ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Nobody is happier to see receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Reggie Bush returning from ankle injuries than offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi.
Calling plays without two playmakers, especially Johnson, got a little challenging.
"It’s good to see those guys practicing," Lombardi said. "It’s a lot different looking at your game plan knowing that Calvin’s going to be ready to go.
"He’s just got a unique skill set. It opens up a lot of possibilities. Certain plays become a lot better because (of) Calvin Johnson. Some other plays, you wouldn’t run because there’s no one else like him in the world. There’s certain things you do with him that maybe you wouldn’t bother doing with mere mortals."
Lombardi had to make numerous adjustments in recent weeks, including the game in London when he was also without his top three tight ends.
Not exactly the ideal situation for someone in his first year calling plays in the NFL.
"Part of the fun of coaching is the challenges, trying to come up with (game plans) for those kinds of things," Lombardi said. "You’re on the airplane and you realize you might be starting a tight end (Kellen Davis) you just met.
"Because we won, you look back and say, ‘Oh, that was a challenge that was fun to meet.’
"It’s never perfect. I’m proud of the way the guys handled it."
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy, the team’s second-round draft pick, remains on track to make his NFL debut Sunday against the Miami Dolphins at Ford Field.
"He will play," coach Jim Caldwell said before Thursday’s practice. "He’ll play on special teams and he’ll play on scrimmage downs."
Van Noy missed the first eight games after undergoing sports-hernia surgery in August during training camp.
"We certainly know that he’s capable," Caldwell said. "He’s a guy that can run, he’s athletic. I think you’ll find that he’ll be good in the run or pass, but don’t expect him to come out and set the world on fire. The young man has a chance to develop. But this is a fast game. It’s a difficult game for a young guy."
Tight ends Brandon Pettigrew (foot), Eric Ebron (hamstring) and Joseph Fauria (ankle) all practiced Thursday.
It was the second straight day for Fauria, who missed the last five games.
The status of all three for Sunday should be a little clearer when the team releases its official injury report Friday afternoon.