Managing injuries can be a significant part of training camp ahead of the regular season, and while many might have been frustrated not to see defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike on the field consistently, that was by design.
The Detroit Lions were electing to keep Onwuzurike ready to go for the season, and that is why the lineman has been limited in practice, the preseason and camp early on, essentially on a pitch count in terms of his work day to day. The news was much better for Onwuzurike on Tuesday, and he was able to get back in the mix with the team consistently and get back to practice.
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Speaking after practice on Tuesday, August 17 in an interview posted to DetroitLions.com when he finally got going on the field, Onwuzurike was asked about how he is feeling and said he feels good after easing into the action.
“I’m back to normal. I was always good, (it was) just more, the Lions trying to take care of me. Make sure I go out there the right way,” Onwuzurike told the media about the team managing his snaps early on before the season.
Despite all of that, Onwuzurike admitted he wasn’t upset with the plan, especially if it helps him to remain healthy and effective on the field.
“It’s no fear, it’s more like ‘alright, they’re trying to take care of me.’ It’s like, got a little injury, alright, I want to make it better so I play better. Obviously I was annoyed I couldn’t come out here and play, but I think they did the right thing,” he said.
Specifically, the injury was one he said lingered not just from college, but something that has persisted in nagging him for a while.
“I guess it was a college thing. It was more like a nagging thing. Everybody has their nagging pain, mine was more nag in the back, nag in the hips,” Onwuzurike said.
Now that he is feeling healthy, Onwuzurike admitted that he is excited to get back on the field and get playing, no matter who is up next. In this case, it’s the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday night.
Former Lion Lawrence Jackson: Levi Onwuzurike ‘Steal of Draft’
After the draft, former Detroit defensive lineman Lawrence Jackson admitted to having caught up on some tape of Onwuzurike and really enjoying what he saw. As he said, he believes Detroit’s new defensive lineman is primed to play a huge role for the team and the Lions may have gotten the next great defensive lineman when they picked him up in the draft.
Here’s Jackson’s tweet about the matter from back in May:
That’s some strong praise for Onwuzurike, but Jackson would know. After all, he played defensive line for a long time in the league and knows what it takes to play the position well. It will take some time for Onwuzurike to adjust to the NFL, but once he does, he could be the next great defender according to those in the know.
Onwuzurike Stats and Highlights
The Lions needed some major help in the trenches and Onwurzurike can theoretically provide it. He collected 95 tackles in his time in college to go with 16 tackles for-loss and 7 sacks. Onwurzurike opted out of the 2020 season, but he showed well in 2019 when he last played. Teams looking to draft Onwuzurike were likely looking at his ability to be physical and tough in the trenches and develop into a great player in the middle.
In Detroit, Onwuzurike can be expected to fit in well with Michael Brockers and the team’s front at tackle. A look at the tape shows the kind of twitch and athleticism that folks love, which is likely just what Jackson sees as well.
The Lions hope he can develop into a stud up front for the team as many expect. Now that the injury is hopefully behind him, it will be fascinating to see how Onwuzurike does and if he can show his chops as a second-round pick.