As the Detroit Lions have been welcoming back some injured players, to practice anyway, James Houston had a stated goal of playing before the playoffs. Sidelined since suffering a fractured ankle in Week 2, the second-year edge rusher returned to practice last Thursday.
During his run of injury updates on Monday, head coach Dan Campbell did not mention (nor was he specifically asked about, apparently) Houston. Having only practiced for two days, that wasn't necessarily a huge red flag, But it was a little bit odd, in the big picture of relevant injury statuses/updates.
Now, we seemingly know why Campbell didn't mention Houston on Monday.
During his weekly appearance on 97.1 The Ticket Tuesday morning (h/t to Pride of Detroit), Campbell had a direct comment about Houston's status for Week 18 against the Minnesota Vikings.
“I don’t see Houston (playing) right now,” Campbell said on 97.1 The Ticket Tuesday morning.
When will James Houston return to action for the Detroit Lions?
Houston is early in his 21-day return clock to be activated from IR, with Tuesday being the sixth day. That three-week clock would expire on Jan. 18, between the Wild Card and Divisional playoff rounds, at which point he'd be done for the season if he's not activated.
At this point, with Campbell all but ruling up for the regular season finale, it seems likely Houston will be ready to go for the Lions' first playoff game.
After he had eight sacks over seven games down the stretch of his rookie season last year, after making his debut on Thanksgiving, Houston was easily pointed to as a potential breakout candidate this season. The fractured ankle obviously derailed that, and it's fair to assume the Lions' pass rush would have been better all season if Houston had been available.
But if Houston is ready to suit up in the playoffs, and he makes an impact, it will be a tease for a full-on third-year breakout in 2024.