Blogs > Lions Lowdown

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.


Smith, Hill do not practice

ALLEN PARK — Running back Kevin Smith (shoulder), defensive tackle Sammie Hill (ankle) and defensive end Dewayne White did not practice this morning.

However, linebacker Ernie Sims (shoulder) and defensive end Cliff Avril (hamstring) were back on the practice field. Neither of them played in Sunday’s win. Avril also missed the game against the Vikings.

No emotions for Marinelli

ALLEN PARK — Former Lions coach Rod Marinelli, who is now defensive line coach and assistant coach for the Chicago Bears, told the Chicago Sun-Times he doesn’t see any significance in playing his former team.

“I focus on my opponent. I don’t even acknowledge them. I just work on what we do, each and every week. I know it sounds cliche. I’m not a cliche guy. I’m just telling the truth. No one here wants to believe it. That’s how I live,’’ Marinelli told the Sun-Times. “I’m really good at that. I’m very disciplined because that would be cheating my guys. When I’m in this office, I have to help them get better. I have to add value.’’

Marinelli was fired after the Lions finished 0-16 last season.

Figurs gone, Jennings back

  Two more moves were announced this morning, both involving wide receivers.  Adam Jennings, who was released on Sept. 7. has been signed. Jennings, who spent the last three seasons with Atlanta, was signed as a free agent in the offseason. While Yamon Figurs was released. Figurs had been picked up on Sept. 7 when he was claimed off waivers from Baltimore. He played in all three games, but had just one catch for seven yards and that was in the opener at New Orleans. — PAULA PASCHE

Roster changes made

The Lions made it official this morning that they have signed defensive tackle Chuck Darby and released cornerback Marcus McCauley. Darby, who was cut on Sept. 5, was with the Lions last season and during the offseason. The Lions are thin at defensive tackle with just rookie Sammie Hill, Grady Jackson and Landon Cohen.  McCauley, who was signed off waivers from Minnesota on Sept. 7, was inactive for the last two games.

In other moves, tight end Carson Butler (Michigan) and wide receiver John Broussard were released from the practice squad, while wide receiver Taurus Johnson and cornerback DeAndre Wright were assigned to the practice squad. – PAULA PASCHE

Lions bring in reinforcements

According to published reports, the Lions brought in nearly a dozen players for tryouts Tuesday, looking for help at a couple of positions hit by injuries.

In the end, after trying out 11 players — including two running backs, five cornerbacks, a safety, a defensive tackles and a pair of wide receivers, according to — the Lions signed a familiar face, veteran defensive tackle Chuck Darby, to the active roster, and cut cornerback Marcus McCauley to make room.

According to's Kevin Siefert, the Lions also signed one of the wide recievers, Taurus Johnson, to the practice squad. An undrafted free agent who spent training camp with the Chiefs, Johnson is one of the all-time leaders in kick returns for the University of South Florida.

While the volume of traffic is unusual for the Lions, who no longer get precedence for on waiver wire claims, the positions indicate that there could be some injury issues.

The re-signing of Darby, who spent last year and all of the offseason with the Lions, may mean that the injury to fourth-round pick Sammie Hill may be more serious than it seemed Sunday, when the rookie started, left the game with an injury, then returned but did not look like he was full speed. By bringing in a pair of running backs — one of whom was on-again, off-again Lion Aveion Cason — for tryouts, the Lions may be showing their hand on the seriousness of Kevin Smith's shoulder injury.

Nickel corner Eric King missed Sunday's win with a shoulder injury, as well, while Phillip Buchanon — the starter at corner coming out of camp — missed one game with a neck injury, then was beaten out for the job by Will James last week. After getting a long return on both a punt and a kick against the Saints in Week One, the primary returners — Dennis Northcutt (punts) and Aaron Brown (kicks) — repeatedly put the Lions in bad field position against Washington on Sunday. If the Lions do make another roster move to shore up the return game, it will be further indication of how far third-round pick Derrick Williams has fallen out of favor with the coaching staff. Williams was drafted to boost returns, but has yet to be active for a regular-season game.

