Detroit Lions C.J. Gardiner-Johnson  (85) works out on the sidelines during training camp Tuesday, July 25, 2023.

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Lions’ C.J. Gardner-Johnson back at practice after knee scare

Cornerback C.J. Gardner-Johnson was back in pads with his Detroit Lions teammates on Saturday, five days after he was carted off the field with what originally was feared to be a serious knee injury.

At the time of the non-contact injury to his right knee, Gardner-Johnson was visibly upset and comforted by teammates. On Saturday, he was the confident defensive leader the Lions hoped they were getting when they signed him to a one-year deal worth up to $8 million with incentives in March.

Gardner-Johnson told reporters after practice in Allen Park, Mich., that it’s important for him to be on the field.

“I’m contagious. I’m like the flu. I’m like the flu,” he said, per MLive.com. “It’s going to go through your body, and either you get it or don’t get it. And that’s not because I’m cocky. … It’s because I’m confident in my job. I’m confident in my coaches and my teammates and (what) my training (staff) and my strength guys are doing for me. That’s why, you know?”

Gardner-Johnson had an MRI following the injury on Monday, and it showed no structural damage. He was listed as day-to-day. On Tuesday, he was back at practice as a spectator.

“I was at practice every day,” he said. “I was mentally at practice. I don’t think you understand what type of guy you got here. I ain’t miss nothin’. I ain’t miss a practice, I ain’t miss a rep, I’m still out there. My teammates still see me. One thing people got to understand, this game of football, sometimes it ain’t being about the best physically. You got to be the best mentally. So as long as my teammates know I’m out there helping them and coaching them, I don’t really care what you have to say about being back.”

Gardner-Johnson, 25, is projected to start at cornerback for the Lions.

He shared the NFL lead with six interceptions and made a career-high 67 tackles in 12 starts with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2022. He missed five games with a lacerated kidney.

Prior to his lone season with the Eagles, Gardner-Johnson was with the Saints from 2019-21 after being selected by New Orleans in the fourth round of the 2019 draft.

In 55 career games (43 starts), Gardner-Johnson has 11 interceptions, 228 tackles, 36 passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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