Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy returns to practice

The Detroit Lions got a major piece of their defense back on the practice field this week.

Linebacker DeAndre Levy is practicing Wednesday for the first time since Week 1. Levy missed eight games due to quad and knee injuries.

The Lions have been particularly mum about the tackling maven's status, but never placed Levy on injured reserve, suggesting they hoped he'd return this season.

After his breakout season in 2014, Levy played less than one half of football in 2015 due to a hip injury and lasted just one game (70 snaps) this season.

Levy's absence has been felt heavily on the second level of Teryl Austin's defense, where the likes of Antwione Williams and Thurston Armbrister have been thrust into roles. Lions linebackers have been particularly terrible in coverage.

Coming off a 151-tackle season in 2014, Levy was voted No. 66 by his peers on NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2015. Two years ago Levy was one of the defenders that left Tom Brady exasperated: "Those two guys, Suh and Levy, They're just everywhere," Brady said from the bench during a tilt versus the Lions.

Levy signed a 4-year $33.7 million contract extension in August 2015. Since then he's played six quarters of football.

It would be a stretch to suggest Levy will be ready to play this week versus the Jacksonville Jaguars after he's been on the shelf more than two months. He could make his return on Thanksgiving against the Minnesota Vikings.

After getting through the first half of the season with a poor, injured defense, the NFC North leaders would get a big boost from Levy's return.

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