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One thing you can count on with the Detroit Lions is that they are never, ever boring. Follow the latest news including injuries, roster moves and more here daily from Oakland Press beat writer Paula Pasche. Plus you'll find regular commentary about the team.


Should Marinelli finish the season?

The Lions are 0-12 and coming off the worst Thanksgiving loss in franchise history, but I don't think there'll be a reprisal of Holiday Weekend 2005, when Steve Mariucci was fired after a similarly embarrassing turkey-day display, for one reason – Rod Marinelli still gives the Lions the best chance to win.

It sounds illogical considering Detroit has lost 19 of its last 20 games and Marinelli at 10-34 has the third-worst win percentage (.227) among Lions coaches since World War II – Marty Mornhinweg went 5-27 (15.6 percent) in two seasons and Dick Jauron, Mariucci's replacement, went 1-4 (20 percent) – but it's the truth.

Where do the Lions turn if they fire Marinelli? Offensive coordinator Jim Colletto is severely overmatched. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry runs the league's worst unit. Passing-game coordinator Kippy Brown is the only other assistant on staff with head-coaching experience at any level, and he went 5-5 with the Memphis Maniax of the XFL.

Beyond that, money is an issue (every coach on staff is locked up through 2009, but you'd have to bump the pay of whoever you promote and there's zero chance anyone returns so that's throwing cash away for a franchise with a half-empty stadium that can't afford to) and no one knows where the real power lies. Three years ago, it was Matt Millen who fired Mariucci. Millen was canned himself earlier this year, leaving Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand in charge. I'm not sure the Mayhew-Lewand team has the power to fire Marinelli, who said he expects to meet with owner William Clay Ford as he usually does this Monday. Ford, of course, has been disappointingly quiet all season ,and Lewand, after standing beside Marinelli at a few Ford Field press conferences earlier this year, was nowhere to be found Thursday, distancing himself from the disaster on the field.

Of course, none of those are reasons for keeping Marinelli, but this is: With four games left, the Lions are down to their last chance to avoid the infamy of an 0-16 season. Home games next week against Minnesota and Dec. 21 against New Orleans are the only things remotely close to winnable left on the schedule (don't tell Adrian Peterson and Drew Brees), and Marinelli has done a respectable job keeping the locker room together. To change coaches now would beget further chaos.

Asked Sunday if the locker room still stood firmly behind its leader, linebacker Paris Lenon offered an unflinching, “Damn right.”

“It's not coaching,” he said. “It's we have to execute. We have great coaches. They bust their butts all week preparing us. They preach the little things. It falls on us. We have to do it. All of us. We have to do it.”

Quote book
Since I'm taking the weekend off (hopefully), here's a few leftover quotes from Thursday's debacle:

• From kicker Jason Hanson, “Well, we only confirmed what everybody was thinking about us as far as outside of Detroit and in Detroit. I should say outside of the locker room. You can only say we're better than this so many more times and then you can't say it anymore. So we have to do something different as players. Whatever people have done to get ready for a game, we've got to do something different. Tennessee's one of the best teams. I said earlier record-wise we're the worst. So I mean in a sense, as a result they should win. But I know everybody in here feels embarrassed that we did that on national TV.”

• Quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who's committed seven turnovers and been benched three times in four starts as a Lion, on whether he deserves to start next week against his former team the Vikings, “You should probably ask Coach Marinelli that question , but I'm going to prepare myself to play and play to win. Turnovers happen. Turnovers happen, but that's not the end of me, that's not he end of the game. It's all about going out and trying to continue to get better.”

• Marinelli on whether he's still the right coach for the Lions, “I do. And I feel like I just keep fighting and keep going. The record doesn't show it but I have great belief in myself. I've got great belief in myself, I always have and I always will.”

• Hanson again, “We need a deep breath, obviously, and try to regroup. Again, I make it clear that I've seen worse locker rooms than what we have right now as far as effort and finger-pointing and throwing in the towel. We haven't done that. I don't know. Obviously everyone should be scared that we're getting close if we keep doing this, so we have to just hang together. All the athletic things that nobody wants to hear, we have to do them, stay together and not finger point and do something to get a win these last four games.”

• And finally running back Kevin Smith, summing up Thursday's performance on his way out of the locker room, “It was (bleeping) trash, that's what it was.”

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Lions cooked on Thanksgiving (and it's only the first quarter)

The embarrassment has gone national.

Detroit's semi-professional football team just finished the first quarter of its annual Thanksgiving day game - the only time, thankfully, a national audience is subjected to the Motor City Kitties all year - down 21-3. I'm not sure Titans running back Chris Johnson has been touched yet - I know he wasn't on either of his touchdown runs - and the Lions have two turnovers and could easily have a one or two more (thank you, Daunte Culpepper).

Enjoy your turkey. I'm not sure if I have the stomach for a post-game blog. I'd rather go see my family and post something tomorrow morning. But that could change if history repeats itself (remember, it was Thanksgiving weekend when Steve Mariucci was fired a few years ago).

Week 12 picks

The folks in Vegas are a lot smarter than me, but I'm surprised the line on today's Lions-Titans game is only 11. The Lions, as everyone knows, are winless and incapable of stopping anyone. The Titans are 10-1 and presumably angry coming off their first loss of the year. I know it's a home game for Detroit, but I'd lay the points and another touchdown. That's how little faith I have in the Lions.

For the record, I have the Titans winning 35-10 and I'm starting to believe the Lions will do the unthinkable and go 0-16.

It's early in the week, but here's the rest of my picks. As always, choices are made against the spread and home team is in all caps.

Home favorites you can't deny
DALLAS minus-11 over Seattle (Thanksgiving)
PHILADELPHIA minus-3 over Arizona (Thanksgiving)
BUFFALO minus-6 1/2 over San Francisco
GREEN BAY minus-3 over Carolina
SAN DIEGO minus-4 1/2 over Atlanta
MINNESOTA minus-3 over Chicago
HOUSTON minus-3 over Jacksonville (Monday)

Road warriors laying with love
Baltimore minus-7 over CINCINNATI
Indianapolis minus-5 over CLEVELAND

Don't need 'em but I'll take 'em
New Orleans plus-4 over TAMPA BAY
WASHINGTON plus-4 over NY Giants
Pittsburgh plus-1 over NEW ENGLAND
Kansas City plus-3 over OAKLAND

Points only, please
Denver plus-7 1/2 over NY JETS
ST. LOUIS plus-9 over Miami

Record: 6-7-1 last week, 81-85-4 overall


Lions-Titans keys

No Lions Lowdown again because of the short week, and no live blog this week either. The live blog will return next Sunday for the Minnesota game (the next blackout), and hopefully another video is in the works, too. In the meantime, I'll share my usual keys to winning here. I would put the Lions' chances at about 2 percent, and that may be generous, but if they have any shot Thursday against the Titans they have to do these three things:

Stop the run. I'll let the stats tell the story here: The Lions have the NFL's worst rushing defense at 166.7 yards per game. The Titans are only ninth in rushing offense (124.7 ypg), but like Carolina, which put two backs over the 100-yard mark two weeks ago, Tennessee has a lethal one-two punch in Chris Johnson and LenDale White. One more number to munch on: The Lions have allowed exactly twice as many rushing yards as they've gained (1,834 to 917), which means they won't be able to control the clock and keep Johnson and White off the field.

Protect Daunte. Daunte Culpepper hasn't been great in his three starts as a Lion, but he's about their only chance against Tennessee. Backup quarterback Drew Stanton is out with a concussion, leaving Drew Henson, who hasn't taken an NFL snap in four years, No. 2. Beyond that, each previous Lions starter (Jon Kitna and Dan Orlovsky) lasted four games before going down with injury, and the Lions, league leaders with 41 sacks allowed, have their hands full with perhaps the NFL's best defensive line.

Add a wrinkle to the offense. I expect a lot of max protection Thursday and a concerted effort to try and run the ball, but the Lions can't be bland all day. They were aggressive in the first half against Carolina two weeks ago and built an early lead to show for it. Opposing teams have a pretty good idea what Culpepper knows now in the offense – not much can change in four days – but Jim Colletto has to create magic somewhere to knock the Titans on their heals. That's asking a lot, but at this stage so is winning.

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Coordinator talk

I need to make a quick clarification. During my live blog the other day, I assigned partial blame for Jerramy Stevens' 24-yard second-quarter touchdown to middle linebacker Paris Lenon. Turns out, it was rookie Jordon Dizon, playing on the strong side, who blew the coverage.

“It was a situation where they (did) what we call a reset, they come out in a formation and then they shift to a new formation, so we have to adjust to it as well,” defensive coordinator Joe Barry said. “And I think he was a little late with that, getting aligned. And then, bam, the ball was snapped.”

As a strong-side linebacker, Dizon, who spent all of training camp and the first two months of the season learning the middle position, is often responsible for covering the flat of the field. But Barry explained “in the defense that we had called, the flat defender's supposed to carry anything vertical.”

“I think it was a combination of playing quite a bit for the first time, playing a different position and also the situation in the sense that it was a play that was reset, quick count,” Barry said. “There was a lot, but bottom line he's got a responsibility and he's got to do it.”

Still, Barry said that one mistake to keep Dizon off the field Thursday against Tennessee.

“Jordon Dizon's not (not) going to play this week because he had a mishap on one play last week,” Barry said. “He's going to continue to play and you'll see 57 running around tomorrow.”

