Alex Anzalone had quite the week.
He broke his left thumb in the Detroit Lions' Thanksgiving loss to the Green Bay Packers, underwent surgery three days later and was back at the hospital again three days after that for the birth of his daughter.
"It's been a tough but blessed week, I'd say," Anzalone said.
Anzalone can't pinpoint how he hurt his thumb, but he remembers sitting on the ground late in the fourth quarter and his left thumb kept popping out of place.
"I just remember looking at my thumb and it kept sliding in and out," Anzalone said. "You put it back in, then it’d come out. So, got a screw in it and good to go."
He wore a cast on his left hand at practice, and carried a small, black custom thumb brace as he talked with reporters in the locker room.
The veteran linebacker said it was gut-wrenching to miss the Saints game; he was a third-round pick by the organization in 2017, spent his first four NFL seasons in New Orleans and still has plenty of friends on the team.
But he found a silver lining with an injury that caused him to miss his first game since late in the 2021 season.
"I really wanted to play in that game," Anzalone said. "You guys know how much that meant to me. But yeah, I guess it’s just a silver lining in all of it and God gave me just enough injury to not have me try to play that game. And Dan (Campbell) and everyone did a good job taking care of me, too, just making sure I was able to focus on my family and keep the main thing the main thing."
Anzalone said he watched the game from his couch, but not continuously.
ANOTHER COMEBACK? Reunion between Lions, free agent Ndamukong Suh seems unlikely
With his wife tending to the couple's newborn, he had to pause the game about an hour in to put his young son down for a nap.
"Actually, I forgot to pause it when I went up, then I went back downstairs," Anzalone said. "I was like closing my eyes rewinding it cause I didn’t want to see the score or anything."
The Lions raced to a 21-0 lead, then held on to win, 33-28, after their defense gave up 21 points on three red zone touchdowns in the second half.
While his replacements at linebacker played well, Anzalone said he saw fans' complaints about the defense as he perused social media during the game. Some of the criticism was "not necessarily that wrong," he said. The Lions (9-3) need to give up fewer points and be better in the red zone to maximize their playoff chances.
But all serve as extra motivation this week.
"Every time you have to sit back and watch on the couch for a game it kind of gets you motivated, kind of gets you excited to go back to work," Anzalone said. "We’re definitely motivated as a defense to kind of get going here and start playing good football. It’s just, we hear the outside noise to a certain extent and we definitely want to prove those people wrong."
Next up: Bears
Matchup: Lions (9-3) at Chicago (4-8).
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday; Soldier Field, Chicago.
TV/radio: Fox; WXYT-FM (97.1).
Line: Lions by 3.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions' Alex Anzalone back after 'tough but blessed' week