Lions notes: Taylor Decker reverses course, gets vaccinated; several position battles looming
Allen Park — Taylor Decker has reversed course.
The Detroit Lions offense tackle, three months after saying he wouldn't get a COVID-19 vaccine, revealed Ththat he has been vaccinated. Much like when he was originally asked about the topic in April, Decker preferred to not elaborate on his decision.
"I did get vacinnated, and that's all I'll say on that topic," Decker said. "I just want to leave it at that because it's so polarizing, so I just want to leave it at that."
In April, Decker sounded adamantly against getting a vaccination.
"I have my reasons," he said then. "I don’t know, it’s just such a hot-button topic, but, me personally, I just don’t feel like it’s the best thing for me. So I’m not going to do it."
In the months since his original statement, the NFL significantly loosened restrictions on payers who opted to get vaccinated. And last week, the league sent a memo to teams informing them that COVID-19 outbreaks among unvaccinated players would not be subject to rescheduling and would result in forfeits.
On Wednesday, running back D'Andre Swift said the league's requirement of unvaccinated players to be tested daily, even during the offseason, was one of the biggest reasons he got it done.
"They're trying to make a big push for the health and safety of fans, players, organizations, and they felt like that was the best way to do it," Decker said.
As of Wednesday, Lions coach Dan Campbell said more than 80% of players had been inoculated, with those numbers increasing daily.
No one is surprised the Lions are immediately inserting first-round draft pick Penei Sewell into the starting lineup, but he might not be the only rookie starting when the team opens the season next month against the San Francisco 49ers.
Nose tackle Alim McNeill, a third-round selection out of North Carolina State, has been seeing the majority of first-team reps to open training camp.
Linebacker Romeo Okwara raved about McNeil's strength, while center Frank Ragnow, who lines up directly across from McNeil, has been impressed with his counterpart's quickness.
"Big kid," Ragnow said. "Twitchy too, for how big he is."
Campbell affectionately referred to the McNeill as "twinkle toes," but emphasized he wants to be careful on making assessments on any players, particularly rookies, before the team conducts its first practice in pads.
"There are some pajama warriors who are unbelievable, but you guys know it, it happens every year, when they put the pads on, they drift away," Campbell said. "They can be the worst looking athlete you’ve ever seen, but all of a sudden, you put pads on, they’re just football players. It happens every year. It just does."
Campbell also noted McNeill's early spot on the depth chart, in part, was because of some offseason issues second-year player John Penisini needed to address.
Penisini missed some practice time during the early portions of the offseason program, but has looked good to go the first couple days of camp. According to Campbell, the defensive tackle needed offseason surgery to address a medical problem from last season.
"Penisini had what looked like softballs in his shoulder that he had repaired after the season," Campbell said. "t just looked like a bunch of calcium deposits that had been in there. You wonder why when you watch the film last year why he’s not using his arm. It’s because he had issues. It’s a credit to him playing through it and all of those things. He’s better and you could see it yesterday. It was impressive."
The Lions leaned heavily on Penisini as a rookie in 2020. The sixth-round draft pick played 576 defensive snaps, the most for any of the team's defensive tackles.
While there isn't a position group that doesn't have Campbell's attention in his first year as Lions coach, he's particularly intrigued by two competitions on the defensive side of the ball.
"Probably for me, I would say my eyes are on safety and inside linebacker," Campbell said. "Actually, I would flip it. I would say inside linebacker first, then I would say safety position. Those are going to be good battles. I’m not just talking about starting. I’m talking about who’s the next guy in? We could have three starters, if you know what I mean? They’re rotating through. We can have four. So much is going to play into how special teams goes too, especially in that position."
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