More coordinator talk from Wednesday:

• Offensive coordinator Jim Colletto said Drew Stanton, as expected, is likely unavailable Thursday, four days after he suffered a concussion against Tampa Bay. Drew Henson, No. 2 on the depth chart this week, hasn't played in four years. “So what else is new?” Colletto said. The Lions have started three different quarterbacks this year.

• Three of the Lions' four best rushing performances of the season have come the last three weeks – with center Dominic Raiola sidelined with a broken thumb. Colletto credited tailback Kevin Smith and fullback Moran Norris for the improved running game, but said backup Andy McCollum, signed during training camp, is holding his own at center. “He might want to ask for a raise in pay,” Colletto said. “I don't think he quite was looking forward to this, but he's done real well for a guy that's been around as long as he has and he really gets them all going in the right place. He's real calm and he's done a nice job.”

• Barry said Tennessee's primary formation is two tight ends, two receivers and one running back. The Titans don't go two tight ends, however, strictly as a way to protect quarterback Kerry Collins, who's been sacked just six times this year. “I think the reason they do so much two tight ends is they want to feature these guys, they want to get them the ball,” Barry said. “They don't want to have them in to block, even though they both do block and they're very able pass blockers. They get in that personnel group because they want to feature those tight ends because they're very good players.” Tight end Bo Scaife leads Tennessee with 47 catches and 490 yards, and Alge Crumpler (18 catches) is a former Pro Bowler.

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Lions don't know how to win

It's the old chicken-or-egg question, and Kevin Smith's answer today got me thinking: Does a winning attitude breed winning, or do victories produce the persona?

“I think winning comes first and then the attitude,” Smith said. “You have that winning attitude, but when you get your win that's like, I guess, putting gas in your truck. And every loss is you're losing gas. So when you win you're going back to the gas station and putting a little more in, all the way until you get to the Super Bowl and then you're filled up.”

That analogy is appropriate as the 0-11 Lions continue their pursuit of imperfection this week. Rod Marinelli has said for months his players are practicing hard and giving maximum effort, and I haven't seen anything to the contrary. All's quiet on the fine front and there've been no signs of fracturing in the locker room.

Still, the Lions are 0-11 and, seemingly, getting worse by the week. One game the defense stinks, the next Daunte Culpepper regresses, the next special teams take the brunt of the blame. Why? It's not that the Lions don't want to win, it's that they don't know how.

“We got to figure out and solve the puzzle on how to get a victory,” defensive tackle Shaun Cody said. “We just haven't been able to find it, what it takes to win.”

Cody was asked after Sunday's 38-20 loss to Tampa Bay what changed since last year's 6-2 start. The Lions have lost 18 of their last 19 games and will match the longest losing streak in franchise history with a defeat Thursday against Tennessee.

“I can't say much if anything,” Cody said. “We practice harder, we work harder than ever, just execution in the game. That's what it comes down to and it's just not happening. I know you want to hear a great, magical answer, but that's what it really is. Guys just not doing what they're supposed to do at the right times or in critical moments, making a big play. That's what it really is.”

• He wasn't talking about the Lions – I don't think, at least – but Titans coach Jeff Fisher might as well have been when he ended a conference call with Detroit media with this take about playing on Thanksgiving: “The Thursday game to me is a treat, it's an honor. We were excited when the schedule came out and we get the chance to go out and play on a short week in front of everybody and it kind of acts as an additional bye week if you will.” Yes, playing the Lions usually does.

• Quick injury report from practice Tuesday: Receiver Mike Furrey (concussion) did some running around and could play Thursday if he stays symptom free. Smith practiced after sitting out Monday's workout with a bruised shoulder. He said he'll play against the Titans. Alex Lewis sat out a second straight day with a pectoral injury. He could join Dewayne White, Dominic Raiola, Keith Smith and Drew Stanton on the sidelines Thursday.

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Lions-Titans a sellout

It may spoil your appetite, but the Lions-Titans game will be on TV this Thanksgiving.

The Lions sold their final 1,000 or so tickets before Tuesday's 12:30 p.m. deadline to avoid their fourth straight home blackout. Paid attendance in Sunday's 38-20 loss to Tampa Bay was just 49,096, a record low at Ford Field.

The last time the Lions failed to sell out on Thanksgiving was 1992, when they lost to the Houston Oilers, 24-21.

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Twinkies or cupcakes?

The Lions haven't played a Monday night game in 10 years. The last time they played any game in prime-time, Jeff Garcia was their quarterback. On Thanksgiving, they've lost four straight times by an average of 20.3 points.

Still, Lions coach Rod Marinelli said his team's (only) annual foray onto national television this Thursday against 10-1 Tennessee is “really good for us right now.”

“I'm really looking forward to that, where everybody is scrutinizing everything about us right now,” Marinelli said. “There's a major spotlight, national, coming in on us, and I want us to stand up, stand tall and go out and play lights-out football. I'm challenging them and myself.”

Because Tennessee lost last week to the Jets, the focus Thanksgiving day will be on the winless Lions' chances to go 0-16. They're five games from imperfection, and after blowing double-digit first-quarter leads each of the last two weeks there's a good chance they get there.

Considering attention will be on Detroit for all the wrong reasons, Marinelli was asked if playing on a national stage could be a negative.

“I guess if you're from Hostess Twinkies it would be,” he said.

I took that to mean the pressure could get to you if you're soft like the snack cakes I love (anyone know where to find chocolate Twinkies these days?). But when I asked Marinelli if he was worried his team was the cream-filled sort in light of its recent meltdowns, he said he didn't mean it that way at all.

“I'm not saying we're Twinkies,” Marinelli said. “I said the question was a Twinkie. That was a Twinkie question for me.

“I'm looking forward to this. I want to challenge these men. And myself. Our coaches, myself, the franchise, it's put us right under the spotlight and we've got to go perform.”

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DeVries headed to IR

Starting defensive end Jared DeVries is headed to injured reserve after re-breaking his left hand in Sunday's 38-20 loss to Tampa Bay. The injury is the same one DeVries suffered two weeks ago. He is scheduled to have surgery on Tuesday.

The Lions signed quarterback Drew Henson to a two-year deal (through 2009). Henson likely will be the No. 2 quarterback for Thursday's game against Tennessee. Drew Stanton is doubtful after suffering a concussion Sunday, and Dan Orlovsky said he's probably two weeks away from returning. Daunte Culpepper will make his fourth straight start as a Lion.

Along with Stanton, Lions coach Rod Marinelli said right end Dewayne White (calf) and center Dominic Raiola (thumb) are doubtful for Thursday, and cornerback Keith Smith (groin) he probably won't be available either. Raiola said he should be back for next week's game against Minnesota.

Also Monday, the NFL granted the Lions a 24-hour extension to sell the remaining 1,000 or so tickets for Thursday's game in order to avoid a fourth straight blackout. The Lions' last three home games have been shown on local television and Sunday's 38-20 loss to Tampa Bay set an all-time attendance low at Ford Field (49,096).

The last time the Lions failed to sellout a Thanksgiving game was 1992, when they lost to the Houston Oilers, 24-21.

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Lions-Bucs recap

It won't be 11-0 against 0-11 next week, blame the New York Jets for that, but the dream of a completely blemished season is alive and starting to look more realistic by the day.

Tampa Bay North lost to regular ol' Tampa Bay Sunday, 38-20, in front of the smallest paying crowd ever at Ford Field (49,096). The half-empty stadium watched nervously as the Lions scored the first 17 points then blew their biggest lead of the season in an 8-minute, 19-second span in the second quarter.

Tampa scored 35 straight points, including three second-quarter touchdowns, and put the game away with punt and interception returns after halftime. Clifton Smith's 70-yard punt return was the back-breaker, and Ronde Barber's 65-yard pick-six the game-clincher. Barber had two interceptions on the day, his first two of the year, as Lions quarterback Daunte Culpepper showed why he was out of football the first 10 months of the year.

Culpepper, making his third start as a Lion, was 8-for-20 for 121 yards. He had a quarterback rating of 37.7 and was benched midway through the third quarter in favor of Drew Stanton. Stanton lasted just two series before leaving with a concussion, and Lions coach Rod Marinelli affirmed Culpepper's status as starter after the game.

“Daunte's our guy,” Marinelli said.

If Stanton isn't available Thanksgiving day against Tennessee – he was spotted throwing up on the sideline Sunday, and typically the Lions hold players who suffer concussions out of practice until at least Thursday – Drew Henson will be activated from the practice squad. In that case, it's possible Dan Orlovsky and his broken right thumb end up on injured reserve.

As for his play, Culpepper disputed suggestions he regressed Sunday and said Barber deserved credit for the interceptions.

“I don't know if it was film study or he saw something we were doing, but he made a decision and he jumped the routes and he made great plays,” Culpepper said. “I give him credit and I got to make sure that doesn't happen.”

• Calvin Johnson caught two passes on the Lions' first-quarter touchdown drive, a 41-yard gain down the Tampa sideline and a 15-yard scoring pass, and just one the rest of the game (from Stanton). Tampa committed two defenders to Johnson most of the day, but the Lions didn't do enough to keep him involved. “We just got to figure out a way to be creative and get it to him,” Culpepper said.

• The Lions had a season-high six sacks Sunday, scored on a defensive touchdown in the first half (Daniel Bullocks' 44-yard fumble return) and held Tampa to just 255 yards of total offense. But don't be fooled into giving the defense too much credit. Tampa ran the ball 10 straight times on the final drive of the game, when it killed 7:41 off the clock and converted two fourth downs. That's knowing how to win. “When you get a lead like we have, my expectations are higher than that,” Marinelli said. “When we get a lead, we got to play great defense at that moment and we didn't do that.”

• Marinelli was asked twice Sunday if he's failed as Lions coach. He's 10-33 in his two-plus seasons and the Lions have lost 18 of their last 19 games overall. “I've failed so far,” Marinelli said. “No doubt about it. I've said that before and empty seats, that's on me. Record is on me. I've been very direct with that. I've never used an excuse or an explanation. ... In terms of where we're at, no doubt about it.”

• A couple other random numbers to play around with:
- The Lions and the University of Michigan have combined for a record 20 losses this year, topping the previous high of 18 set in 1979 and 2001. In both years, the Lions went 2-14 and Michigan went 8-4.
- With a 45-28 loss to Carolina, the Panthers became the ninth of 10 teams to lose the week after beating the Lions this year. Up next for Tampa? A home game against New Orleans.
- Since 2006, the Lions have 10 fewer wins than Minnesota and 16 fewer than Chicago and Green Bay. The Bears are coached by Lovie Smith, Marinelli's former roommate in Tampa, and the Vikings (Brad Childress) and Packers (Mike McCarthy) hired coaches the same year Marinelli came aboard in Detroit.

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Blacked out? Join the Lions-Bucs live blog

Week 12 picks

I said it last week, the Lions are going to win two games this year. Sunday against  Tampa Bay is one of them.

On paper that seems unlikely. The Bucs have the NFL's ninth-ranked offense, No. 5 defense and are fourth in the league in time of possession, and area where the Lions struggle. But I think Tampa will sorely miss leading rusher Earnest Graham and the Lions, under Daunte Culpepper, will cover the eight points and do just enough to beat the Bucs, 23-20.

Now onto the rest of my picks. All choices are against the spread and home teams are in caps.

Home covers you can't deny
CLEVELAND minus-3 over Houston
TENNESSEE minus-5 1/2 over NJ Jets
DALLAS minus-9 1/2 over San Francisco
JACKSONVILLE minus-2 1/2 over Minnesota
ATLANTA minus-1 over Carolina
DENVER minus-9 over Oakland
SAN DIEGO minus-2 1/2 over Indianapolis
NEW ORLEANS minus 2 1/2 over Green Bay (Monday night)

Home dogs that bite
KANSAS CITY plus-3 over Buffalo

Road warriors (mostly) laying with love
Washington minus-3 over SEATTLE
NY Giants minus-3 over ARIZONA
New England pick over MIAMI
Chicago minus-8 over ST. LOUIS

Don't need 'em, but I'll take 'em
Philadelphia plus-1 1/2 over BALTIMORE

Record: 9-6 last week, 75-78-3 overall


Lions-Bucs three keys

The Lions game is blacked out Sunday, but you can follow all the action here with a live blog. It won't be play-by-play so much as thoughts, musing and observations, including whether the Lions are following my three keys to victory, which are:

n Control the clock. Last week, the Lions won the time-of-possession battle for just the third time this year. The defense was on the field for all of six plays in the first quarter – two three-and-outs – and that's a big reason Kevin Smith turned in a career day (112 yards rushing). In the end, that had little effect on the defense's play. The Lions still couldn't tackle and still lost their 10th straight game, but by running the ball and getting early stops they were at least able to make it a game.

n Win the turnover battle. Along with tackling issues, the main reason the Lions lost last week was their carelessness with the ball. Daunte Culpepper had three turnovers, including an interception on Detroit's second offensive series and another one late that set up Carolina's game-clinching touchdown, and Michael Gaines lost his second fumble of the season trying to fight for extra yards. Like Culpepper's last pick, Gaines' fumble set up a Carolina touchdown. Tampa quarterback Jeff Garcia has been turnover-prone at times, and the Lions have to force more than they create today.

n Throw it to Calvin. Culpepper and Calvin Johnson are still working on their timing, but Johnson is the Lions' most dangerous offensive weapon and needs to be used thoroughly. Tampa's version of the Cover 2 won't make it easy, especially with Mike Furrey out with a concussion, but the Lions need to take shots down field even if it means throwing into double coverage. “I have memories of Daunte to (Randy) Moss and now Daunte to Johnson,” Tampa coach Jon Gruden said. “I have had nightmares of that the last couple nights.”


Talking Mayhew

I received a couple emails after my appearance on Tom Kowalski's “The Point After” Lions show Thursday  night, one saying I was spot on with my take on the team's general-manager search and one saying I was too complimentary of acting GM Martin Mayhew. It goes to show that people hear what they want to from some of these things, but for those that missed it here's my take:

Mayhew, Tom Lewand and the rest of the front office have a definite chance of staying in power after the season. Lewand, many people feel, is unlikely to go anywhere for some of the accomplishments he's had and relationships he's made. Mayhew has acquitted himself nicely in the almost two months since he took over for Matt Millen. He's made several wise free-agent signings to improve the roster (Daunte Culpepper, Moran Norris and Stu Schweigert) and he got absolute value in dealing Roy Williams to Dallas for three draft picks.

I think Mayhew can and will be a good general manager in this league. He's intensely private so I won't pretend to know him well, but he appears to be a bright football mind with excellent negotiating skills and a thorough understanding of the NFL landscape. A current general manager with another NFC team told me last month that Mayhew got better value for Williams at the trade deadline than he would have at this year's draft or could have last April, when more teams were bidding on the receiver.

That said, I think the Lions would be wise to conduct a thorough search after the season, the groundwork for which will be laid in the coming weeks. Scott Pioli, Shack Harris, Reggie McKenzie, Kevin Colbert, Tom Heckert, Nick Caserio and others should be interviewed, and in the end I think the Lions will do what's in their best interests and hire someone from outside the organization.

Mayhew, unfortunately and through no fault of his own, enters the process with two strikes against him for his association with Millen and the Lions' prolonged 31-91 skid. Fans are fed up with losing (as evidenced by three straight blackouts and falling attendance at Ford Field), and with the state of the economy the franchise faces an uphill battle to retain and grow its ticket base next year.

Football decisions should never be made solely for business reasons, and hiring any name on that list short of Pioli won't lead to a spike in individual or corporate sales. But as good as Mayhew might be, there are many people and many ways to win in the NFL and the Lions would be foolish not to investigate them all. At the end of the day, I think that realization coupled with the fact that this truly is a good job and will attract good people will be too much for an organization hemorrhaging support to ignore.

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Furrey better; Lions blacked out again

Mike Furrey ran pass routes during individual drills, did a mile on the treadmill and lifted weights Thursday, and if he's symptom-free Friday and Saturday he intends to play Sunday against Tampa Bay.

Furrey suffered a concussion on the opening kickoff of the Lions' Nov. 9 loss to Jacksonville. He played the rest of the first half, but got sick at halftime and missed last week's loss to Carolina.

“This is the first day that I haven't had any symptoms after I worked out or just throughout the day,” Furrey said after practice Thursday. “The doctors wanted me to run pretty hard today to see if I'll have any repercussions of it tomorrow because that's what happened last week. I ran real hard on Thursday, I felt good. Got done running, started getting a little sick and then I woke up Friday and that was the worst it's been since I got hit. Hopefully tomorrow we wont have anything and then hopefully I'll practice tomorrow and Saturday won't have anything from that and I'll be cleared to go on Sunday.”

Center Dominic Raiola did not practice again Thursday and may miss his third straight game with a broken right thumb.

The Lions will be blacked out locally for the third straight time this weekend. Oakland (against Carolina two weeks ago) is the only other team to have a blackout this year. Just under 7,000 tickets remain for Sunday's game and can be purchased at the Ford Field box office or


The more carries the merrier for Smith

I don't know that riding Kevin Smith from the start would have the winless Lions any closer to a victory, but here's why the carry-sharing system with Smith and veteran Rudi Johnson was never a good idea:

“Part of who I am is setting up a defense,” Smith said earlier this week. “I try to make it a point early to press it and hit front side, hit front side, hit front side so (the defense will) close, close, close, and then cut back. In the zone scheme, that's where you get your big plays from, it's the cut back. But if you go back too early, they're going to cut off the cutback and you'll never get it. They're going to play the cutback the whole time, you'll never get it so you'll be stuck with pressing three yards, two yards, four yards, four yards and you'll never get that big 20-yard-plus run.”

Smith is a volume carry. He gets better as games go on. Part of the reason is he's smart and patient as a runner. Not only could he not find a rhythm when he was splitting carries with Johnson, he couldn't set up defenses like he likes. In the last three games, Smith has 61 carries for 245 yards. In the previous seven, he had 56 rushes for 268.

“It was a coaching decision,” Smith said of why he wasn't getting more carries early in the season. “I had complaints within the organization. I wasn't crying or nothing, but I wanted the ball more, I wanted to be able to show the reason they drafted me. And their answer was wait. Wait and when your time is called you better be ready.”

A couple quick notes from Wednesday:

• Receivers Calvin Johnson and Mike Furrey did not practice Wednesday. Johnson said he'd be back Thursday from his quad injury, but their absence is still a bother as Daunte Culpepper needs all the practice time he can get with his top receivers in order to get in better sync.

