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Lions Activate Alim McNeill and C.J. Gardner-Johnson: Defensive Boost for the Team

The Detroit Lions announced a pair of roster additions on Saturday afternoon, ahead of their regular season finale against the Minnesota Vikings.  Defensive tackle Alim McNeill was reinstated to the active roster […]

The Detroit Lions announced a pair of roster additions on Saturday afternoon, ahead of their regular season finale against the Minnesota Vikings. 

Defensive tackle Alim McNeill was reinstated to the active roster from injured reserve, along with safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Both players are expected to be active for Sunday’s game. 

Additionally, the Lions elevated defensive lineman Tyson Alualu and Jason Cabinda from the practice squad for the season finale. 

Tight end Anthony Firkser has also been brought back to the practice squad. 

Gardner-Johnson is active for the first time since suffering a torn pectoral muscle in the Lions’ Week 2 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. In two games this season, he has recorded 13 tackles and two passes defensed. 

The return of McNeill, a third-year defensive tackle, is a big one for the Lions ahead of the postseason. He has logged five sacks, 31 tackles, six tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a pass defensed in 12 games this season. 

He went on injured reserve after suffering a knee injury in Week 13 against the New Orleans Saints. He missed the mandatory four games, and is eligible to return this week.

McNeill will be wearing a brace on his right knee, which he sprained against the Saints, in Sunday’s game.

“I knew I would come back at some point, because that’s what I told myself I was gonna do,” McNeill told reporters Wednesday. “Mentally, it was different for me, because it was the first game I’ve ever missed. But, just seeing the guys do what they needed to do is all I needed to see.” 

On Tuesday, Lions head coach Dan Campbell told 97.1 The Ticket that he would like to get both Gardner-Johnson and McNeill involved this week. Detroit’s defense will benefit from both players returning ahead of the start of the postseason next week. 

The Lions created two open roster spots earlier this week by waiving defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs and Firkser, who is now back with the team. 

Buggs had an up-and-down 2023 campaign with the Lions. Re-signed this offseason, the defensive tackle fell out of favor with the coaching staff this season, and bounced between active and inactive on gamedays. 

The decision to waive Buggs was first reported Tuesday afternoon, and the defender hinted at his departure in a social media post. In 10 games this season, Buggs totaled 12 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack and one fumble recovery. 

The talented defensive lineman has since signed with the Kansas City Chiefs and joined their practice squad.