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Defense pulls together

 The defense really came together on Sunday in the 19-14 win over the Redskins despite the fact they were without two starters — defensive end Cliff Avril (hamstring) and linebacker Ernie Sims (shoulder). On top of that they started three rookies with DeAndre Levy notching his first NFL start.  He joined defensive tackle Sammie Hill and safety Louis Delmas, rookies who have started all three games. The Lions’ defense held the Redskins to zero rushing yards in the first half and just 65 overall. Clinton Portis had 12 carries for just 42 yards. They’ll need to continue to improve to have a chance to beat the Bears in Chicago on Sunday. — PAULA PASCHE


Happy, but ...

Coach Jim Schwartz was definitely happy with the 19-14 win over Washington, but he was realistic too.

“The game shouldn’t have been that close. We should have had guys on the sideline with hats on enjoying the end of the game rather than battling at the end of the game,’’ Schwartz said on Monday.  “... We left too many opportunities on the field. A win is a win and we’re happy with a win — you’re never not happy with a win in the NFL. But our expectations need to be higher.''

Kevin Smith status unknown

 ALLEN PARK — Running back Kevin Smith underwent tests after he injured his right shoulder in Sunday’s 19-14 win over the Washington Redskins. Coach Jim Schwartz, in his Monday press conference, would not be specific about the injury or whether Smith will be able to play on Sunday at Chicago. Smith said the injury does not involve the bones, but he would also not be more specific. He plans to spend many of his waking hours in the next few days getting the shoulder iced. Smith, who had 16 carries for 101 yards on Sunday before he was injured, hopes to be back at practice on Wednesday. — PAULA PASCHE

James steps up in win

 Much of what coach Jim Schwartz has been saying for the past few months is coming to fruition. He said all starting jobs would be won week to week. We saw that when cornerback Will James got the start in place of Phillip Buchanon in Sunday’s 19-14 win over the Redskins. Schwartz said James won the job with a good week of practice last week. He finished with two tackles and a pass defense. Schwartz opened up all jobs when he arrived which provided an extra dose of competition starting in training camp. — PAULA PASCHE


See the Lions win on

 Since the Lions' 19-14 win over Washington on Sunday was blacked out locally, it will be shown for 72 hours on starting at midnight on Sunday. It’s a part of their game rewind package which is new this season.

Avril inactive again

The Lions will be without their best pass rusher against the Redskins again today, as second-year defensive end Cliff Avril is listed on the inactive list.

Avril led all rookies last year with four forced fumbles, adding five sacks, and had five tackles and a sack in last year's game against Washington, but the second-year defensive end will miss the second consecutive game with a hamstring injury. He will again be replaced in the starting lineup at left end by Jason Hunter, who acquitted himself well in his first career start against the Vikings last week.

Three other starters will also be out of the starting lineup against the Redskins. Left guard Daniel Loper will be replaced in the starting lineup by Manny Ramirez, rookie DeAndre Levy will get his first career start at weak-side linebacker in place of Ernie Sims (shoulder), and Will James will start in place of Phillip Buchanon (neck) at cornerback.

Buchanon, however, did dress for the game.

Other inactives include third quarterback Drew Stanton, reserve corners Marcus McCauley and Eric King, defensive end Turk McBride and offensive tackle Ephraim Salaam.

The Redskins' list of inactives does not include Clinton Portis, so likely he'll play, despite bone spurs in both ankles that kept him out of practice late in the week.

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Countdown to Redskins vs. Lions

We're about 45 minutes out from the Game 3 live blog from Ford Field, and all set to go. For access to the blog, scroll down the list of recent posts to the Lions Lowdown blog, and click on the graphic to sign in, and enjoy.

As a programming note, we had some connectivity issues last week, with the wireless access going in and out. If that happens again, and the live blog goes down, we'll get it back up and running as quickly as we can. Just be patient, and thanks for reading.


Three to watch

The Redskins will provide a hefty challenge to the 0-2 Lions who desperately seek their first win in 20 games. On Sunday keep an eye on three players:

Rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford who continues to improve, but needs to throw more touchdowns than interceptions. His confidence remains high, but the Redskins’ defense could give the kid a headache or two.

Rookie linebacker Deandre Levy who is expected to start at left outside linebacker for the injured Ernie Sims (shoulder). Coach Jim Schwartz said he has practiced well all week but the only thing that matters is if he can translate that onto the field.

Running back Kevin Smith who had a good game against the Vikings but is nowhere close to being satisfied. Getting the running game going is essential if the Lions want to win and Smith carries the bulk of that load.


