Detroit — The biggest fear every NFL team faces during the preseason is a serious injury to a key contributor.
In the opening minute of the Lions' third preseason game, a Friday night matchup with the Buffalo Bills at Ford Field, middle linebacker Jarrad Davis and center Frank Ragnow each suffered a right leg injury, which required each to be helped to the sideline and carted to the locker room for further evaluation.
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s football. It happens, and you can’t be out here playing scared or worrying about things like that. We have to be able to adapt and be ready to go," linebacker Devon Kennard said. "For me, I want to be out there. This is the time of year (that) you get into a rhythm, you build that camaraderie as a unit, understanding the terminology and communication and all that.
"I think this is a pivotal time for that. It’s unfortunate, but that’s just the part of the game.”
Later in the first half, the Lions lost another starter when Ragnow injured his right leg and also was taken to the locker room and didn't return.
"You always feel really bad and you hope everything is all right, especially in a game like this where it’s the preseason and it matters but it doesn’t count," guard Graham Glasgow said. "It really sucks to have him get an injury, however severe it is."
Ragnow, the Lions' first-round pick in 2018, was a stalwart at the center and if he's out for an extended period, Glasgow, who was moved to right guard, would shift back to replace him.
Davis was turning around in an effort to make a tackle on Bills running back LeSean McCoy but was knocked to the ground when Kennard fell into the back of his legs. Davis got back to his feet, but struggled to support weight on his right leg.
On the sideline, Detroit's medical staff was looking at both Davis' ankle and the back of his leg, around his calf. Shortly after, he was loaded into a cart and taken back for further evaluation.
Prior to exiting the field, coach Matt Patricia and a number of teammates stopped to offer Davis some words of encouragement as the linebacker appeared to wipe tears from his face.
A first-round draft pick in 2017, Davis has started 30 games for the Lions the past two seasons, including all 16 last year. He finished the 2018 campaign with 100 tackles, six sacks and five pass defenses.
If Davis' injury proves serious, the Lions will likely look to rookie Jahlani Tavai to play a much bigger role than anticipated. Jalen Reeves-Maybin, who has had a stellar training camp and preseason, would also see an increased workload.
Like many other teams around the league, the Lions had been wary of using their starters in the first two preseason games but loosened the reins Friday, with most of the top offensive and defensive groupings getting more snaps.
In his first game action of the preseason, Matthew Stafford led the offense, which played well into the second quarter. The result was 10 points, Stafford’s 137 yards passing and eight total first downs. It’s an uptick from the last home game, an abysmal offensive showing against the Patriots.
Stafford had a good connection with rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson, who had three catches (on four targets) for 52 yards and three catches by Danny Amendola.
"It was good to get out there. We have a couple more weeks to improve and get practice reps in and get ready to go," Amendola said. "(The chemistry) is evolving and it’s a work in progress. We’re trying to get better every day and take one day at a time to try to improve."
The Lions had seven penalties for 71 yards in the first half, including a pair of unsportsmanlike-conduct calls on the same play. Tracy Walker was called for a late hit after tackling Frank Gore out of bounds and A’Shawn Robinson was flagged for a taunting penalty at the end of the same play.
That put the Bills on the 7-yard line and they scored two plays later.
Earlier in the same drive, the Lions had an interception by Reeves-Maybin negated by a roughing-the-passer penalty on Christian Jones, who appeared to make minimal contact with Bills quarterback Josh Allen on a pass play.
Lions kicker Matt Prater nailed a 61-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. The kick capped a quick four-play drive after the Bills scored their second touchdown of the half and took a 14-10 lead with 1:09 remaining.
Prater's kick was the longest field goal in the NFL preseason since his 60-yarder against the Ravens in 2016. For Prater, there's no distinction between the preseason and regular season.
“No, it’s really the same thing. Kicking is kicking whether it’s preseason, regular season, playoffs — it’s all kicking between the posts," Prater said. "I try to treat them all the same. I get a little adrenaline before every kick. It’s just fun to get the opportunity to come through with it.”