Lions hopeful that C.J. Gardner-Johnson can return in '23

ALLEN PARK, Michigan -- Losing C.J. Gardner-Johnson certainly hurts the Detroit Lions, but coach Dan Campbell remains optimistic that the defensive back could return before the end of the season.

Gardner-Johnson, who was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, will have surgery after suffering a torn pectoral during Sunday's 37-31 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

"Don't quite know, but I know the reports that we've gotten back on it is that it was a very clean injury and that's normally good for surgery, recovery all of those things," Campbell said Wednesday. "So, I certainly think there's a chance that we'd get him back."

Losing Gardner-Johnson is a huge blow to the secondary, which loses not only his production but also his infectious energy. He started in both games this season, registering 13 total tackles with two passes defended.

"Look, I hate it for him. I hate it for us, but man, this train doesn't stop," Campbell said. "And so, with that, I think him being around has definitely made guys better."

Veteran safety Tracy Walker III will get a heavier workload.

"We're fortunate we've got Tracy," Campbell said. "He'll be ready to roll, and now some of that energy and slack has got to be picked up by the rest of the guys and it's got to come from somewhere else. It doesn't have to come from one; it ought to come collectively."

The Lions have been hit with a slew of injuries as they prepare for a Week 3 home matchup against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

Star receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown is day-to-day and missed practice Wednesday while he deals with a toe injury. Second-year edge rusher James Houston, who posted eight sacks as a rookie last season, was also placed on injured reserve Tuesday with an injury to his fibula.

"That's a tough one, too," Campbell said. "... I don't want to sit here and tell you yes and then we don't get him back, but I do think there's a chance by the end of the year that we could get him back."

After high expectations entering the season to reach the postseason for the first time since 2016, Campbell says he enjoys facing the early adversity.

"I hate losing, but I love this because I just feel like this is what we're all about," Campbell said. "And we're back to reality, we're back in the mud and its doom and gloom outside of this building and in this world, but let's just hunker down and go to work.

"Let's get back to what we do well, and it takes all of us to win. It's gonna take all three phases and I just feel like that's what we do best. And I know our guys, I know our coaches, and this is challenge accepted. So, I feel really good. I do. And I know the opponent coming in [Falcons], and if we don't get back to our identity, this team will take your soul. So that's the motivation."