
Allen Park — Don’t count DeAndre Levy out for the Lions’ home opener on Sunday against the Titans.
At least not yet.
Levy missed his second straight day of practice on Thursday, as he recovers from a quad injury. His status for Sunday’s home opener against the Tennessee Titans at Ford Field is unclear.
Levy has battled injury issues in the past two years, appearing in just one game last season, but defensive coordinator Teryl Austin isn’t worried about this week.
“I’m not planning on (an alternate option); I’m planning on having him,” Austin said Thursday morning, prior to the team’s practice session.
Levy played every defensive snap in Sunday’s opening win over the Indianapolis Colts and finished with four tackles, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry on Andrew Luck.
Although Levy was a spectator for 15 games last season and had additional injury issues this preseason, coach Jim Caldwell expects him to get back into a groove and shake off the rust. Caldwell didn’t expound on whether Levy will be available Sunday, how quickly he’ll be able to get back to peak performance or if there’s a contingency plan in place in case Levy isn’t ready to return to the lineup.
“I’m not talking about anything strategic — never do and never will,” Caldwell said Thursday. “(He’s) just like everybody else. Between the first and second games, you make some adjustments and look for ways to get better and that’s what we’ll do.”
Levy, 29, played in all 16 games in four of the first six seasons of his career, before injuries decimated his playing time last season. He notched six interceptions and 85 tackles in 2013 and followed with 121 tackles the following season.
“Lev’s presence is felt when he’s there. He’s the leader in the linebacking group. That alone, and the experience, is huge,” linebacker Tahir Whitehead said. “It’s the nature of the NFL; you’ve got to be able to prepare if guys are there or if he isn’t.
“It’s the next-guy-in mentality. It happens all around the league, so we’ll see on game day what’s what.”
The Lions already are thin at linebacker, with Antwione Williams, Kyle Van Noy, Thurston Armbrister and Whitehead the only others on the active roster.
After Levy’s extended absence last season, Whitehead and the other linebackers are ready to fill in where necessary, but there’s no replacing what Levy brings in terms of leadership, production and presence.
“You want your guys on the field; no one wants to have anyone hurt. That’s what it boils down to,” Whitehead said. “We’ll see — you rally as a team and defensive unit.”