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Lions DB C.J. Gardner-Johnson avoids structural damage to knee

Detroit Lions defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson stretches before an NFL football practice in Allen Park, Mich., Monday, July 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Detroit Lions defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson does not have structural damage to his right knee after going down Monday with a noncontact injury, a person familiar with his test results told The Associated Press.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the team had not announced an update on Gardner-Johson’s injury, which occurred on the second day of training camp. Gardner-Johnson, a key addition this year, was carted off the field after grabbing his right knee during a noncontact drill.

The injury potentially was a major setback for a team that invested a lot to improve the secondary in hopes of contending and winning the NFC North this season.

Detroit signed Gardner-Johnson to an $8 million, one-year deal in March after adding cornerbacks Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley in free agency.

He had a career-high six interceptions last season with the Philadelphia Eagles after picking off five passes over three years in New Orleans. Gardner-Johnson has reunited with Lions head coach Dan Campbell and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn after playing for them with the Saints.

If the 25-year-old defensive back had a long-term injury, rookie Brian Branch likely will have a chance to play an increased role sooner than was expected.

Detroit drafted the Alabama nickel corner in the second round with the 45th pick overall. The second-team All-America defensive back was one of two players in major college football to defend at least 20 passes and have four sacks over the previous three seasons.

The Lions are entering the season with the highest expectations they’ve had in years. They won eight of their final 10 games last season and finished with a winning record for the first time since 2017.

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