One of the early developments so far from Lions OTAs has been the sight of Tracy Walker with the team. The veteran safety is taking part in on-field work during his ongoing recovery from an Achilles tear.
“It feels great to be back,” Walker said, via Tim Twentyman of the team’s website. “I can’t hide the emotions, you know? It’s a blessing. I’m very excited. Honestly, I missed it. It’s hard to explain. It was cool I got time to spend at home with my family but at the end of the day I missed ball.”
The 28-year-old went down with the Achilles injury in Week 3, which marked a major blow to the Lions’ secondary. Walker had led the team in tackles early in the campaign, as he did the previous season. 2021 marked the second time in which he eclipsed 100 tackles, and he added one interception and six pass deflections, confirming his status as a key member of the team’s defense. Two years remain on his current contract, a $25MM extension signed last March.
In Walker’s absence, Detroit struggled mightily on that side of the ball for much of the season, one in which a late playoff push fell just short. If the former third-rounder can return to form, though, he should be counted on to play a signficant role alongside Kerby Joseph, who saw a large uptick in usage as a rookie with Walker sidelined last season.
Walker indicated that he expects to return in full during training camp in July, barring any setbacks. Presuming he is healed by that point, he will join Joseph, free agent addition C.J. Gardner-Johnson and second-round rookie Brian Branch as a contributor on the backend facing considerable expectations. Improved play on defense would go a long way towards Detroit securing a postseason berth in 2023, and a healthy Walker could play a large role in achieving that goal.