• Defensive end Jared DeVries practiced Wednesday and should play Sunday against Tampa Bay. Dewayne White might need another week. White said he ran on the treadmill Wednesday and may try to test his strained calf later in the week. Safety Dwight Smith also practiced for the first time since spraining his foot at Houston. He declined to talk about the injury because he said he didn't want to get fined. Cornerback Keith Smith did some pool work Wednesday but he probably needs another week to get back from his groin injury.

• Tampa coach Jon Gruden on not overlooking the Lions (0-10): “We just went to Arrowhead a couple weeks ago and I don't know how many the Chiefs had won at that time and they were ripping us 24-3 when I looked up at the scoreboard right before the half. We respect the Lions a lot. We've studied them on tape. They beat us, they beat our brains in last year down there so we're going to have our hands full.”

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A quick-hitter Monday

Keeping my thoughts short but sweet after another Monday afternoon press conference:

• Maybe I was wrong about trying that 58-yard field goal in the third quarter of Sunday's 31-22 loss to Carolina. Jason Hanson wasn't as gung-ho about it as I was, at least. He said the wind at that point in the game wasn't nearly as strong as it was for his 56-yarder a quarter earlier, and he explained the risks inherent to kicking off the logo at midfield.

“It's a tough situation,” Hanson said. “For every argument for why we should have kicked it, I can think of one why it might have been a mistake to kick it. It's just when we're trying to win and you scrutinize every little thing – I can't think of another circumstance ever where there would be questioning why you didn't kick a 58 1/2-yarder and that's just the situation we put ourselves in.”

I still think the Lions should have tried it. At 0-10, you have to create your own luck sometimes. But after talking to Hanson I'll temper my criticism of Rod Marinelli's decision to punt.

• Always-quotable running back Kevin Smith on his first ever 100-yard game: “I mean, yeah, 100 yards, it was OK, but every back on the field yesterday had 100 yards. I was leading them at halftime and after the half they caught up and blew me out of the water.” Smith ran for 112 yards on 24 carries. Jonathan Stewart had 130 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries for Carolina and DeAngelo Williams added 120 and two scores on 14 attempts.

• Following up on Sunday's exchange where Marinelli said he has faith in his players despite the 0-10 record, a reporter asked Monday if he truly believes in his team or if he's just saying that because it's his duty as coach. “It's (in) my heart,” Marinelli said. “I couldn't fake this. Some people fake. That's all you see is fake, fake, fake. I'm not fake. I am who I am and you know that. And everything you see and I tell you right here is from my heart. And that's what I believe. I can't fake it. Some people are great fakers. They're pretty good at it, too. I'm not.”

It's in my job description to be skeptical of people, but here's why I believe Marinelli. He's never said he's coaching superstars or the Lions are loaded with talent and he's never said this group can get to the Super Bowl. Those would be lies. All he's saying is he believes the men in the locker room are giving and will continue to give their all and, yes, the Lions can be successful as they're currently constructed. What's successful? Taking Marinelli at his word of living for today, that means winning one game, the next one on the schedule. And I believe Marinelli – every coach, really – thinks he can win one game. If not, why would he continue to coach?

• For all the gamblers who lost money on Sunday's wacky Steelers-Chargers finish, you can recoup your losses this week by betting the house on Atlanta to beat Carolina. It's not so much I have faith in the Falcons as I do this stat: Eight of the Lions' nine opponents this year (not including the Panthers) have lost the week after beating Detroit. The lone exception was Houston, which drilled Cincinnati the week after beating the Lions. The real rest of that trend comes the week after Thanksgiving, when the undefeated Titans host the Browns.

• Dominic Raiola said he had a brace made for his broken right thumb that should arrive Tuesday and he'll try to practice this week in hopes of playing against Tampa Bay. He said he'll snap right-handed as he normally does, and not try to go to lefty. Marinelli said safety Dwight Smith will run some Tuesday and might be able to play against the Bucs.

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Lions-Panthers recap - Chapter II

Three questionable coaching decisions contributed to the Lions' 31-22 loss to Carolina Sunday. The first came late in the third quarter when Detroit chose to punt on fourth-and-8 from the Panthers' 40 rather than try a 58-yard field goal.

That's a long kick, but Jason Hanson made a 56-yarder a quarter earlier with plenty of distance to spare, the wind was at his back (as it was in the second quarter), the Lions were down, 24-16.

Lions coach Rod Marinelli said he never considered trying the field goal, though Hanson is 6-of-6 on 50-plus-yarders this year. “I just felt at that time, no,” Marinelli said.

That decision came back to bite the Lions in the fourth quarter. When Daunte Culpepper scored on a 1-yard sneak with 6:05 to play, the Lions needed a two-point conversion to tie. Culpepper was stuffed at the goal line on a designed run. Had Hanson made a 58-yarder, the extra point would have give the Lions a 26-24 lead and dramatically altered how the final six minutes were played.

“I might have gave it a shot, I think,” said Shaun Cody, a blocker on the field-goal unit. “I don't know. (Hanson's) been a stud all year and if there's a lone bright spot on this team, what's going on, it's definitely him and what he's doing and performing at the age he is and the years he's played. He's a stud.”

The other decisions involved Marinelli's choice to punt with 4:28 to play and the Lions facing fourth-and-4 at their own 26, and the Lions accepting a delay-of-game penalty a couple minutes later with the ball at their own 39.

I would have gone for it on fourth down (the Lions punted and Carolina ran four plays and 1:30 off the clock). You're down nine at the time so you need two scores. You're counting on a three-and-out by your defense either way, so even if you fail you're still two touchdowns from a win. And the time and your timeouts are your most precious commodities.

Marinelli's explanation: “I just felt if we didn't get it there, game's over for sure.”

As for the penalty, the Lions gave punter Jason Baker five extra yards to work with for no reason (after Carolina declined a similar penalty on Detroit earlier in the game). Baker landed his kick at the 5-yard line and Dante Wesley downed it at the 2. With 98 yards of field in front of them, the Lions didn't stand much chance to score.

Marinelli's explanation: “We did (consider declining the penalty). After talking with (special-teams coach Stan Kwan), he felt let's take it back. It gave us a better opportunity. That was our thought.”

A couple other random musings before I sign off:

• Daunte Culpepper and Calvin Johnson are nowhere close to in sync, not that I'd expect them to be with less than two weeks of practice time. Several times Sunday, Culpepper appeared to be expecting Johnson to do one thing and the receiver did another. The most egregious instance came on Culpepper's second interception, when he bootlegged right, froze a defender and caught Johnson's eye for a second before launching a pass. Johnson took off upfield and Charles Godfrey had an easy interception to seal the game. “We're going to work those kinks out the longer we're together,” Johnson said.

• I thought Michael Gaines fumbled just before the two-minute warning in the first half, but I won't argue with those who say the replay was inconclusive and the call on the field (down before the ball came loose) never should have been overturned. Said Gaines,  “I thought I was down but at the end of the day, that ain't the play that cost us the game.”

• Culpepper on whether he was facemasked on his failed two-point conversion attempt: “I don't know. It happened so fast I couldn't tell you.”

• Young defensive linemen Ikaika Alama-Francis, Andre Fluellen, Cliff Avril and Landon Cohen held their own in their most extensive action to date. Sure the Lions missed Dewayne White and Jared Devries, but the young foursome was much less a reason they lost then the play of their back seven. Fluellen missed a sack early and bounced off Steve Smith late, but Marinelli complimented his play. “When you have an opportunity to go Wally Pipp somebody and get better, and he did that. I was really excited about that,” he said. Marinelli also said Fluellen could settle in at defensive end instead of tackle because of his quick feet and agility.

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Lions-Panthers recap - Chapter I

The final numbers weren't pretty – four turnovers, three questionable coaching decisions and two 100-yard rushers allowed – but the truth of the matter is the Lions had a legitimate chance to win their first game of the season Sunday.

Turnovers aside, they played as well as they have all year offensively. Kevin Smith rushed for 112 yards, his first 100-yard game as a Lion. Daunte Culpepper wasn't great and he lacks timing with his receivers (to be expected since he's been with the team less than two weeks), but he's provided a confidence the team lacked the first half of the season. The Lions went for and converted two fourth downs in the first half and sustained three drives of at least 12 plays and more than six minutes.

Defensively, the Lions remain awful. It seems like I hammer this point every week, but there is a true lack of playmakers – capable tacklers, even – in the back seven. Leigh Bodden had his moments Sunday defending Steve Smith and Daniel Bullocks and Ernie Sims still have Grade-A potential, but there's not one player back there who would start on the majority of NFL teams.

Jonathan Stewart (15 carries for 130 yards and one touchdown) and DeAngelo Williams (14-120-2) became the first Panthers ever to rush for 100 yards in the same game, and the Lions made it happen by missing tackles, taking poor angles and making bad reads consistently. The backs averaged 8.7 yards and 8.6 yards per carry, respectively, and Carolina had nine rushes of 13 or more yards (including a 16-yard end around by Smith).

Lions coach Rod Marinelli rarely criticizes his players publicly and never bemoans his lack of talent, but parsing his words he came dangerously close in an exchange with one reporter after the game. Asked if he was encouraged at all by what he's seen, Marinelli said he had “unbelievable encouragement.”

“Why?” said the reporter.

“Why wouldn't I?” Marinelli responded.

