Lions defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike out for season after back surgery

Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports /

It isn’t surprising based on the lack of good news, but Lions second-year defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike is out for the season.

Near the end of training camp, Lions head coach Dan Campbell was not very optimistic on defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike’s progress from a back injury. “Snail’s pace” was the description the head coach chose, and it said it all. But a placement on IR at that point would have ended Onwuzurike’s season.

Onwuzurike, to no surprise, was place on IR the day before the season opener. That meant he’d miss at least the first four games of the season, and plenty more than that was surely in play. There hadn’t been much news on when the second-year man would play, but Campbell had an update as he updated the status of multiple players on Monday coming out of the bye week.

Per Tim Twentyman of the team website and multiple other reporters, Campbell said Onwuzurike is out for the season after having back surgery.

"That’s a little bit of a gut punch,” Campbell said, opening his Monday press conference with the news."

Campbell said surgery was a last resort after consulting multiple doctors, but Onwuzurike went under the knife a week ago to fix a disc in his back that flared up back in training camp.

Levi Onwuzurike becoming another potential draft bust for the Lions

Despite the fact he opted out of the 2020 season at the University of Washington due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Onwuzurike landed as a late first-round pick during 2021 mock draft season. The Lions got him in the second round, with the 40th overall pick.

Onwuzurike played through back pain for much of his rookie season. He played 16 games with 35 total tackles and one sack.

Internal offseason buzz was palatably positive around Onwuzurike, as the thought was the back issue was behind him and he had added some good weight. But during the first padded practice of training camp his back flared up, and he has not been on the field since.

It seemed possible back in late-August, and now Onwuzurike’s second NFL season is indeed over with zero games played.

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