Allen Park — There's been a heavy focus on whether the Detroit Lions will continue to keep quarterback Matthew Stafford in bubble wrap for the duration of the preseason, but the team's conservative approach to veteran load and injury management will impact the decision to play several other key players Friday night against the Buffalo Bills.
Among the players who have been practicing, but might not get the green light to take the field for the team's third preseason game are three of the four projected starters along the defensive line, including offseason additions Trey Flowers and Mike Daniels.
On paper, the Lions' defensive line is shaping up to be a formidable unit, but Flowers has participated in a handful of individual reps prior to this week's practice. Meanwhile, Daniels stayed behind in Detroit while the team traveled to Houston for joint practices and a preseason game and nose tackle Damon Harrison was only activated off the non-football injury list last Thursday.
Flowers, the $90 million man who signed a five-year contract with Detroit as a free agent this offseason, has a built-in familiarity with the defensive scheme, having played three years under Lions coach Matt Patricia in New England. So following offseason shoulder surgery, the Lions have been comfortable slow-playing the 26-year-old's practice reps.
But if it were up to Flowers, he'd be on the field against the Bills.
"You can never replicate a game, so a game is important," Flowers said. "The speed of the game, going against an opponent, things of that nature."
He's also eager to work beside Daniels, Harrison and A'Shawn Robinson in a game environment, to start building all-important chemistry.
Yet on the other hand, Flowers knows it isn't up to him and he'll follow the recommendations of the coaches and training staff.
"I’m working hard, going through all the things that they’re putting me through, and I just do what they say is the best for me," Flowers said.
According to Patricia, whether Stafford or Flowers plays this week will be determined at a later date. What's important for the two veterans, and everyone on the roster, is they prepare throughout the week like they will see action.
"I expect all of our guys to prepare and be ready to play. That’s the bottom line," Patricia said. "Things can change right up until the game time. That’s for the players and the coaches to work together to try to decide what’s going to be best for everybody in that situation. It’s not anything I earmark out ahead of time and say, ‘We have to do this. We have to do that. We have to do this.’ It has to be fluid from that standpoint. But the preparation all has to be the same. That’s what has to be consistent."