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Lions CB has ‘full motor skills,’ expected to travel back with team

What happened next was a familiar and unwelcome sight in the NFL: A backboard rushed onto to the field. Teammates crowded around the injured player. An ambulance, stationed at the Lions’ 40-yard line.
The players ran at each other, their helmets appearing to hit slightly. Henry moved on, catching a 23-yard pass from Bailey Zappe to give the Patriots a first down. Smith stumbled as he tried to chase Henry, making fewer than two steps before he collapsed to the ground.
FOXBOROUGH — The moment seemed innocuous. Lions cornerback Saivion Smith lined up across from Patriots tight end Hunter Henry early in the first quarter in Sunday’s game at Gillette Stadium.
Smith, 24, was taken from the field to a local hospital and ruled out with what the team called a neck injury. After the game, Lions coach Dan Campbell said the third-year player had “full motor skills” and he believed Smith would be able to travel back to Detroit with the team Sunday night.
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“The team was, of course, they were happy to hear that,” Campbell said after Detroit lost, 29-0. “Everyone was concerned about Saivion, so yeah, there was a sigh of relief.”
Smith’s injury is the latest in a string of scary incidents in the weeks following Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s concussion against the Bengals Sept. 29. Tagovailoa’s injury prompted the NFL and its players’ association to revise the protocol around head injuries to address what many considered a loophole that allowed players to continue to play despite obvious signs of a problem.
But the protocol mattered little in Smith’s case, as he quickly fell to the ground and didn’t move. The ambulance idled on the field as Smith’s father and a relative came down from the stands to ride along to the hospital.
Smith, who had been elevated from the practice squad ahead of Sunday’s game, had a cheering section in Foxborough for his first appearance in a game since December of last season.
“He got called up and he was ready to go to work,” Isaiah Buggs, a Lions defensive end, said after the game. “That’s why we hate that, as a defense, for him to have to experience that.”
Buggs considers himself tight with Smith. They played at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College around the same time before being recruited to Alabama. Both were on the Crimson Tide roster with Patriots running back Damien Harris in 2018.
Harris checked in with Buggs while watching the medical team strap Smith to a backboard.
“Of course he asked about Saivion,” Buggs said. “You know, everybody’s worried about it, especially when you come from ‘Bama, we’re so tight, you know everybody’s checking in on everybody.”
Neither Buggs nor Campbell said the injury had any impact on the Lions’ poor performance. But Buggs did acknowledge the weight of observing such a serious incident — and then having to take the same field you’ve just watched your friend be carted off of.
“I was hurting,” he said. “We don’t want to see teammates and people we know get hurt in this game. I’ve said this once before about the Tua situation — this is a dangerous game, man. We’ve got to start protecting ourselves more. It’s just sad to see someone like that go down.”
Katie McInerney can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @k8tmac.



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