Lions’ DeAndre Levy arrives early, shines late

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News

Detroit — About 45 minutes before kick-off, DeAndre Levy knelt and stretched at a 31 yard-line.

It was a welcome sight, for him, his team and the fans.

When last seen on the gridiron for more than a handful of plays, two seasons ago, Levy made 117 solo tackles, assisted on 34, accounted for 2 1/2 sacks and added a safety. He signed a big contract extension before 2015, and played in two games since.

Sunday made three.

Finally recovered from knee and quad injuries that cost him 11 of the first 12 games this season, and a hip injury that cost him 15 of 16 last season, Levy was the first at pregame drills for linebackers.

Rudimentary, certainly, for one of the best tacklers in the NFL before his injuries. But rudimentary felt special for Levy on Sunday.

“Yeah, it was a good start,” he said, with a big, satisfied smile after the nip-and-tuck game, a 20-17 Lions victory over the Bears at Ford Field. “Still got a couple of things, kinks I’ve got to work out.”

Levy said he knew earlier in the week he was likely to play.

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The major consideration was how his knee continued to respond as he got closer to re-entering the Lions lineup.

“Yesterday, if felt all right,” he said Sunday. “This morning, it felt better.

“Really, the big thing is how it responds, how it’s working.”

It will be like that, probably, for a while, as Levy recovers from a knee surgery, about which he and the Lions remain coy.

When asked for details, Levy deferred to head coach Jim Caldwell.

“You’ve got to ask Caldwell that,” he said, looking across the room, as if to spot him. “But it was an injury.”

Levy said part of the reason he practiced for three weeks without playing was “just getting my body ready.”

“I haven’t put on shoulder pads since Week 1,” he said. “I haven’t hit anybody. I haven’t done a lot of things, so I have to kind of get my feet back under me.”

For the day, Levy had the second-most tackles on the team, three. He assisted on another.

One stop, in particular, was big.

After quarterback Matthew Stafford tossed his first interception of the game, into the Bears end zone, on the first play of the ensuing drive, terrific rookie running back Jordan Howard sped down the line and appeared to be turning the corner at the Bears’ 20-yard line.

One Honolulu blue and silver jersey was in the area.

It was Levy.

If Howard got by, it might have been another long gainer. But Levy tracked him, lunged, hit, wrapped and dropped Howard for a single yard gained.

The Bears drive later stalled at their own 49.

Mindful of his team’s situation, 9-4 headed to Week 15 with three games to close out the regular season, a possible division title and a likely playoff berth, Levy said his timing is OK.

“I think it’s a good time to kind of get out there and start getting over that hump, and make it through a game,” Levy said. “Kind of increase my workload a little bit during the week and throughout the next couple of weeks.”

Asked if he was curious about how the knee would feel Monday, Levy flashed more good humor.

“I’m always curious!” he said, smiling broadly. “I’m curious about my neck, my shoulder … ”

As for the scrutiny he was under, missing lots of time because of the injury following the big extension, Levy said it was out of his control.

“I mean, I don’t pay much attention to it,” he said. “My focus is on what I can control, getting healthy, getting strong, getting in shape.

“Everything else doesn’t really matter.” @greggkrupa