Lions lose LB Alex Anzalone for the season with shoulder injury
Allen Park — The Detroit Lions will have to navigate the remaining three games of the 2021 season without the quarterback of their defense.
On Monday, coach Dan Campbell confirmed the shoulder injury middle linebacker Alex Anzalone suffered in the first half of Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals is a season-ender.
"That's a tough deal," Campbell said. "He got the shoulder (injury), but we don't believe this is some long-term issue. But we know with three games left, that will probably knock him out for this season."
Anzalone had been a workhorse for the Lions this season. Signed this offseason — in part, to help stabilize the franchise's cultural and schematic transitions — he was selected a captain by his teammates and had played a career-high 828 defensive snaps, easily besting the 525 he played with New Orleans a year ago.
He suffered the injury in the opening minutes of the second quarter, getting up and shaking his right arm after contributing to the tackle on a run play. He remained in the game for an additional snap, a pass play that ended in a sack, before exiting.
The right shoulder has been problematic for Anzalone going back to his time with the University of Florida. He twice injured it while playing for the Gators, missing time in both 2013 and 2015. He hurt it again in 2019, his third season with the Saints, missing the final 14 games after getting it surgically addressed.
With Anzalone out, and backup Josh Woods also suffering a shoulder injury that knocked him out of the Cardinals game and could sideline him longer, the Lions are expected to lean more heavily on Jalen Reeves-Maybin, rookie Derrick Barnes and Wayne State alum Anthony Pittman.
Reeves-Maybin, who returned from a two-game absence with his own shoulder injury, took over play-calling responsibilities following Anzalone's exit and ended up playing a season-high snap count.
"Our plan with he and Alex, knowing they were kinda coming back off of injuries, just give (Reeves-Maybin) stuff to get him in the flow, but we didn't want it to be overbearing," Campbell said. "Reeves had to play 72 plays, man, and he's the green dot (communication helmet), and he played all out. It wasn't perfect, but the guy made a ton of plays for us. It's a credit to him."
Additionally, Barnes played 47 snaps, matching a season-high for the fourth-round draft pick out of Purdue.
Anzalone finishes the year with 78 tackles and seven pass breakups, both career-highs.
"He's been rock solid," Campbell said. "...It'll hurt, but look, we've had to adapt all year. Here we are again."