James Houston returned to Detroit Lions' practice last Thursday, so it was no surprise he didn't play in Week 17 against the Dallas Cowboys. His stated goal to return from a fractured ankle before the playoffs then of course came down to this week, and early this week head coach Dan Campbell dismissed the idea Houston would play.
As of the end of Friday's practice, Houston has still only has five practices under his belt since having his 21-day return window opened. He also hasn't played since Week 2, so there's a definite ramp-up period for him.
On Friday, Campbell said Houston still has a ways to go before being ready to play.
"He did more this week than he did last week, but he’s still a ways out,” Campbell said.
So now the return to game action for Houston is pushed to the Wild Card Round. His three-week return window expires on Jan. 18, between the Wild Card and Divisional rounds of the playoffs.
James Houston injury update: Will he play in the Lions' Wild Card game?
Campbell elaborated on Houston possibly being ready to go for the Lions' first playoff game.
"It’s a lot to ask,” Campbell said. “Not that it can’t happen, because I know this, he looked a lot better this week than last week or when we got him up."
“And so, whenever you’re coming off an injury, any player, it’s just a matter of how fast you can get your confidence back and your own abilities, your body. You’re rusty. It takes a minute to get used to what it is because it’s not going to feel like it did before, it just never does. So, a lot of that’ll be just time-on-task. Him out there moving, running, and see how far he can come.”
If he can be available for the playoffs, Houston (eight sacks in seven games as rookie last year) would be a welcome addition to a Lions' defense that has struggled to generate pressure (this side of Aidan Hutchinson) with just a four-man rush.
Even with some general positivity, it was always a question if Houston would be able to play again this season. He may have to make substantial progress to do so, at least in the Wild Card Round.