Lions Hank Fraley leans on experience dealing with rash of injuries

ALLEN PARK — Hank Fraley had a good story to tell about his offensive line group.

The Lions offensive line coach said when they came off the field after the first possession in Sunday’s loss to the Eagles, his focus was on right guard Logan Stenberg who was a first-time NFL starter, filling in for the injured Halipoulivaati Vaitai.

In that first series, Stenberg was whistled for back-to-back false starts.

His offensive line teammates had his back. 

“Logan jumped off twice, you can’t imagine how pissed off I was. We have to stay even keeled. We can’t go up, we can’t go down. If we do that as an O-line you’re going to fold. We get emotional and all that,’’ Fraley said on Wednesday.

“You’ve got to love the O-line when they’re coming off. I’m just eyeing Logan — and we scored so it was a little different — we were up 7-0. The vets running by me said, ‘Let him go.’ That’s what you have to love about the group. ‘That’s our guy, let him go.’ OK, (so I) just told him don’t let it happen again and he didn’t (for) the rest of the game. I would say they’re very close as a unit,’’ said the coach who was an NFL center for 11 seasons.

“It’s all about comfort. Once I settled down and got comfortable I played a really good game. I was excited to see that on film,’’ Stenberg said.

Fraley needs this group to remain close because while they’re preparing for just their second game, they’ve been dealing with injury woes.

Starting right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai underwent back surgery this week and it’s uncertain how many games he will miss. Fraley has texted with him since the surgery and said he’s in great spirits and told him he’ll be ready to go.

“I can’t wait for him. He’s great for the room too. He’s the big teddy bear in the room,’’ Fraley said. “Big V is the loose, childish kind of guy that we love in our room. Every O-line room needs one and that’s him. … It’s a big loss.’’

While center Frank Ragnow played every snap on Sunday he has been dealing with a sore groin. He sat out practice on Wednesday. It’s uncertain if he’ll be ready to go on Sunday against the Washington Commanders.

“(Frank) makes you proud, that’s what you want all your guys to do – across the team. Who knows what his percentage was, how healthy he was. He battled, he had a mistake here and there but he plays physical, he’s a leader, he wasn’t going to come out of the game,’’ Fraley said. “It was fun to see him battle through it. You want that in the middle, his leadership, his mind, his focus, his control.’’

Three other offensive linemen appeared on Wednesday’s practice report. Left tackle Taylor Decker (calf) and guard Tommy Kraemer (back) did not practice. Left guard Jonah Jackson (finger) had limited practice.

From Fraley’s comments, Stenberg will start again at right guard on Sunday against the Commanders. Fraley’s been there which gives him a better understanding of Stenberg’s situation.

In fact, in his first NFL start with the Eagles in 2001, Fraley fumbled the ball on the exchange to quarterback Donovan McNabb.

“Let’s see what he does from here. I take myself to my first start, there’s a lot I had to clean up,’’ Fraley said. “So he’ll clean it up and we’ll see it from there. I’m excited for him, he gets to write another chapter in his book, chapter 2, week 2.’’

(Commanders (1-0) at Lions (0-1) at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Ford Field. Game will air on FOX with Kenny Albert and Jonathan Vilma on the call and Shannon Spake on the sidelines.)