ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Detroit Lions guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai underwent back surgery Tuesday in Dallas, according to coach Dan Campbell.
Vaitai was placed on injured reserve ahead of the season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, but Campbell said Wednesday that the team is not ruling out the possibility of the guard playing this season.
The 29-year-old Vaitai originally hurt his back during the preseason finale in Pittsburgh. The Lions started Logan Stenberg in his place in Week 1.
“You’re definitely going to miss Big V. It’s always hard to replace, but he’s great. He’s in great spirits,” Lions offensive line coach Hank Fraley said. “I’ve been texting with him, and he’s just saying, ‘I’ll be ready to go, Coach.’ So I can’t wait for him. He’s great for the room too. He’s the big teddy bear in the room, honestly.
“Big V’s that loose, childish kind of guy that we love in our room, and every O-line room needs one and that’s him, but when he gets on the field, that’s a different story when he’s moving people,” Fraley added. “So that’s a big loss, but I always look at it for the next guy in.”
During the 2021 season, Vaitai started in all 15 games he played in at right guard 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.