Few things have gone the Detroit Lions’ way this year. But in a season with a rebuild in full swing, two bright stars on offense have emerged in D’Andre Swift and Amon-Ra St. Brown. However, the former hasn’t played since Thanksgiving after suffering a shoulder injury. And now the Lions are set to roll the dice in bringing Swift back this Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. They shouldn’t.
Detroit has been out of the playoff race for quite some time. Despite that, they have shown real effort every single week. They even pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year when they beat the Arizona Cardinals. While they shouldn’t be mailing it in, being calculated with who is in and who is out of the lineup is the wise move. That’s not what they are doing with Swift.
St. Brown has been balling out for the Lions and hasn’t missed any extended time due to injury. Keeping him plugged in the last two weeks should be the expectation. With Swift coming off an injury that sidelined him for over a month, there’s little incentive to bring him back and risk further damage. Both are star players for the Lions that should be pillars of next year’s offense. They are also in vastly different situations at the back end of the season and warrant individual consideration.
On Wednesday, head coach Dan Campbell noted that Swift will be back Sunday and backed up his reasoning as to why they are bringing him back at all for the last two weeks.
“I think we feel like we’re in a place where—let’s go, let’s cut him loose, and let’s let him continue to grow and get better,” Campbell said. “That way we go into next year, he’s that much better for it.”
“We’ll shut him down after Green Bay,” Campbell said, (referring to) Detroit’s last game of the year.
There’s a difference between letting a young player grow and looking out for his best interests. Swift has proven his worth this year. There’s nothing he could do in the last two weeks that would further cement Detroit’s commitment to him. When healthy, Shift has shown that he can switch into demon mode. He ran for at least 130 yards in back-to-back road games at Pittsburgh and Cleveland. The problem for Swift has been availability. Now the Lions will launch him back into two games where he has nothing more to prove this year and a lot to lose if he re-injures his shoulder.
At least the decision isn’t being forced. Campbell mentioned that Swift has been pushing to play. It’s admirable for him to be doing so. But it’s also expected that a player wants to be out on the field. It’s the responsibility of the coach and the doctors and training staff to help weigh the risks if they return.
One thing that doesn’t need clarity is Swift’s stance. He wants to play.
“I feel like God put me on this earth for football, to play football to affect the people around me,” Swift said Wednesday. “I love the game so much and any opportunity I have, whether it’s two games, one game, losing record, winning record, I’m gonna do my best to step my foot out there and play for my teammates and for my brothers…Like I said, I’m excited to be able to get back to just contribute in any way possible these last two games.”
It’d be tough for many coaches to hear that and still hold the player out. This is about the long term for Detroit, though, and for Swift. It’s not coaching scared or playing this hand conservatively. It’s playing wisely.
Obviously, the hope now is that Swift plays effectively in the last two games and leaves with no further injury to his shoulder or anywhere else. There’s an accepted risk in anyone playing this gladiator sport. There’s a more significant risk in those coming back from injuries. The juice must be worth the squeeze for the Lions, even though most would objectively say that it doesn’t make a lot of sense.
One thing that’s been eating at Swift is that he has yet to experience a win this year with the Lions. They only have two, and he was out for both.
“First and foremost, I want to be able to experience a win with this team and experience one with them this season. (I’m) just looking to get better in every aspect of my game.”
D’Andre Swift is undoubtedly an essential piece for the Lions to build around. Bringing him back at this point, given where the Lions are at and that he’s coming back from a month-long absence due to injury, is perplexing, to say the least. Now Detroit fans will hold their collective breath that things go smoothly for Swift in the final two weeks.