Detroit — Anyone versed in Lions news recalls when it happened. When the word came last June that Taylor Decker was out because of a torn labrum.
NFL teams can lose their season when a left tackle goes down.
Decker’s rookie year in 2016 had been so smooth, so stunningly effective, the Lions and quarterback Matthew Stafford might have been excused for hoping simply to survive for the five months Decker was likely to miss.
He made it back Sunday. As a starter. And nothing seemed to have been lost, apart from those 20-plus weeks during which his shoulder healed.
“I was never disengaged from what was going on,” Decker said after Sunday’s reunion, which saw the Lions snap back from a 10-0 hole to beat the Browns, 38-24, at Ford Field.
“I was still watching film. I was still trying to be at everything I could be at. But I was detached, just by circumstance.”
He got a shot Sunday at his first game since last January’s playoff duel against the Seahawks. And even if a tussle with Browns defensive end Myles Garrett wasn’t an ideal back-to-work blessing, Decker seemed to do just fine.
“It was good to get back out there,” Decker said. “Good to get my feet wet, kind of get settled back and — more than anything — be with these guys out there.
“It’s a group of guys I like a lot. I enjoy playing with them. They’re fun to be around.
“And it was a fun win.”
Decker seemed as interested in self-evaluations after Sunday’s game as playing a fifth quarter against Garrett, whom he called “a freak athlete.”
He wanted no part of it. No estimate of where he might sit on a 100-point grading scale. No gauging of satisfaction or gratification from his first NFL game in 10 months.
Nope, he said. There would be no evaluations until he scoured film and applied his own taut scoring system.
He was simply glad to have been back. Playing football. For the Lions. With teammates who Sunday moved to 5-4 and who have now reclaimed their left tackle with playoffs at least on the horizon.
“More so than anything,” he said of his locker room partners, “that’s what I missed.”