Then after more back and forth, “I'm in a leadership role and I'm leading these men. That's my job. My job is to believe in men and lead them and encourage them and show them how. We got six games left. That's my job, that's what I do. I don't bag on them, I don't throw them in the waste can. I encourage them to get better. I'll go back out next week and teach and work because that's what I am and that's what a teacher does. Have we failed? Yes. Have I failed? Yes. Am I going to give up? No way. Am I discouraged? No way, I'm not and you can ask me that (until) the cows come home and you're going to get the exact same answer.”

The reporter continued his questioning, asking if Marinelli would still feel that way if the Lions went 0-16, and Marinelli said, “The only thing I feel bad about, if I don't work as hard as I can work, if I don't get the best out of these guys and I don't go to work every day upbeat and positive and believing in these people because they're the ones that we have. There's nobody else out there. There's nobody out there. You want to go out on the street and look for me? If you bring somebody back I'll look at him. ... You go out on the street and find one. These are the men I have. I'm going to work, I'm going to encourage them, I'm going to meet, I'm going to walk-through exactly like we've done all year.”

But it's about results, the reporter said, pointing out the Lions are 10-32 under Marinelli and 0-10 this year.

“I've been in the NFL a long time, so I do understand that phase of it,” Marinelli said. “What do I do, put my head in the sand? No, I get up. You got problems, get up, fight, teach. These are the guys we have and I got to get them better. They're trying, they're working, are we getting it done? No. Am I going to get up again tomorrow and work? You bet I am. One-hundred percent I'm going to do that. Answered?”

The exchange continued for a minute longer, but that was the gist of it and Marinelli is right. As much flack as he catches for some of his comments, as often as he repeats the same message to the frustration of fans, he's on point. He'll never give up on his players, nor should he, and because he hasn't his players haven't given up on him.

I know that's not the popular sentiment as the Lions cruise towards NFL infamy, but it's the truth. The Lions have made plenty of tweaks on defense (blitzing more, using a five-man front, deploying Cliff Avril as an outside linebacker) to no avail and a complete overhaul at this stage of the season is unrealistic. On offense, they've undergone that drastic a change by signing and starting Culpepper, and some of their other better-late-than-never moves still may pay dividends.

In reality, though, they remain overmatched most Sundays, sometimes severely so. That doesn't excuse the product on the field. The Lions are an underachieving atrocity this year. But from a coaches' and players' perspective, there's no reason not to keep on plugging.

Week 11 picks

If you watched my Lions Lowdown video the other day, you know I'm out on a limb in predicting that the Lions will win two games the rest of the year. This won't be one of them.

Carolina is too good at home – 5-0 with wins by an average of of 15.8 points – and the Lions have too many issues with injuries to starters Dewayne White, Jared DeVries, Dwight Smith and Dominic Raiola. The spread is 14 and I've got the Panthers winning, 31-14.

Now for the rest of my selections. As always picks are against the spread and home team is in caps.

Home covers you can't deny
NY GIANTS minus-7 over Baltimore
INDIANAPOLIS minus-8 over Houston
GREEN BAY minus-3 1/2 over Chicago
TAMPA BAY minus-5 over Minnesota
PITTSBURGH minus-5 over San Diego
BUFFALO minus-5 over Cleveland (Monday night)

Home dogs that bite
JACKSONVILLE plus-3 over Tennessee

Road warriors laying with love
Philadelphia minus-9 over CINCINNATI
New Orleans minus-6 over KANSAS CITY
Arizona minus-3 over SEATTLE
Dallas minus-1 1/2 over WASHINGTON

Points only, please
Denver plus-6 1 2 over ATLANTA
Oakland plus-10 over MIAMI
St. Louis plus-7 over SAN FRANCISCO

Record: 3-10 last week, 67-72-3 overall

Culpepper a captain

It appears as if the Lions have named Daunte Culpepper a team captain for today's game at Carolina. The move comes in Culpepper's second week with the team - he'll make his second start today - and underscores the Lions' season-long problem of a lack of veteran leadership in the locker room. Earlier this year, running back Rudi Johnson, signed days before the season, served as captain for one game.

Neither of Detroit's offensive captains to start the year, center Dominic Raiola or quarterback Jon Kitna, is available today. Kitna went on injured reserve last month with back problems and Raiola is out for the second straight game with a broken right thumb.

As expected, defensive end Dewayne White (calf) and receiver Mike Furrey (concussion) are out today as well and did not make the trip to Carolina.


Friday odds and ends

Offensive coordinator Jim Colletto made it pretty clear today that the Lions don't plan on using Drew Stanton in goal-line situations Sunday against Carolina. Last week, Stanton took two snaps inside the 5 on the Lions' first-quarter touchdown drive (he threw the 1-yard scoring pass to John Owens) because the Lions didn't want to overload starter Daunte Culpepper in their rush to get him ready five days after he signed.

Asked if Stanton will play against the Panthers, Colletto didn't rule it out, though it seems the plan is to give Culpepper all the work as long as the game stays close.

“We'll see how the game plays out,” Colletto said. “This is the first time Daunte's played on the road where he's in the silent-count problems and all that. We'll see how he adjusts to that and we'll let the game kind of dictate that. We won't do the goal line. We did the goal-line thing a week ago for a specific reason, we probably won't do that this time.”

As for how his two quarterbacks played last week, Colletto said Culpepper is getting “better and better little by little” and Stanton was “good” overall and “fair” in the fourth quarter.

“Both he and Daunte held the ball a little bit, a couple of times,” Colletto said. “And that happens when they don't play. Their first time out there in the speed of the game and making instant decisions, that happens to a lot of quarterbacks when they first start out, they hold the ball a little too long.”

• I said earlier this week the Lions are basically finishing training camp here as they head into the 10th game of the season. They're on their third starting quarterback, have started six different offensive lines and will have just four of 11 players from their Week 1 defense in the starting lineup Sunday. I don't know who's fault that is – Matt Millen and the front office for their talent evaluation, the coaches for their indecisiveness, or players for underperforming – but I do know that's a big reason the Lions are 0-9. “The team we're playing right now, it's remarkable,” Colletto said. “They haven't had a change in the starting lineup on defense in the whole season. That's really unique. We might be the other end of the coin.”

• Vegas is beginning to think the Lions will finish the season winless. has set the line at 2-to-1 they finish 0-16. As for when they'll record their first win, Dec. 21 against the Saints is most likely according to the web site (11-to-4) followed by Dec. 7 against Minnesota (11-to-2). Games this week at Carolina, next week against Tampa and Dec. 14 at Indianapolis are all 6-to-1.

• Dominic Raiola probably will have to snap with his left hand if he's able to return from a broken right thumb next week as he hopes. That shouldn't be an issue when the quarterback is under center, but Colletto said Raiola hasn't mastered snapping lefty in the shotgun yet. “His left-handed shotgun snaps look like Hoyt Wilhelm's pitches,” Colletto said.

• Also on the injury front, Keith Smith, who's been perhaps the Lions' best cover man this year, will miss Sunday's game with a groin injury. Starting defensive ends Jared DeVries and Dewayne White and safety Dwight Smith also are out, and Mike Furrey is doubtful with lingering symptoms from a concussion. Quarterback Dan Orlovsky had his fractured right thumb re-examined Friday and will miss at least three more weeks.

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Final charge vs. Pearson dropped

Lions safety Kalvin Pearson had a misdemeanor charge of obstructing or opposing a police officer without violence dropped earlier this week, a person in the Florida state attorney's office said Friday.

Pearson was arrested in April on two felony counts of aggravated battery of a pregnant female and domestic battery by strangulation, and the misdemeanor charge of opposing an officer without force. The more serious charges were dropped during training camp.

Pearson probably will not face league discipline. Randall Liu, NFC information manager for the NFL, wrote in an email that the league "will review the court record to verify the facts, but discipline is unlikely when charges have been dismissed."

No reason was given for why attorneys decided not to pursue the misdemeanor. A status hearing scheduled for Thursday was canceled when charges were dropped.

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Lions Lowdown - Previewing Carolina


Culpepper's the starter

There are no secrets when it comes to quarterback this week for the Lions.

Lions coach Rod Marinelli said Wednesday that Daunte Culpepper will make his second straight start Sunday at Carolina. Culpepper was 5-of-10 passing for 104 yards in his Detroit debut last week, when he started five days after signing a two-year contract.

Culpepper was rusty as expected in three quarters against Jacksonville, when he was operating with only about 35 plays - all tucked inside a wristband on each arm.

"He got one under his belt right now," Marinelli said. "He's coming out here and he's just a worker, you can see that. He just looked, every day he's out here he's just getting better and better faster. ... I would expect every day and every week really a major step from him."

Culpepper said no one has informed him he'll start against the Panthers. Regardless, he said he's preparing as if he'll get the majority of the snaps again. Drew Stanton played the entire fourth quarter and one goal-line series early against Jacksonville.

"I've always tried to live by the creed good players don't make the same mistakes twice," said Culpepper, a three-time Pro Bowler in Minnesota. "I try to learn from my mistakes, just try to get better, just try to get more acclimated with the whole system and I'm just trying to move forward every day. So everything I can, every meeting, every snap in practice, I'm just trying to get a little bit better. I think it does help. The more reps that I get I will get better, I can say that."

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Talking Tampa 2

I still contend the Lions' biggest problem on defense is a lack of talent, but here's more fuel for those who say the Tampa 2 is an outdated brand and the Lions need to change schemes, coordinators and coaches.

In Chicago, where the Bears rode the Tampa 2 to the Super Bowl two years ago, coach Lovie Smith is answering similar questions about the bend-but-don't-break scheme's usefulness. From today's edition of Sporting News Today: "At its most basic, the scheme is designed to prevent big plays with the premise being opposing offenses can't construct 12-play scoring drives without messing up. The problem is opponents are marching straight downfield. The defense cannot generate a pass rush, even with the blitz, and the cornerbacks are not good enough to stop the pitch-and-catch routes."

Sound familiar? Chicago has better playmakers than the Lions - Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher, etc. - but the same problems. It does beg the question whether the perennially behind-the-curve Lions (they went West Coast offense after its heyday and Mike Martz after his) are strutting around in last year's fashions while the rest of league is sporting new designs.

Statistically, the top two defenses in the league this year belong to 3-4 teams the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. It's a copycat league and if the 3-4 is back as the defense of the future - the Jets, Cowboys and Patriots also run 3-4s and rank in the top 12 in total D - the Lions would be wise not to wait to try it until 2012. If the powers that be decide a coaching change is in order after the season, Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan should be at the top of the list.

Of course, in the Tampa 2's defense, the scheme, like any good one in the NFL, depends largely on pressuring the quarterback. Both the Lions and Bears have struggled in that area this year (they're tied for 18th with 17 sacks) while other 4-3 teams like the Giants, Eagles and Titans can claim plenty of success. Put Albert Haynesworth or Justin Tuck in a Lions uniform and things in Detroit might not look so bad.

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The Rodney Dangerfield effect

Judging by Sunday's 38-14 loss to Jacksonville, rookie running back Kevin Smith said the Lions don't have their opponents' respect anymore on the field.

“They thought we were a joke,” Smith said Monday, reiterating comments he made after the game (check my previous blog for those quotes). “They said we sucked. They were saying that to me, I sucked, and I told them they sucked, too. And they said well, not as bad as us. And I said you're right. We haven't won one game.”

Smith wouldn't say who was doing the trash-talking, but said Sunday was the first time he heard players cracking jokes about the Lions during a game.

“We're 0-9 so you can't look for really any teams to respect you,” he said. “You got to go out there and earn your respect and you only earn your respect by winning. So therefore, in nine games we haven't earned any respect. We play hard, we get close. But if you look at an 0-9 team or an 0-8 team when you play us and say you beat the Detroit Lions by a point, you don't look at it like, 'Oh, we respect them because we only beat them by a point.' No, you might look at it like, 'Uh, we slipped up. We played to their level.' I guess that's how they look at it when they beat us close.”

Before Sunday's blowout, the Lions lost their previous four games to Chicago, Washington, Houston and Minnesota by a combined 21 points.

“The only way to get respect (is) you got to beat somebody,” Smith said. “When a boxer boxes, you're respected by a win or a knockout. You're not respected by a close decision. No one cares about that.”

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Lions-Jaguars recap

Lions coach Rod Marinelli said he hasn't decided on a starting quarterback next week against Carolina, but I'd be surprised if it's not Daunte Culpepper. The Lions didn't bring Culpepper in to be a backup and they didn't start him against Jacksonville five days after he signed only to switch to a quarterback they didn't think was ready a week ago.

Culpepper, who wore a wristband full of plays on each arm, was 5-of-10 passing for 104 yards in Sunday's 38-14 loss to Jacksonville. He showed several signs of rust – an interception on his second pass and an underthrown deep ball to Calvin Johnson that should have been a touchdown – but really, after almost a year out of football, it's not fair to expect more.

Drew Stanton played two goal-line snaps early as was the plan – the Lions didn't bother to cram that part of the offense into Culpepper's playbook last week; “They said you've been around here long enough, you know them, so you're going to go in if we get to the 5,” Stanton said – and the entire fourth quarter. He finished 6-of-8 for 94 yards, was sacked five times and led Detroit on an 11-play, 88-yard touchdown drive. His best throw, a second would-be scoring pass, glanced off Shaun McDonald's hands near the goal line.

“It was fun,” Stanton said of his NFL debut. “Obviously the circumstances, but you just got to try and get in and do the best you can when you get an opportunity.”

Culpepper, too, said he was grateful for the opportunity to be playing again. He announced his retirement last month when no one offered him a chance to compete for a starting job, something that appears to be his in Detroit.

“I went out there and gave my best shot today,” Culpepper said. “I can tell you that I will get better and this team will get better.”

- Most of the attention Sunday was on Culpepper and Stanton, but the Lions' biggest problem was their defense. After taking a 7-3 lead late in the first quarter, Detroit allowed five consecutive touchdown drives of at least seven plays and 54 yards. Maurice Jones-Drew scored three second-quarter TDs – half his season total entering Sunday – and the Lions held the ball for a total of three plays and 1 minute, 26 seconds in the third quarter. They had minus-6 yards of offense in the period.

- On the good-news front, the Lions finally handed their starting running-back job back to rookie Kevin Smith. Smith ran for a career-high 96 yards on 23 carries and scored on a 1-yard run. It was a wise decision. He's a better back with more upside than Rudi Johnson.

- Smith wasn't too pleased with how the Lions regressed after playing four straight close games. “We didn’t go forward,” he said. “These last four or five games we've been losing at the end, a couple bad calls, but we've been playing, we've been playing with those teams. Behind our backs they can say, ‘The Lions aren’t good. The Lions suck.’ But on that field they were going through it. They were feeling us. Jacksonville wasn’t feeling us. They were out there cracking jokes, having fun. If you’re a player and a competitor and you got love for this game, you should feel sick like me. I feel sick to my stomach. All this (stuff) sickens me.”

- One more thought from the very quotable Smith: “We need to start taking responsibility. And the guys who consider themselves playmakers and all that, they need to make plays. That’s  how I feel. That’s what I’m saying. They need to make plays. We need to make plays a team. It was not the coaches. We’re the ones that go out there and put on our cleats. There’s no reason we take losses like this. It’s embarrassing. It’s disgusting.”

- Safety Kalvin Pearson, on the possibility he could draw another $7,500 fine for the personal foul he drew late in Sunday's third quarter for a hit on Jacksonville receiver Reggie Williams: “They probably might double it this time. I don't know what to say. I guess they want me to play two-hand touch maybe.” Asked how officials explained the penalty, Pearson, who was fined for a horse-collar tackle last week against Chicago, said, “One dude said I threw the forearm and one dude said I (went) helmet-to-helmet, so I don't know. I'll know by Thursday or Friday when I get the Fed Ex.”

- We'll find out more on the injury front Monday, but things don't look good for defensive ends Dewayne White and Jared DeVries. White, the Lions' top pass rusher, left on the first play of Jacksonville's second drive with a calf injury. He pulled up lame as he turned the corner to pressure David Garrard. DeVries broke his hand later in the game and Marinelli said he might require surgery.

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Lions looking awful, down 38-7

If you live in the Detroit area, be thankful you're not watching the Lions game right now. It's the start of the fourth quarter and they're down 38-7. They've given up touchdowns on five consecutive drives and just held the ball for all of three plays in the third quarter.

About the only thing you're missing is Drew Stanton's NFL debut. As I wrote earlier, Daunte Culpepper started with Stanton being used in special packages. He came in and threw a 1-yard touchdown pass on his first career attempt for the Lions' only touchdown. He's about to take over Culpepper now and play the entire fourth quarter.

It's good that coaches are finally giving him an opportunity to get on the field. Fifteen minutes isn't a true gauge of what he can do, but the Lions don't have anything else to play for now but the future.

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Culpepper to start; Stanton may play

Daunte Culpepper will start in his Lions debut this afternoon, five days after signing a two-year contract with the team.

Culpepper took the slight majority of reps in practice all week and will be under center for most of today's game against Jacksonville. The Lions (0-8) do have a plan in place to use backup Drew Stanton in special situations, though the two quarterbacks will not alternate series.

A three-time Pro Bowler in Minnesota, Culpepper last played Nov. 25, 2007, when he started for Oakland and led the Raiders to a 20-17 win over Kansas City. He announced his retirement last month when he was unable to find a starting job, but said Wednesday he'd be ready to play today.

"I consider myself a smart guy," he said. "As far as learning, I was always a player who could learn in the classroom and take it onto the field so I don't see it taking a lot of time, but the decision is up to the coaches. When they think I'm ready they'll put me out there."

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Week 10 picks

A few weeks ago I predicted the Lions would win two games this year -- home games against Jacksonville and Minnesota. I still think they'll manage a couple wins in the second half of the season, but I don't think today's game will be one of them. The Jaguars aren't playing well right now, but they lost to previously winless Cincinnati last week and according to STATS if they lose this week it will mark the first time in NFL history a team has dropped back-to-back games to winless teams this late in the season. History is against them.
At 6 1/2 points, though, I will take the Lions to cover in what should be Daunte Culpepper's team debut. I'd expect a rusty performance out of the quarterback who's been out of the league all year, but with just enough flash -- and just enough Kevin Smith -- to keep the game close. I'll go Jacksonville 23, Detroit 20 in another heartbreaker.
Now for the rest of my picks. As always, choices are against the spread and home team is in all caps.
Home favorites you can't deny
MIAMI minus-8 over Seattle
MINNESOTA minus-2 1/2 over Green Bay
SAN DIEGO minus-15 over Kansas City
PITTSBURGH minus-4 1/2 over Indianapolis
PHILADELPHIA minus-3 over NY Giants
HOUSTON pick over Baltimore
Road warriors laying with love
Tennessee minus-3 over CHICAGO
Carolina minus-9 1/2 vs. OAKLAND
Road dogs that bite
Buffalo plus-3 1/2 over NEW ENGLAND
New Orleans plus-1 over ATLANTA
Points only please
St. Louis plus-9 over NY JETS
San Francisco plus-9 1/2 over ARIZONA
Record: 7-7 last week, 64-62-3 overall


Alexander 'great' after surgery

Lions safety Gerald Alexander underwent successful neck surgery last week in Los Angeles and should be able to participate in conditioning workouts when the team's offseason program begins in March, his agent Jerome Stanley said Friday.

