Just three days away from the first snap of the season, the Detroit Lions have still not found a replacement for guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Now, “potential replacements” are not practicing either.
Vaitai was placed on the Injured Reserve list on Monday. He will miss at least the first four games due to a back injury.
The injury stemmed from the preseason game in Pittsburgh. Coach Campbell says they will take it “week by week” once that time period is up.
Tommy Kraemer was thought to be the replacement until he missed practice Wednesday. Kraemer popped up on the injury report with a back injury.
Another potential replacement, Frank Ragnow, was listed on the injury report. Ragnow has an apparent groin injury. He was limited at practice on Wednesday and did not practice Thursday.
Dan Campbell on Vaitai
On Wednesday, Dan Campbell addressed the open position:
“We may shuffle some things up, but we’ll come up with the best combination that we feel like is going to give us the best chance to win,” said Campbell. “The O-line, as long you get a group of guys that know how to work together and they’re tough and they’re smart. You can make great things happen, and we’ve got plenty of that still up there, so we’ll be fine.”
Ben Johnson on Vaitai
Offensive Coordinator Ben Johnson spoke on the open position today, bringing Penei Sewell into the mix. While it’s an option, he’s not sure it’s the best option.
“Is Penei as good of a guard as he is at tackle? I don’t know,” said Johnson. “I do know this about Penei Sewell, in his second year he’s light years ahead of where he was last year this time.”
Other Options for the Detroit Lions
Guard Logan Stenberg, G Jonah Jackson and tackle Matt Nelson are all names that have been thrown into the mix as a potential replacement as well.
Tackle Taylor Decker spoke on the difficulty of moving over just one spot or switching sides from right to left on Wednesday. He added that the chemistry of knowing the guys next to you is huge.
Ben Johnson added to that thought Thursday:
“That’s a huge thing upfront, there’s no question about it,” said Johnson. But I think one thing we’ve been able to do. We’ve accumulated so many reps over the course of walkthroughs and team periods in training camp that Coach Fraley’s been able to give us different scenarios within practice or within walkthroughs. So, guys have some familiarity with what’s going on.”
After Wednesday’s practice, Taylor Decker said they tried “a million different combinations”. While no one has been officially placed just yet, both the coaching staff and players seem confident that they have the guys to make it work.
“I’m confident whatever lineup we roll out on, will be ready to roll,” said Johnson.
Vaitai played in 15 games last year, starting at right guard in every single one. He didn’t allow a single sack.
Maddy Miller – Detroit Lions Beat Reporter
Photo: © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK