Detroit Lions place guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai on injured reserve

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions have placed starting guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai on injured reserve ahead of Sunday's season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, Vaitai's former team.

Lions coach Dan Campbell confirmed Wednesday that Vaitai has a back injury, which occurred during the preseason finale in Pittsburgh on Aug. 28.

Vaitai will be out at least four games. Campbell said they will take it week by week with Vaitai but that he doesn't anticipate the injury requiring surgery.

"I love this O-line, and I still love this O-line. Certainly, losing Big V hurts anytime you get a guy like him that has been a steady rock for us, and he's a great team guy," Campbell said. "Everybody appreciates him on this team, but I still love where we're at. Just as a player and as a coach, here's what I do know is that the O-line, as long as you get a group of guys that know how to work together and they're tough and they're smart, you can make great things happen, and we've got plenty of that still up there, so we'll be fine."

The offensive line, which includes three former first-round draft picks, was projected to be one of the strong points of the roster, but the starting five never played together in 2021 because of injuries.

Detroit is considering numerous options to replace Vaitai at right guard, which include plugging in either Tommy Kraemer or Logan Stenberg, moving center Frank Ragnow over, or using Penei Sewell at guard and Matt Nelson at tackle.

If Sewell does slide in for Vaitai, he says he'll rely on him to help learn the nuances of his position. Sewell hasn't played guard since the youth football level but is willing to switch roles for the sake of the team.

"It's tough. Very tough. Me and him have a very special relationship, it's almost like he's my uncle, but it's tough," Sewell said. "I was looking forward to this year and the things that we were doing in the preseason and even during training camp, and it was going to be special, but when he comes back, it's gonna be on."

Vaitai started in all 15 games he played in at right guard in 2021 and did not allow a sack. He was selected by the Eagles in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL draft and was a member of Philadelphia's Super Bowl LII-winning team in the 2017 season.