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Derek Rivers makes long-awaited debut for Patriots

Patriots defensive end Derek Rivers was inactive for the first two regular-season games.
Patriots defensive end Derek Rivers was inactive for the first two regular-season games.CHARLES KRUPA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

DETROIT — No more delay of games for Derek Rivers.

New England’s second-year defensive end made his professional debut in Sunday night’s game against the Lions.

The Patriots’ top pick in 2017 had his rookie season wiped out by a torn ACL suffered during preseason joint practices with the Texans at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia.

The injury came just as Rivers was starting to shine in practices, and it appeared as though he was going to be a key contributor in a defensive end rotation that needed replenishing after the retirement of Rob Ninkovich and the free agent departure of Chris Long.


Flash forward to this training camp when Rivers again appeared to be surging, mixing in and out with the first-team defense.

However, when the regular season started, Rivers found himself at the bottom of the depth chart and on the inactive list on game day.

It could be a frustrating scenario for some, but Rivers has accentuated the positives, and that attitude paid off on Sunday night.

“Not at all frustrating. I’m blessed to be on this team,’’ Rivers said late last week. “Everything is going good. It’s not frustrating at all because I still have the opportunity to go out there and practice and get better, and that’s the goal. And that’s the goal for everybody.’’

That doesn’t mean he hasn’t been champing at the bit to get his feet wet.

“Yes, obviously anybody would want to be out there playing the game, but God gave me the gifts to be able to play this game, so there’s no frustration,’’ he said.

“I know God’s got a plan so I just have to keep working, keep grinding, and whenever that time comes I’ll be prepared to go out there and do my job.’’

Rivers credits the practice reps with keeping him active and involved.


“Shoot, we practice against our O-line. Man, them boys are so good. I think we have the best O-line, they’re awesome guys to go up against,’’ said Rivers, who said his knee “feels amazing” and he has no physical restrictions. “They give us the looks we need, we give them the looks they need, and in the end, and what happens in practice, is what’s going to keep you sharp for the game.’’

Not this time

Josh Gordon went through an extensive pregame stretching routine before being ruled out.

The wide receiver, who had been limited all week with a hamstring issue, first did some work with offensive linemen Brian Schwenke and Cole Croston, who were also inactive, before doing some work with the active players.

Gordon also played catch with Patriots character coach Jack Easterby about 2½ hours before the game.

Defensive end Trey Flowers (concussion), safety Patrick Chung (concussion), cornerback Eric Rowe (groin), and tight end Jacob Hollister were previously ruled out.

For the Lions, top defensive end Ziggy Ansah headlined their inactive list. Also not suiting up were defensive end Kerry Hyder, running back Ameer Abdullah, tight end Michael Roberts, receiver Brandon Powell, and offensive linemen Andrew Donnal and Joe Dahl.

In the game

In addition to Rivers, rookie cornerbacks J.C. Jackson and Keion Crossen made their debuts. Both shined at times during the spring and summer . . . And Cyrus Jones played his first game for the Patriots since Christmas Eve 2016 . . . Rookie practice squad quarterback Danny Etling made the trip as he continues to learn all aspects of life in the NFL. Practice players don’t normally go on road trips and Etling’s presence is reminiscent of when the Patriots brought Jacoby Brissett on trips even when he was on injured reserve during his rookie season. Rookie defensive back Duke Dawson, who is currently on IR, also made the trip.


Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.