Haloti Ngata hasn't played a game in more than a month, and he might not play again. But as he rehabs from surgery to repair a torn bicep, Ngata has made the telling choice to do so around the team.

"We’ve been calling him 'Coach 92' since the summer, since OTAs and stuff," Lions defensive end Cornelius Washington said. "He is the old man and he takes a day off, so during that day off we call him 'Coach 92' cause he coaches for that day. But just having that presence in the room, it’s always good and he keeps us on track if we go off on a tangent."

Ngata has taken on a more prominent role as a teacher and pseudo-coach in the Lions defensive line room since his injury.

He's attended games at home and on the road. He's a fixture playing cards in the locker room. And players and coaches say his voice still carries plenty of weight on a team that's come to rely on its defense.

"I think he offers the same thing he did when he was playing," defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. "He is a veteran voice. He’s a guy that’s been through a lot of trench warfare in there with the guys. He’s able to give them insights as a player, just like he was when he was here. So I think that’s important that he’s around, and he still provides leadership to that group."

The Lions (5-4) have missed Ngata's presence on the field since he suffered his injury in the first half of an Oct. 8 loss to the Carolina Panthers.