Lions place Decker, Sewell, Bryant on COVID-19 reserve list

By Steve Kornacki
Special to The Detroit News

The Detroit Lions announced Monday that starting offensive tackles Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell had been placed on the COVID-19 reserve list after starting in Sunday’s 51-29 loss at Seattle.

Outside linebacker Austin Bryant, who has started five games and has 32 tackles with 4.5 sacks, also was placed on that list. Wide receiver Kalif Raymond remained on that protocol list.

Lions coach Dan Campbell was asked about managing practices this week for Sunday’s season finale with the Green Bay Packers. Any of them could test negative and be activated for the game at Ford Field.

Lions lineman Taylor Decker is in COVID protocol.

“I think you have to prepare like you’re not going to have them,” Campbell said. “We thought we’d get Josh Reynolds (for the Seattle game) and so it was a lesson learned there a little bit. (KhaDarel) Hodge got those (receiver) reps, so it was all good.”

Campbell assessed his offensive tackle situation:

“(Matt) Nelson’s got to be ready and Will Holden and those guys. And, in the meantime, the good news is Taylor, if he’s able to go, he’ll be good. Mentally, he’ll be on it. He’ll be doing the virtual meetings and he’ll be ready to go. I think Sewell can handle it, too, as long as they’re physically ready back from COVID.”

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Campbell said wide receiver Reynolds is off the COVID list.

“He should be better,” Campbell said. “He’s a lot better today than he was certainly two days ago.”

Starting quarterback Jared Goff has missed the last two games since going on and coming off the COVID list. He’s also been dealing with a knee injury suffered Dec. 19 against the Arizona Cardinals.

“I know you’re going to ask about Jared Goff,” added Campbell. “So, we’ll see where he’s at. He’s improving and he’ll run around (Tuesday) and see how that feels and evolve from there.”

St. Brown shows swagger

Amon-Ra St. Brown has been a dynamo on a Lions team that has few of them.

The fourth-round pick out of USC is 15 yards away from breaking the record for the most receiving yardage by a Detroit rookie set by Roy Williams in 2004. St. Brown has 82 catches for 803 yards and four touchdowns.

Pro Football Focus has him rated No. 24 among NFL receivers with a 76.7 grade, and with Tampa Bay’s talented Mike Evans at No. 22, St. Brown is in some premier company. Topping the list at 92.5 is Green Bay’s Davante Adams, who the Lions could defend in Sunday’s home finale.

St. Brown’s five consecutive games with eight receptions is the most for a Detroit rookie and ties the overall record set in 2012 by Calvin Johnson.  

So, when asked after Sunday’s loss about what milestones he’s looking forward to reaching, St. Brown said, “Honestly, beating Green Bay next week. It’s our last game of the season, we want to finish it strong. Yeah, we just want to beat Green Bay, I feel like that’s what we all want as a team. That’s what I want, I want to beat Green Bay. I think beating Green Bay is our next goal.”

Campbell was asked what it means to have a rookie who is not caught up in personal accolades and has the proper team focus.

“Look, we like what Amon-Ra’s about,” Campbell said. “That’s one of the reasons we selected him, and why we had him targeted. That’s just kind of his demeanor, man. He’s a little bit more mature than most rookies. There’s an intensity about him.

“He’s cut the right way, man. He’s all about business and he’s competitive. He’s really a total player — run game, pass game. Hell, you see him carry the ball. He’s smart as a whip. And when you have a guy that is that competitive, that smart, that versatile, the sky’s the limit. ... We love his attitude. He’s all ball; he’s all business. And he’s tough.”

Offensive spark revisited

Detroit trailed by 31 points in Seattle before cutting the margin to 16 with some daring, innovative and spirited moves by Campbell.

After St. Brown caught a 7-yard touchdown from Tim Boyle, Campbell went for two points and St. Brown converted that on a shovel pass from Boyle. Hodge’s 42-yard, finger-tip grab got the Lions on the doorstep to score there.

Detroit went for an on-side kick at that point, and Godwin Igwebuike recovered Riley Patterson’s boot to set up another opportunity.

Campbell rolled out the seven-linemen formation that had been put into the playbook just last week “out of necessity” with tight end injuries, and offensive tackle Decker was declared an eligible receiver. He cradled a 6-yard TD pass from Boyle, cutting the margin to 16 points.

Fox announcers Gus Johnson and Aqib Talib were excited about that approach.

“Have we learned anything about these Detroit Lions?” asked Talib. “They are going to play hard and not give up.”

Now, they did still end up losing by 32 points. But had the defense held up its side of the game, who knows what might have happened?

“It’s a good feeling because you feel like you’re getting momentum back,” Campbell said of the surge. “Like, we had a chance. We get the ball back and it’s a great job by Patterson and Bobby Price, with Godwin coming up with the recovery. That’s a hell of a job.

“And then we scored and got the second score. You just believe your defense is going to get a stop or we’re going to get a turnover, and score again. We had the feeling when we were scoring touchdowns. You’re turning the tides and we just couldn’t get it turned our way. It was too little, too late, and then we couldn’t get it back.”

Steve Kornacki is a freelance writer.