Redskins at Lions live blog


Portis questionable; 3 Lions doubtful

The biggest news on Friday’s injury report regards Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis who did not practice Friday due to an ankle injury. He is listed as questionable for Sunday.

For the Lions, as expected, defensive end Cliff Avril (hamstring), who missed last Sunday’s game, is doubtful to play Sunday against the Redskins. Linebacker Ernie Sims, who injured his shoulder in the last play of the loss to the Vikings, is also doubtful along with cornerback Eric King (shoulder). None of the three practiced on Friday. Three are questionable for Sunday: cornerback Phillip Buchanon (neck), defensive end Andre Fluellen (knee) and quarterback Drew Stanton (knee). Defensive tackle Grady Jackson (knee), fullback Jerome Felton (ankle), defensive tackle Sammie Hill (neck), guard Daniel Loper (knee) and safety Marquand Manuel (knee) are probable for Sunday.

The only other Redskins on the injury report are all probable for Sunday: Quarterback Jason Campbell (foot), defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery (knee) and tackle Mike Williams (illness). — PAULA PASCHE

The streak is the story

ALLEN PARK — After Sunday the Lions’ 0-19 streak will be history. I’m not saying they’re going to beat the Washington Redskins, I’m saying after Sunday it will either be 0-20 or 1-19.  If it’s 0-20, the streak talk will continue. After all, it is the story even if  60 percent of the roster has changed along with the coaching staff. You just can’t overlook it. Last week when the Lions hit the magical 0-19 mark they tied two other teams for the second-worst losing streak ever. Tampa Bay holds the record with 26 straight losses set in 1976 and 1977. Think of it this way if they were 19-0, it would also be the talk of the town. Can you imagine? — PAULA PASCHE

Rookies contribute

The Lions can’t afford to coddle their rookies. Many of them are needed to have an immediate impact on a team that had many holes to fill.

“Those guys, any member of the team. We’ve sort of put it on them to catch up to speed and to know everything. We haven’t limited packages because of any rookie,’’ coach Jim Schwartz said.

It’s way to early to judge the Lions 2009 draft class, but early signs are encouraging. Of the nine players drafted all are with the team if you include the three who are on the practice squad. Four of them — quarterback Matthew Stafford, tight end Brandon Pettigrew, defensive tackle Sammie Hill and safety Louis Delmas — are expected to start their third game today. They could be joined on Sunday by rookie linebacker Deandre Levy who could fill in for the injured Ernie Sims (shoulder).

“If we identify the right players, coach them up well and they respond well there’s no reason they shouldn’t be playing,’’ Schwartz said. “Let’s not put any of those guys in the Hall of Fame yet just because they’re starting. It’s a positive sign they’re on the field,’’ Schwartz said.

The rookies have the opportunities, in part, because Sims is the only player drafted between 2002 and 2006 who is still with the Lions.


The first rule about losing streaks ...

ALLEN PARK — It’s the 900-pound elephant in the room, anytime anyone from the Lions’ organization is speaking in public.

What about the losing streak?

Since the Lions have not won in the span of 19 games — a streak that dates back to Dec. 23, 2007, and predates not only 60 percent of the current Lion players, but nearly the entire coaching staff, as well — and just once in their last 26 regular-season contest, the question is entirely valid.

And, the closer the Lions get to the NFL record of 26, the more often it will be asked.

“That burden’s there. It’s there as an organization, it’s there as a city. But my emphasis is to try to keep that from the players. Some of them were here last year, and some of them still feel it. But it’s too much to ask them to try to correct what happened last year, this year. What they need to worry about is the Washington Redskins, that game, and that game only,” said first-year coach Jim Schwartz after Thursday’s workout at the team’s Allen Park practice facility.

Sunday’s game against the similarly-struggling Redskins (1-1), who are coming off a lackluster, 9-7 win over the Rams, and who are answering nagging questions of their own, will provide the Lions (0-2) their next chance to make the question moot.

“Honestly, maybe that’s something (the media) could stop talking about, maybe the fans would stop talking about, but from my standpoint — from a coaching standpoint — our message to the team is that we don’t talk about what happened last year, what happened the week before,” Schwartz said. “I don’t think the 53 guys on this team need to bear the burden for what happened last year. I think that’s going to weigh too heavy on them. There are a lot of teams that are 0-2. Everybody needs a win that’s 0-2. It’s hard to go 0-3, and there’s a lot of teams that feel that sense of urgency. Our guys feel that sense of urgency.”

