The Detroit Lions have followed through on their plan to give safety Louis Delmas regular work along with consistent rest to pace his return from knee soreness and pain. Delmas has worked in roughly half of the Lions' practices, and Thursday they got him a second consecutive day of rest following Wednesday's day off for all players.
As it turns out, according to general manger Martin Mayhew, the Lions are roughly using the same approach they took in 2011 with left tackle Jeff Backus, who reported to camp with a partially torn pectoral muscle. The Lions kept Backus on the non-football injury list until midway through the preseason and then practiced him sparingly until the start of the regular season. Backus went on to play 16 games as the Lions advanced to the playoffs.
"Louis is coming around," Mayhew told reporters earlier this week. "He's doing a little bit more every single day, and I think he's on track to be ready for the season. I talked to Louis about a couple years ago when Jeff got injured. Jeff got injured right before the season. And our emphasis on Jeff at that time was getting him ready for the [Tampa Bay] Buccaneers game. And I talked to Louis about making sure everything that he does during training camp is geared toward being ready for that Minnesota Vikings game. Then once we get to that game, we'll just take it week by week. That's the track that he's on and he's making progress."
There are a couple of obvious differences here. First, Backus missed only one game in his 12-year career. Delmas, on the other hand, has missed 15 in four seasons.
More importantly, Backus had a tangible injury with a clear timetable for recovery. Unless and until we learn more details, we're left to believe that Delmas is dealing with more of a chronic/managed ailment. In the end, however, the big picture is the same: The Lions are willing to sacrifice practice time -- perhaps indefinitely -- to give one of their key players his best chance to play when the games start to count.