Allen Park — The Detroit Lions got an unexpected boost on Wednesday with the return of Kerryon Johnson to practice.
The starting running back has been on injured reserve following knee surgery in late October and won't be eligible to play in a game until the Lions travel to Denver for the penultimate game of the season on Dec. 22.
"I think it’s always important to play football and practice football and do everything you can, as much as possible, especially if you’re a young player, especially if you’re a player that’s missed some time," Lions coach Matt Patricia said. "It’s great to get back out there, and kind of have that opportunity to get back to work.
"I’m glad we have him because there was a lot of time during the season where we don’t," Patricia said. "We’ve got a great opportunity in front of us to get better at football, certainly from Kerryon’s standpoint, it will be great for him to do that. So, we’ll take full advantage of that as much as we can."
Despite missing the past six games, Johnson remains the Lions' leading rusher with 308 yards on 92 carries.
With Johnson out, the Lions unearthed a diamond in the rough, signing then promoting Bo Scarbrough off the practice squad. In three games, the former Alabama standout has managed to rush for 236 yards, averaging 4.5 yards per carry.
With that success, Patricia was asked if he envisioned Johnson and Scarbrough completmenting each other.
"I think a lot of teams, and certainly us, we’ll use multiple backs, we’ve used multiple backs and I think that’s a good thing to have," Patricia said. "It puts a lot of pressure on the defense to really try to understand who’s in the game, from that standpoint. We always try to have as many good football players as we can."
The Lions released Wayne State’s Anthony Pittman from the practice squad on Wednesday, adding tight end Cole Herdman, a former Purdue teammate of quarterback David Blough.
Pittman, a Birmingham Groves graduate, was released when the Lions signed running back Bo Scarbrough to the practice squad last month. The linebacker was signed again by Detroit three days later. He played all four preseason games but has not been active in the regular season.
Through 12 games, the Lions have not activated a player from the state of Michigan for the first time since the team moved to Detroit from Portsmouth, Ohio in 1934.
Herdman, an undrafted rookie, was with the Baltimore practice squad for a few weeks earlier this season. He had 91 catches for 1,010 yards and eight touchdowns in four seasons with the Boilermakers, all of them coming with Blough as a quarterback on the team.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford (back) was the only player not practicing for the Lions on Wednesday. Return man Jamal Agnew (ankle), defensive tackle Da'Shawn Hand (ankle), cornerback Rashaan Melvin (ribs) and punter Sam Martin (abdomen) were all limited.
David Blough is expected to make his second start at quarterback for the team on Sunday against the Vikings.
Freelance writer Matt Schoch contributed