Franck Ragnow was preparing for the worst.
Detroit Lions Pro Bowl center heard his groin pop halfway through training on Wednesday and feared his bad injury streak would continue.
Ragnow missed 13 games with a foot injury last season and two games with a broken throat cartilage at the end of 2020, so he was relieved to hear good news when he underwent an MRI on Thursday.
“On Wednesday I was pretty depressed, I’m not going to lie after last year’s deal,” Ragnow told reporters on Friday. “I was quite upset, but it wasn’t as bad as originally thought, so that’s fine, and we’ll just take it day by day and see.”
Ragnow returned to training on a limited basis on Friday and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.
He said there was nothing his groin was stopping him from doing, and he moved smoothly in training, pulling out of position during stance drills and jogging on the ground. Still, the Lions are weighing the risks of bringing Ragnow back this week and losing him for a longer stretch of the season.
“I think it’s less about me because I’m going to try to go for it, but it’s more about the coaches and the medical staff,” Ragnow said. “I deal with it as much as I can, I do whatever they tell me and I make sure I put on my best show so they give me the approval.”
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Ragnow said he’s “pretty cautiously optimistic” he’ll be allowed to play against an Eagles team that has one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. Nose tackle Javon Hargrave is fresh off a Pro Bowl season, Fletcher Cox has long been one of the best interior defensive linemen in the league, and the Eagles spent a first-round pick on gigantic Georgia product Jordan Davis this spring.
The Lions, however, won’t make a decision on Ragnow until Saturday at the earliest.
“I think we’ll know a lot after practice,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said Friday morning. “I think that will tell us a lot, but I know he wants to try and he had a smile on his face this morning so I would consider that at least a step in the right direction.”
If Ragnow can’t play, Evan Brown will start at center.
Brown made 12 starts last season and allowed two sacks, according to a Free Press game ranking.
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Ragnow said he has faith in Brown and the rest of the Lions offensive line, but he “really, really, really badly” wants to be there.
“It’s frustrating,” Ragnow said. “I think (former Lions quarterback Matthew) Stafford once (once) said he was pretty stoned before we played the Tennessee Titans in (2020). I saw a quote like, “It’s Sunday and I’m the Detroit Lions quarterback, so I’m going to do anything to be there.” It really touched me and that’s kind of how I like to approach it. Like, I want to be there, so it’s frustrating but I get it. I trust the medical staff, I trust the coaches and whatever is best for me, they will make that decision.
With Ragnow, linebacker Julian Okwara (hamstring) is questionable for Sunday, security Ifetu Melifonwu (hamstring) is questionable and defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike (back) and guard Tommy Kraemer (back) are out.
With Kraemer unavailable, Campbell declined to name a replacement for starting right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who will miss at least the first four weeks of the season with a back injury.
The Lions used both backup guard Logan Stenberg and right tackle Penei Sewell at practice this week.
“We have an idea of what we want to do, but we’re ready to move quickly if needed in another way, I guess that’s the best way to put it,” Campbell said. “We have options.”