Lions notes: Ragnow details physical, mental toll of nagging foot injury
Allen Park — If you know anything about offensive linemen, they're slow to complain. So a willingness to discuss the impact of his foot injury, more than the walking boot Detroit Lions center Frank Ragnow has been wearing between games, is indicative of the pain he's been fighting through to stay in the lineup this season.
Ragnow is suffering from a turf-toe variant with the big toe on his left foot, a different injury in the same location as one that required surgery and sidelined him for the final 13 games last season. He suffered the current issue on the first drive of the team's Week 3 matchup against Philadelphia and understands it's not going to feel normal until he can rest it for longer than a week.
"I just need rest," Ragnow said. "Unfortunately, it's not an option right now, which is fine. I'd rather do what I'm doing than miss games."
When asked if the issue has had him spending more time in the training room this season, Ragnow couldn't help but chuckle.
"Oh yeah, I freaking live in that place," he said. "We're all best friends in there, unfortunately."
But, that's the sacrifice he's willing to make to suit up each Sunday. He doesn't want to deal with the regret and remorse he felt last season, when surgery sidelined him for most of the year. He'd rather play through the pain than feel like he's letting down his teammates.
And it's a lot of pain. Each game, Ragnow estimates he's aggravating the injury three or more times, which he admits is impacting him both physically and mentally. Each week, he's working to compensate with adjustments to his footwork and admits it can affect his focus between plays, when trying to process the call and formation.
"I've been playing well, but I haven't been playing to my standards, which is frustrating," he said. "...It definitely messes with your footwork. And the hardest thing is the focus, right? It will be play-to-play, I am hurting. I'm trying to focus on everything, but there are some things that don't usually get me are getting me sometimes. That's just frustrating."
Asked if he's worried the toe will never be right, Ragnow won't allow himself to go down that road. He remains convinced, especially after feeling great all training camp and preseason, that some extended rest during the offseason will get him back to feeling normal.
For now, he's just focusing on surviving the next week, when he'll have to play two games in four days.
Stepping up when needed
Not only is Jamaal Williams on track for the first 1,000-yard season of his career, but the Lions running back is also on pace to obliterate his previous high for carries. Williams matched his previous total last season with 153, but with 142 through nine games, he should blow past the 200 mark during Detroit's 13th game.
And the Lions are showing no signs of easing up on Williams' load, handing him the ball a career-high 24 times in a victory over Green Bay two weeks ago. And with several cold-weather games during the stretch run of the season, he figures to be featured prominently the rest of the way.
"The body’s holding up," running backs coach and assistant head coach Duce Staley said. "You see the production on the field and the good thing about it, he’s not selfish. He’ll sit right there and he’ll be like, 'Hey man, just let me know when you need me.' And he goes out there and he does his job. So, that’s something to hang his hat on."
Beyond the production, Williams' leadership has been invaluable, according to Staley.
"It’s not about the name on the back of your jersey that makes you a leader," Staley said. "It’s all about your actions. In vulnerable times, he’s sharing stories in front of the group. I’ve seen him shed tears in front of the group. I’ve seen him laugh, joke around, have fun in front of the group. I’ve seen him when he’s having a good practice and someone else is not, walk over there and put his arm around his shoulder and talk to him. So, when you start talking about the definition of leadership, it’s all about actions, and that means a lot to us."
Paying no mind
In a surprising twist, given preseason expectations for both teams, the first-round draft pick the Lions are scheduled to inherit from the Los Angeles Rams — the final piece to last year's Matthew Stafford trade — is currently the better of Detroit's two choices.
If the season ended today, the Lions would be drafting No. 7 and No. 11, with the Rams' pick being the earlier selection. And while coach Dan Campbell is far more concerned with wins and losses than the team's own draft position, he also claims he's not stealing glances at how the Rams are performing, even if his team ultimately stands to benefit.
"Honestly, zero," Campbell said. "I don’t even look at it; I don’t even think about it. The Rams, they’re going to win, they’re going to win games. They’ll get better, but I’m not even worried about that. I’m just worried about winning right now."