Starting tailback Kevin Jones, who missed the final three games of the Detroit Lions' 2006 season with a left foot injury, will likely be sidelined for at least the first five contests this year as well, as it appears he will be placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list to continue his rehabilitation.
Jones suffered a Lisfranc sprain to his left foot last December and underwent surgery to treat the problem. On Thursday, the three-year veteran met with Dr. Bob Anderson of Charlotte, N.C., who performed the surgery. The noted foot specialist apprised Jones that, while he is making solid progress, he still needs more rehabilitation time.
If the Lions place Jones on the PUP list, it means that Tatum Bell, acquired from Denver in the trade that sent cornerback Dre' Bly to the Broncos, will begin the season as the starter. The primary backup will probably be T.J. Duckett.
Anderson has told Jones and Lions officials that, when fully healed, the tailback should not lose any of his speed.
The Lions could still decide not to have Jones begin the season on the PUP list, only if they feel that he can return earlier than the sixth week, which is unlikely. Such Lisfranc injuries typically require one year of rehabilitation and treatment, but Jones is ahead of that schedule. Detroit will make a decision by Saturday, the date by which all teams must cut down to the regular-season roster limit of 53 players.
By definition, Jones must sit out the first six weeks of the regular season if he goes onto the PUP list. Because the Lions have a bye week in that stretch, he could conceivably miss only five games.
Players on the reserve/physically unable to perform list can begin practicing during a three-week window after the first six weeks of the campaign. Once they return to practice, a team has three weeks to decide if the player should be moved to the active roster or remain on the PUP list for the balance of the season.
Because he began camp on the active/PUP list, Jones has not been permitted to practice with his teammates but has done some individual work.
A first-round pick in the 2004 draft, Jones has appeared in 40 games and started in all but one of them. The former Virginia Tech star has carried 608 times for 2,486 yards and 16 touchdowns and has 109 receptions for 809 yards and three touchdowns.
Jones, 25, rushed for 1,133 yards and averaged 4.7 yards per carry in his 2004 rookie year. In the two seasons since, he has gained just 1,353 yards and averaged 3.7 yards per attempt.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.