Getty Halapoulivaati Vaitai prepares to take a snap in a Detroit Lions game.
The Detroit Lions will be without veteran offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai when they face the Los Angeles Chargers on November 12th.
The team ruled out Vaitai on Friday, indicating that he will not be able to participate in the Week 10 game due to his back injury. The Lions could also be without another key member of the defensive line as they look to extend their lead at the top of the NFC North and move closer to their first playoff berth in seven years.
Experienced lineman hampered by injuries
As John Maakaron of SI.com noted, Vaitai struggled with injuries for most of the season, missing twice due to two separate injuries.
“Vaitai has not been in the starting lineup since his injury in week two,” Maakaron wrote. “He returned to action in Week 7 with his first offensive snaps against Baltimore, but is now dealing with a back injury.”
Despite the injury, Lions head coach Dan Campbell remained optimistic about the team’s trip to the West Coast.
“Yeah, I think they’ll be good. I think they will like this. You can put your feet up on the plane, it’ll be a nice trip, hydrate, take a nap, watch a movie, look at your playbook. So I think they’ll be good,” Campbell said. “I think we will have a good week of work. I think they are looking forward to this trip. And then on Sunday you get up in your free time and we go play. So I think we’ll be good.”
The Lions are expected to have running back David Montgomery back in the lineup after he sat out the team’s Oct. 15 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a rib injury. Montgomery has 385 rushing yards and six touchdowns this season.
Lions defensive tackle likely to miss game
The Lions are also dealing with an injury on the frontline defense, with defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. The 26-year-old has been a good substitute in the last two games and has made limited contributions, managing just two total tackles this season.
Despite the limited impact, Lions defensive line coach John Scott said he believes the 25-year-old has a bright future ahead of him.
“With Levi, I think sometimes we forget that Levi basically missed a year and a half of football,” Scott said Nov. 7, via the Detroit Free Press. “It’s a huge learning curve when you’re not able to go out on the field. So Levi is another guy who has great talent and we see progress every day.”
The Lions also listed wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones as questionable, while guard Jonah Jackson and center Frank Ragnow are expected to play despite being listed on the injury report.
“We’ll see where he’s at and how he feels,” Campbell said of Peoples-Jones, via SI.com. “It feels like we have everyone back. Frank and Jonah look good and the other three are obviously doing well. So we’re back to full strength now.”
Nathan Dougherty is a sports reporter who covers the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions for Heavy. He previously wrote for the Rochester Business Journal and was associate editor of the sports journals Coaching Management, Athletic Management and Training & Conditioning. He lives in Rochester, New York and loves all things soccer. More about Nathan Dougherty