Lions battling flu breakout ahead of trip to Denver

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — With the NFL still navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic, it's another virus wreaking havoc within the Detroit Lions organization this week. On Wednesday, the team took proactive measures to counter a rapidly spreading flu virus, in hopes of getting it contained ahead of Sunday's game against Denver. 

With multiple players told to stay home, including quarterback Jared Goff, the Lions separated offensive and defensive personnel groups and cancelled Wednesday's practice, holding a walk through instead. 

With multiple players told to stay home, including quarterback Jared Goff, the Lions separated offensive and defensive personnel groups and cancelled Wednesday's practice

"We got a little bit of this sickness going around, so we're just trying to somewhat eradicate it if we can," Lions coach Dan Campbell said. "We adjusted, kind of split it off to where offense is in in the morning, defense in the afternoon, and see if we can limit exposure to each other, yet still get our work in. So more of a walk-through, teach-mode, things of that nature."

In addition to Goff, defensive linemen Michael Brockers, Nick Williams and John Penisini, as well as offensive linemen Jonah Jackson and Halapoulivaati Vaitai were listed as non-participants on Wednesday's estimated practice report due to illness. 

Campbell acknowledged the outbreak likely started last week, when the team had three players miss time with undisclosed illnesses. It started with offensive tackle Penei Sewell and wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge, who sat out last Wednesday's practice. Both players returned to the field in a limited capacity the following day, before Penisini was added to the injury report on Saturday and ended up missing the game. 

Goff admitted he started feeling sick on Sunday, but said the illness didn't affect him during the team's 29-27 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

"During the game, you don't feel it much at all," Goff said. "I'm being dramatic if I said I felt much before the game. It really kinda hit me after the game, when that adrenaline wears off and whatever this little flu bug that's going around snuck up on me there."

In Detroit's first win, the quarterback matched his season-high with three touchdown passes, including the game-winner as time expired. For the performance, he was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week

Talking to reporters virtually, Goff laughed when asked if this was his version of Michael Jordan's infamous flu game — when the legendary basketball player scored 38 points in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals. 

"A little different circumstance, but sure, I guess we can say that," Goff said. 

Officially diagnosed with the flu this week, Goff said he continued to feel ill through Monday, but by Tuesday morning, he felt he had turned a corner. In a normal year, he has no doubt he would have been back for practice on Wednesday.

"Well, there was no protocol before COVID was a thing," Goff said. "I remember, a few years ago, you get the flu you used to go home for a day and you'd come back the next day, or you don't go home at all. Now, it just seems like there's a heightened awareness around every illness nowadays.

"I would have been fine today," Goff said. "I could have been totally fine to be at the facility. It was out an abundance of caution. We've got a handful of these (cases) going around and just wanted to take one more day."

Wide receiver Josh Reynolds, who was at the facility on Wednesday, didn't alter his routine much, other than wearing a mask throughout the day. Well, that and maybe an extra ginger shot or two. 

"Get them ginger shots, keep that immune system up," Reynolds said with a smile.

By isolating those feeling ill, the Lions are hopeful they'll be able to stop the spread ahead of traveling to Denver this weekend for Sunday's afternoon game with the Broncos. 

"Yeah, this mess is going around right now," Campbell said. "It's just kinda spreading through. I think we're on the back half of it. I really do. I think we're on the downward slope of this. But if we can buy ourselves a day to try to flush this out, we just felt like we needed to do it. It was a little bit rough, but, look, everybody is dealing with sickness. This goes around. I just felt like we needed to adjust."

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers