Chris McCosky/ The Detroit News
Allen Park— Rookies, even those drafted 13th overall, can ill-afford any setbacks in this condensed, post-lockout training camp.
Thus, there was a high level of concern throughout the organization when defensive tackle Nick Fairley’s sore left foot was in a walking boot Tuesday, the first day the Lions were full pads.
“It’s not a (setback) at all,” said Fairley, as he walked past reporters after practice. “I am doing what I can to get back as soon as I can.”
The fact that neither he nor coach Jim Schwartz could accurately say when he might be back, or what the full extent of the injury was, heightens the concern.
Schwartz said Monday, after Fairley injured the foot on a special-teams drill, preliminary X-rays were negative. Yet on Tuesday, the Lions medical staff was examining the foot for a possible stress fracture or other complications.
“We are still doing some tests,” Schwartz said. “We are having a lot of different people look at it. He’s down for now.”
When asked if he’d term it a long-term or short-term injury, Schwartz said, “I really can’t say right now.”
Fairley, like the other rookies, already was working from behind because all the offseason team work was canceled by the lockout. He didn’t have the benefit of a rookie orientation, rookie minicamp or team OTAs.
“Rookies have a lot on their plate,” Schwartz said on the eve of training camp. “Usually they are here on May 17 or before that. They have a rookie orientation, they get to mix in with the vets and work out at the facility. They are learning the system and going through OTAs and minicamps and by the time they get to training camp they are familiar with the system and we know they are in shape. They know their teammates and they know their way around. They have all that stuff under their belt and they can go out to training camp and compete for spots and playing time.
“What happens now is, they have to learn the system while all of that other stuff is going on. They are starting from zero. It’s a lot to manage.”
Even before the foot injury, Fairley was not expected to come in and start or make an immediate impact like Ndamukong Suh did last season. He was working in as the fourth or fifth defensive tackle behind Suh, Corey Williams, Sammie Hill and Andre Fluellen.
So, though the injury is a concern, it’s far from a deflating blow to the team’s optimism.
“He can pick up some things from watching on the sidelines,” Williams said. “He can watch the technique of some of the vets. There’s some stuff he can do while he’s out, but it’s no replacement for actually being out there doing it.”
Dealing with injuries is an inevitability of any training camp, but without the offseason work, teams are forced to make tough decisions on when they can bring players back. Case in point: starting right tackle Gosder Cherilus, coming off microfracture knee surgery, hasn’t practiced the last two days. He’s dealing with soreness and the coaches aren’t quite sure how much to push him.
“We would have liked to see him bounce back,” Schwartz said. “Guys coming off knee surgery, you know it’s going to get sore but you want to get past it. You don’t want to put them out there when it’s still sore but you want to push them through.
“In the past, we’d push them through (the soreness) in OTAs and figure out the best way to handle it then.”
Now, precious work days are being lost while they try to work Cherilus through the soreness.
In other injury news, running back Maurice Morris left practice Tuesday because of a sore left hand. The results of X-rays were not available after practice.
Linebacker Zack Follett (neck) had a scheduled day off. Cornerback Jack Williams (knee) and rookie linebacker Cobrani Mixon (unspecified) also missed practice.
Rookie receiver Titus Young (leg) and starting left tackle Jeff Backus (pectoral muscle) are on the non-football injury list.
With Backus and Cherilus out, Schwartz has had to be creative with his line drills. Second-year tackle Jason Fox has taken some reps at guard. Veteran guard Donald Thomas has worked some at tackle. And rookie Johnny Culbreath has gotten way more work than would be normal for a seventh-round pick.
“It’s not experimental, it’s by necessity,” Schwartz said. “With Backus and Gos out, and with (tackle) Corey Hilliard, (guard-center) Dylan Gandy and (Tony Ugoh) still unable to practice (signed free agents), it’s forced guys to do double duty and cross train at other positions. We are getting a good look at some of these guys.”
Lions training camp practices today (9:15 a.m.) and Thursday (4:15 p.m.) are open to the public. Gates open a half-hour prior to the start time; access is on a first-come, first-serve basis.