"He's out of the brace and walking around and feels great," Stanley said. "It was very successful."

Alexander fractured a vertebrae in his neck last month trying to tackle Adrian Peterson. Stanley said he could be cleared to resume jogging and lower-body workouts next month and expects that Alexander will "do a full OTA" next spring. Even if he's cleared, the Lions, for precautionary reasons, likely will restrict Alexander until (and maybe into) training camp.

Orlovsky has two fractures; Raiola out

Dan Orlovsky has two fractures and a torn ligament in his right thumb, but the Lions have not yet put him on injured reserve.

Orlovsky, who suffered the injury on the first play of last week's 27-23 loss to Chicago, said Friday he will visit a second hand specialist at the beginning of next week to better determine a course of treatment. He could undergo surgery now or after the season, and could join Jon Kitna on IR as soon as next week. For now, the Lions are carrying four quarterbacks on their roster.

Lions coach Rod Marinelli also ruled center Dominic Raiola out for Sunday's game against Jacksonville. Andy McCollum will start in place of Raiola, who had started 104 straight games.

Daunte Culpepper, signed earlier this week as a free agent, is expected to start at quarterback Sunday in his Lions' debut. Culpepper has taken the majority of first-team reps all week in practice, working in front of last year's second-round pick Drew Stanton.

Marinelli did not name a starter Friday.

Lions Lowdown - Previewing Jacksonville


Still quiet on the QB front

Rod Marinelli declined to name a starting quarterback again Thursday, but reading between the lines Daunte Culpepper still looks like the guy.

Culpepper and Drew Stanton split reps for the second straight day Thursday, with Culpepper going first in the rotation. Dan Orlovsky is on his way back from New York right now, where he visited a hand specialist this morning. He is not expected to be available this weekend, though official word won't come until tomorrow.

Marinelli said he wants to evaluate Thursday's practice on film to see how his quarterbacks have been handling checks and making reads before deciding on a starter. He acknowledged Stanton probably knows the system better having been in it all year, but said there's something comforting about Culpepper's veteran presence, too.

“That guy's done it, been there, confidence, command,” Marinelli said. “Those are vital things also. I'm not saying I'm going that way. I'm taking each day and trying to do a good job evaluating, trying not to look ahead. I'm going to take this practice tape and see where we've made improvements and then I'll look at that and tomorrow we'll have another good day and try to evaluate. And my goal is to put the best team on that field that helps this team win. That's my goal.”

Marinelli pointed out that veteran quarterbacks have signed as free agents and stepped immediately into playing time before. Last year with quarterbacks Jake Delhomme and David Carr out, Carolina signed Vinny Testaverde on a Wednesday, started him on Sunday, and the Panthers beat the Cardinals in Testaverde's Carolina debut, 25-10.

“Certain veterans can do it, some can't,” Marinelli said. “And that's what I'm trying to find out right now.”

In other news:

• Safety Dwight Smith did not practice Thursday and looks like he'll miss his third straight game with a mid-foot sprain.

• Marinelli said rookie linebacker Jordon Dizon “could be an outside guy” long term. Dizon is working at strong-side linebacker and in the middle on nickel packages in practice.

• As for why he kept coordinators Joe Barry and Jim Colletto off limits from the media Thursday, Marinelli said simply, “I think this is the right thing for me to do.”

• Marinelli on whether Dominic Raiola, who has a broken right thumb, really could snap left-handed and play Sunday: “When a man gets something in his mind – we were on the plane and he had it; he's snapping on the aisle. It means everything to him. I love seeing that. It means everything in the world to him, but we'll just see how things progress.”

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Lions blacked out - again

The Lions failed to reach a sellout for Sunday's game against Jacksonville and will be blacked out on local television for the second time this year. About 6,000 tickets remain.

After 50 straight sellouts at Ford Field and 51 overall, the Lions have been blacked out in consecutive home games. Their 25-17 loss to Washington two weeks ago drew an announced crowd of 54,312. At that time, it was the NFL's first blackout of the year.

To purchase tickets, visit the Ford Field box office or buy online at

Silencing Colletto?

For the two years I've been on the beat, the Lions have followed a standard protocol in making their coaches available to the media during regular game weeks. Head coach Rod Marinelli speaks on Mondays (usually at a press conference), Wednesdays and Fridays, and coordinators Joe Barry and Jim Colletto (or last year Mike Martz) are available on Thursdays.

Today, things have changed. Instead of the usual coordinator availability, Marinelli is scheduled to meet with reporters following practice and Barry and Colletto are not available. The Lions are well within their right to change things up – NFL policy mandates coordinators be available every other week – but I have to wonder how much this has to do with silencing Colletto for his “embarrass” comments about quarterback Drew Stanton last week?

Colletto has been pleasantly forthcoming about a lot of things in his media sessions this year, but Marinelli said he picked a poor choice of words in explaining why Stanton was not ready for game action and after he confirmed Gosder Cherilus' one-game benching last month, Marinelli said that was not something he wanted to share with the media.

I was looking forward to asking Colletto how much better Stanton got in the last week of practice, if he's ready to play now just in case the Lions decide to use him this week against Jacksonville. I guess I'll have to settle for hearing Marinelli's explanation on why his coordinators are off limits instead.

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Orlovsky to see specialist; Culpepper looks like the starter

Dan Orlovsky said he will visit a hand specialist in New York tomorrow morning for further examination on his injured right thumb.

Orlovsky, the Lions' starting quarterback the last four weeks, did not practice Wednesday and wore a hard cast on his right hand. He said Monday he had a sprained thumb, but a team source referred to his injury Tuesday as a cracked bone. Asked Wednesday if he had a fractured thumb, Orlovsky said he won't know until seeing the specialist. He is not expected to practice Thursday and the Lions are making plans to play without him this weekend against Jacksonville.

Newly-signed Daunte Culpepper took the slight majority of first-team reps at quarterback Wednesday, with Drew Stanton working second in the rotation and taking the rest. Stanton said he was told not to talk about how practice snaps were divided.

"I was told Rod has a plan or we as an organization have a plan and I'm not supposed to elaborate on that," he said.

Lions coach Rod Marinelli said Culpepper showed some of the same attributes that stood out in his free-agent workout last week - a cannon arm and good feet - and receiver Mike Furrey said Culpepper "looked good out there today."

"Right now he's got to put this whole offense together in three days going into Sunday and we're trying to do everything we can do right now to get him in that position," Furrey said.

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Crash course for Culpepper

Newly-signed quarterback Daunte Culpepper is expected to get about two-thirds of the first-team reps in his first Lions practice today.

Culpepper officially signed with the Lions Tuesday and could start this weekend's home game against Jacksonville. Dan Orlovsky, who started the last four games, did not take part in the individual portion of Wednesday's practice that's open to the media but was on the field with a cast on his throwing hand. He said Monday he has a sprained thumb and was day-to-day, but the injury is believed to be more serious.

Drew Stanton, a second-round pick out of Michigan State last year, will get the rest of today's first-team reps. He has never taken a regular-season NFL snap.

Lions coach Rod Marinelli said Monday he hoped to use Wednesday's practice to get Sunday's starter ready. "It's hard splitting way too many reps," Marinelli said. "It's hard, very difficult."

On a teleconference with Detroit media, Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio said "it'd be very tough" for Culpepper to start Sunday.

"I think it's possible, I think it'd be very difficult," he said. "It just depends on how much he could familiarize himself, how close some of the terminology is to some of the things he's heard in the past and whether or not he can get his footwork in order and his hots and his protections and all the different things you've got to work through at that position. There's an awful lot to that position so it would be a heck of a deal if he could pull it off."

Del Rio said the Jaguars haven't watched any film of Culpepper this week, but they know his skills and tendencies well. Assistant head coach Mike Tice coached Culpepper in Minnesota.

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Daunte's arrived

New Lions quarterback Daunte Culpepper has arrived at the practice facility. He did not step foot in the locker room during an open media session that just ended, but he should sign his contract later today.

Most of Rod Marinelli's press conference was devoted to answering questions about Culpepper and fellow quarterbacks Dan Orlovsky and Drew Stanton. Orlovsky has a sprained throwing thumb and was in a hard cast Monday. He could practice Wednesday, but regardless my guess would be that Culpepper starts this weekend against Jacksonville - something Marinelli would not rule out.

"He's got so many tools," Marinelli said of Culpepper. "You just want to see him come in and work and see where he's at. But you wouldn't bring a guy in not to compete for the starting job."

Orlovsky spent most of the afternoon reiterating his stance from last week, that's not worried what Culpepper's arrival means for his future.

"I think I can be a really consistent, top-notch starter in this league," Orlovsky said. "Watching the film that I watched today compared to the film that I watched four weeks ago, I'm not the same person. And just seeing me make throws and do things as a quarterback is verification in my mind that, yeah, I can do this, I can do it well."

