Detroit — Only a handful of starters played in the Lions' preseason-opening loss to the New England Patriots. Among them, the most curious was cornerback Darius Slay.
Slay was activated off the team's non-football injury list less than a week ago after skipping the entirety of the early portion of the offseason program, including mandatory minicamp.
Coming off his second consecutive Pro Bowl season, it's difficult to understand why Slay may need the preseason reps, given so few of the team's other veteran starters got work in the game.
One thing Lions coach Matt Patricia made clear: The decision wasn't made to send a message to Slay.
"There was no message, none of that," Patricia said. "The entire offensive line was out there to start the game. Tracy Walker was out there. Romeo Okwara was out there. Justin Coleman was out there. Anybody we felt could play and it would be beneficial for them to get some snaps in the game, we tried to play."
The starting offensive line almost always plays in the first three preseason games, using the time to build all-important chemistry among the group. Okwara and Walker are young players who could arguably benefit from the experience, while Coleman is new to Detroit and readjusting to a scheme he hasn't played in for a few years.
But Slay, a seven-year veteran in his prime, playing in the game made less sense on the surface. Patricia did highlight the importance of building up toward the regular season, and in that sense, the star corner could be considered behind.
"You try to build up as you go through, try to get the guys opportunities to go out there and play," Patricia said. "Some other guys you feel have been through a lot or have been practicing a lot, wherever their bodies may be, if it was best for us not to play them, that's the decisions we made in those individual specific situations. Nothing other than that."
Slay was on the field a total of six plays during Detroit's first defensive series, including one wiped off the stat sheet because of a penalty. He recorded one tackle and wasn't targeted in coverage.