Detroit Lions QB Tim Boyle ready for first career start: 'Let's go get the first win'

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Tim Boyle walked off the practice field Thursday side-by-side with Detroit Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp.

The two smiled as they talked, and Boyle said Hamp left him with a simple message.

"She was happy," Boyle said. "I’m always happy to see her. She’s always an awesome presence around here and I’m glad she comes to practice all the time. But no, no advice. It was just excited and happy and let’s go get the first win."

Detroit Lions quarterback Tim Boyle (12) throws the ball before playing the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on August 21, 2021.
Detroit Lions quarterback Tim Boyle (12) throws the ball before playing the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on August 21, 2021.

Boyle is expected to make his first career start Sunday for the Lions after Jared Goff missed his third straight practice with a strained oblique.

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Lions coach Dan Campbell said before practice Goff would test the injury in a pre-practice workout, and would practice only if "we feel like he can throw."

Campbell said he planned to make his quarterback decision for Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns on Friday and would not let the decision linger until game day.

"I just think, man, when you start talking about quarterback it’s a little different," Campbell said. "When it’s like, 'Man, this receiver here could play,' those are hard enough. When you’re talking about a quarterback, I think it needs to be these are your reps, you’re locked in, you’re ready to go."

Boyle, who broke the thumb on his throwing hand in a preseason loss to the Indianapolis Colts and has spent the entire season on injured reserve, took first-team reps in practice all week, the first time he said he has done that in his career.

Detroit Lions quarterbacks Tim Boyle and Jared Goff run after training camp Saturday, July 31, 2021 at the Allen Park facility.
Detroit Lions quarterbacks Tim Boyle and Jared Goff run after training camp Saturday, July 31, 2021 at the Allen Park facility.

As a backup to Aaron Rodgers with the Green Bay Packers the past three seasons, Boyle completed 3 of 4 passes for 15 yards in 11 games.

He has not started a game since 2017, when he threw 11 touchdowns and had 13 interceptions in his transfer season at Eastern Kentucky.

"Having the one reps all week really is so valuable for getting yourself ready physically to play," Boyle said. "Cause when you’re kind of a backup and you’re sitting back there, you can kind of take the mental reps but physically doing it and feeling it out, seeing a defense is so valuable. So yeah, I feel great. Hand’s 100%, legs feel good, arm feels good. So I’m ready to go."

Boyle made the Packers as an undrafted free agent in 2018 after an unremarkable college career.

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A prep legend who won three Connecticut state titles in high school, Boyle played at two colleges for four head coaches and five offensive coordinators in five college seasons.

He played sparingly during three years at UConn, left after an up-and-down junior season and sat out a year at Eastern Kentucky before leading the Colonels to a 4-7 record in 2017.

"I don't really think I envisioned myself starting in the NFL," he said. "It was always a dream. You don't really think about it until it happens. Yeah, you think about all the ups and downs. You're playing youth football and it's fun and it's exciting, then it's middle school, it's fun, exciting, it's a game, it's a sport. Then high school, it's a little more competitive and you're a good high school player. Then my specific journey, it's college and I struggled.

"It's confidence, it's leaning on family, it's transferring and having an OK season and kind of picking myself up and plugging along. I'm proud of myself, I'm proud of how I handled my journey. And when it comes down to it, just like your profession, you've got to be ready when your number is called and I'm going to be ready."

Detroit Lions quarterback Tim Boyle (12) is tackled by Buffalo Bills defensive end Darryl Johnson (92) during the second half of the preseason game at Ford Field in Detroit on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021.
Detroit Lions quarterback Tim Boyle (12) is tackled by Buffalo Bills defensive end Darryl Johnson (92) during the second half of the preseason game at Ford Field in Detroit on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021.

Though sidelined more than two months with his thumb injury — he returned to practice for the first time last week — Boyle said he attended "every single meeting," was on the sideline for every game, made road trips with the team and helped Goff prepare for the Lions' first nine games.

"So from a mental standpoint I don’t feel like I’ve really skipped a beat," he said. "It’s more so getting out here and every rep I had this week has been extremely valuable."

Campbell said Boyle looked "a little rusty" in practice Wednesday, but had a stronger showing Thursday and could add a different element to the Lions offense.

Boyle has a stronger arm and is less risk-averse than Goff, though he completed just 56.4% of his passes in the preseason.

Goff has one touchdown pass in the past five weeks, ranks last in the NFL in intended and completed air yards per attempt, and the Lions are tied for 29th in the league in scoring offense.

"Let me say this about Tim Boyle, he lacks zero confidence, I can tell you that," Campbell said. "He’s got plenty of confidence, and so that’s a good thing, but that can also (be a detriment). So we’ll see where this game goes if he’s our guy and see where the weather takes us, see where he takes us. But I know this, we have to be smart with him and let him work into a rhythm."

Boyle said he is not thinking about anything beyond Sunday's game against the Browns, though he could force Campbell's hand at the quarterback position with a strong showing and depending on Goff's health.

The Lions (0-8-1) play the Chicago Bears next Thursday on a short week for Thanksgiving.

"Opportunities, especially in the NFL come very few times, unfortunately, but that’s the beauty of the NFL, it’s so competitive," Boyle said. "It’s been a long journey. Just kind of reminiscing on my story, starting football when I was 6 years old and here I am as a 27-year-old and still blessed to have this opportunity. So it really is, it’s about preparation and always staying ready so yeah, I’ll be ready to go."

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions QB Tim Boyle ready for first career start