Asked if he thought it would happen in Detroit, Orlovsky said, "I don't know. I'm excited about Jacksonville."

Daunte says

I just got off a plane from Chicago and arrived at the Lions' Allen Park practice facility to an e-mail from new Lions quarterback Daunte Culpepper. He said he's leaving today for Detroit and confirmed his deal with the Lions in this statement:

"I have agreed to terms with the Detroit Lions and after taking a physical, I plan on signing a 2 year contract. As a result of doing some research on different places to play, The Detroit Lions seemed to be the best fit for me. I am encouraged by the commitment of ownership, the vision of management and the great potential of the talent that is on the team. I am grateful to the Lions organization for giving me an opportunity to both continue my NFL career and make a positive impact in the Detroit community. I hope to contribute to the team in whatever role coach Marinelli needs for me to play."

Culpepper probably won't be available to the local media until tomorrow. As has been thoroughly reported, he is expected to replace Dan Orlovsky as starter some time in the near future, perhaps as early as this weekend against Jacksonville.

Lions-Bears recap

Whether Daunte Culpepper's first start as a Lion comes this week against Jacksonville, next week against Carolina or some other week soon, don't expect there to be much of a quarterback controversy in Detroit. Dan Orlovsky has been serviceable in his four starts since taking over for Jon Kitna, but there's a reason the Lions signed Culpepper beyond simply locking up a veteran for next year. They want to win games, now, and they think Culpepper gives them the best chance for a variety of reasons.

Orlovsky set career marks for completions, attempts and passing yards in Sunday's 27-23 loss to the Bears, but he left more to be desired than he showed. His two interceptions, his first two as starter, resulted in a minimum six-point swing in Chicago's favor. (The Bears scored on a field goal after Orlovsky's first pick on the first possession of the game, and his second came in the end zone early in the fourth quarter on a third-and-9 from the Chicago 19.)

Beyond that, Orlovsky missed several crucial throws as the Lions squandered their second straight halftime lead then failed in a late comeback attempt. With the Lions leading 23-20 and a chance to put the game away, Orlovsky overthrew a would-be touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson on the first play of the Lions' second fourth-quarter drive. Detroit went three-and-out on the series, and Rex Grossman scored on a 1-yard sneak on the ensuing possession to give Chicago the lead.

A series later, after an ill-conceived end-around to Johnson saddled the Lions with second-and-16, Orlovsky checked down and hit running back Kevin Smith with a 3-yard pass when Johnson had a chance for a big play on a post route down field. Late in a tight game with plenty of protection, that's a throw Orlovsky has to see.

I bring these plays up not to blame Orlovsky for another Lions loss – their problems Sunday had just as much to do with costly penalties (a fourth-quarter false start on Jeff Backus that knocked them out of field-goal range), a few late defensive breakdowns and poor field conditions – but to illustrate why the organization felt signing Culpepper was necessary. He will start soon because those on the inside feel he gives the Lions the best chance to win.

A few more leftover notes from Sunday:

- Soon-to-be-third-string-quarterback Drew Stanton said he doesn't know how the quarterback reps will be split going forward. "I guess we'll find out more (Monday) and hopefully have a better understanding of what's going on, not only next week but hopefully for the rest of my season and for my future here in Detroit," he said.

- I can't help but feel bad for Jason Hanson, who's having a heck of a season (he kicked his fifth field goal of 50 or more yards Sunday) but had an extra point blocked when he lost his footing in loose turf. "I usually come to Solider Field and I'm checking out the wind and it's going to be cold or something and really it wasn't," Hanson said. "That's about as decent a wind as I've ever had here, but then the field was soggy. Both teams were doing it but everybody was slipping and like I said, I had to make some adjustments. I couldn't do what I normally do." Hanson said he altered his approach to attack less off his toes and more flat-footed.

- The Lions scored 23 points in Sunday's second quarter and none the rest of the game. They had scored 29 points total in the second quarters of their first seven games, and 36 total in the first halves.

- Several times this year the Lions have wasted timeouts in the second half they could have used later in the game. It happened again Sunday, when they were forced to burn a timeout on first-and-goal from the 1 when they had 12 men on the field. "That's just a lack of focus on our part," defensive tackle Cory Redding said. "Those are crucial timeouts and we need to keep them, and here we had to waste one of them because we had 12 men on the field."


Week 9 picks

I don't have much confidence that Dan Orlovsky's fourth (and perhaps final) start as a Lion will be much different than his first three. The Bears will get out to an early lead, control the clock for most of the game, and the Lions will keep things just close enough to tantalize their fans.

Since the Bears are 13-point favorites today (understandable since they beat the Lions, 34-7, last month), that means I'm picking Detroit to cover its final game B.C.(before Culpepper).

Here's the rest of my picks. As always, choices are against the spread and home team is in all caps.

Home covers you can't deny
MINNESOTA minus-4 1 2 over Houston
JACKSONVILLE minus-7 1 2 over Cincinnati
BUFFALO minus-5 over N.Y. Jets
TENNESSEE minus-4 over Green Bay
DENVER minus-3 1 2 over Miami
N.Y. GIANTS minus-8 1 2 over Dallas
INDIANAPOLIS minus-6 1 2 over New England

Home dogs that bite
OAKLAND plus-3 over Atlanta

Road warriors laying with love
Philadelphia minus-6 1 2 over SEATTLE
Arizona minus-3 over ST. LOUIS
Baltimore minus-2 over CLEVELAND
Tampa Bay minus-9 over KANSAS CITY

Don't need 'em but I'll take 'em
Pittsburgh plus-2 over WASHINGTON

Record: 6-7-1 last week, 57-55-3 season

More on Culpepper

The Daunte Culpepper deal is not 100 percent finalized, but there are no major hurdles in its way and the two sides should complete it when they resume talks Sunday, league and Lions sources said. The deal is essentially for two years, though it will be structured as a one-year contract with a team option for next season. Culpepper will make a prorated portion of the league minimum for the final eight weeks this year ($730,000 for players with nine years of service) and somewhere in the $7-million neighborhood next year.

As I said in my previous blog, Culpepper is being brought in both for this and next season. He is expected to compete for the starting job immediately, and could be on the field as soon as next week against Jacksonville (assuming he picks up the system quickly). Dan Orlovsky will be the No. 2 quarterback once Culpepper takes over as starter, and Drew Stanton will be No. 3. Drew Henson will be released once Culpepper signs, but the Lions hope to re-sign him to the practice squad. (He's practice-squad eligible as long as he doesn't play against the Bears.)

Orlovsky, a free-agent-to-be, is unlikely to return next season, though he's proven himself a serviceable backup. In all likelihood, Culpepper, Stanton and Henson will be the Lions quarterbacks next year, with  perhaps a rookie also in the mix. Jon Kitna also is under contract, but he's expected to be traded or released this offseason.

Though I'm on record as saying I would play Orlovsky and Stanton the rest of this year in order to assess their long-term futures, I understand the Culpepper signing on several fronts. First, there are few good veterans slated for free agency next year and rather than try to trade for a jury's-out Derek Anderson, the Lions locked up the player they think gives them the best chance to win. Second, the Lions appear convinced that neither Orlovsky nor Stanton is their quarterback of the future. Stanton, a 2007 second-round draft pick, still could develop, but the organizational belief – as Jim Colletto expressed in no uncertain terms last week – is that he's nowhere near ready now.

If Culpepper, who has not returned e-mails seeking comment, recaptures any of the magic he had in Minnesota pre-knee surgery, the signing will be well worth the Lions' minimal investment. If not, well, they don't feel there's much downside either considering the current makeup of their roster.

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Culpepper coming

ESPN is reporting that Daunte Culpepper has agreed to a two-year deal with the Lions and will sign Monday. I can't confirm the terms of the deal or if one has been completed, but after talking to a variety of team and league sources I'll repeat what I wrote last week – the Lions expect to sign Culpepper before next Sunday's game at Jacksonville.

The intent is to make Culpepper the starter as soon as possible while also securing his services for next year. The Lions run one of the simplest offenses in the NFL and Culpepper should have no trouble picking it up. Dan Orlovsky, who'll make his fourth start Sunday against Chicago, will serve as the No. 2 quarterback once Culpepper settles into his role, and Drew Stanton will be No. 3. Unless Drew Henson plays against the Bears, he still has practice-squad eligibility remaining and could re-sign.

Culpepper, who's representing himself in negotiations, has not returned multiple e-mails in recent days seeking comment. Lions coach Rod Marinelli said Friday communication was still open with Culpepper and fellow free-agent quarterback Tim Rattay, though I can report that the Lions have not had any contact with Rattay or his representatives since shortly after his workout two weeks ago.

Knowing this was the likely scenario, I asked Orlovsky on Friday if he thought his play Sunday would have any affect on the Culpepper deal and who starts the rest of the season.

"You have to ask the people who make those decisions," he said. "My play affects one thing and that's whether we win or lose in my opinion. It's nothing I consume myself with or worry about."

On Friday, Lions coach Rod Marinelli said Orlovsky's play would have no impact on the team's pursuit of a veteran quarterback.

"There's nothing in that," he said. "We go out and we research the men that were out there and that would not influence good or bad with what our decisions would be."

True enough, it seems the Lions have settled on a new starting quarterback without giving the two youngsters on their roster a true shot at winning the job.

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