Schwartz did, however, admit how much that first win would mean, recalling a similar situation with the Tennessee Titans in 2005. That year, the Titans started 0-5, then won at Washington right before the bye week.

“It was like we’d won two weeks in a row, because the positive vibe kept going, and we were able to turn it around, and end up finishing 8-8 that year,” Schwartz said. “It’s the same thing, you have zeroes in the win column, you need to get that out from under you. It changes a lot of attitudes, and makes the day a little bit easier to get through.”


Lions officially blacked out for Redskins

ALLEN PARK — A week after getting a last-minute reprieve — when the ticket office sold 4,000 tickets in a 48-hour span to lift the impending blackout for the home opener — selling more than twice that number proved to be too much of a miracle for the Lions to pull off this week.

With more than 10,000 tickets remaining as of Wednesday afternoon, the Lions conceded that they’d not achieved a sellout by Thursday’s 1 p.m. deadline, meaning that Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins will not be shown on television in the Metro Detroit, Lansing, Toledo and Saginaw/Flint markets. Fox-2 in Detroit will instead air the Vikings-49ers game at 1 p.m.

“I think it’s safe to say at this point that we will be blacked out this weekend,” Lions president Tom Lewand said nearly an hour before the deadline. “I will say this: Our team of salespeople has done a great job, and we’re getting the word out. We’ve advertised more than we ever have before. We’ve had people working the phones, and out there, and obviously did a great job last week, getting the Minnesota game sold out, and the blackout lifted. And it’s our hope that we can continue along those lines. We knew this one would be tough. “We’ve had a lot of challenges, and our focus is trying to sell those games, but the most important focus is trying to win games, and there’s no better way to sell tickets than to win.”

With the Lions (0-2) sitting on a 19-game losing skid, that challenge has been harder and harder to meet. Five of the Lions’ last six home games were blacked out, starting with last year’s contest against the Redskins. That first blackout broke a 50-game streak of sellouts to start the Lions’ tenancy at Ford Field.

“It is on us, because it’s our job to win, and our job to get fans excited, and to give them a reason to come to the game,” said first-year head coach Jim Schwartz. “When we do that, then we won’t have to worry about blackouts, and sellouts or anything. We’ll have to worry about how we’re going to get enough tickets for our friends and families that want to come to the game.”

If you still want to watch the game, it will be available as part of the NFL Game Rewind package on, after midnight on Sunday. You can also keep tabs on the game with The Oakland Press' live blog, at


More than 10,000 tickets remain

ALLEN PARK — As of late this afternoon more than 10,000 tickets were available for Sunday’s game at Ford Field against the Washington Redskins. The game must be sold out by noon Thursday so the game won’t be blacked out on local television on Sunday.

Last week the Lions were within 1,700 tickets of a sellout on Thursday so they were granted a 24-hour extension to sell the remaining tickets. With an 0-2 record, a 19-game losing streak and the economy in the dumps, it’s a tough sell. — PAULA PASCHE

Levy could get start

ALLEN PARK — Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said rookie linebacker Deandre Levy got a lot of work today at left outside linebacker in place of the injured Ernie Sims (shoulder). Jordon Dizon is also in the mix to get the start. Sims will be out for at least one game after getting injured on the final play of Sunday’s loss to Minnesota.

“I think (Levy) is one of the toughest guys we’ve got. I’ve been disappointed that we haven’t had a chance to get him in the game more. He’ll definitely get in the game this week,’’ Cunningham said.

Stanton practices

ALLEN PARK — Quarterback Drew Stanton was back on the practice field this morning for the first time since knee surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee during the preseason. Brock Berlin,  a practice squad quarterback, was released. Also, the Lions signed defensive tackle Matthias Askew (6-foot-5, 302 pounds), who spent the offseason with Denver, to the practice squad.


Remembering Monte Clark

Former Lions coach Monte Clark, who died last week at the age of 72, will be buried on Wednesday. His personal philosophy was printed on the memorial card given out at today’s visitation.  If you had the pleasure of knowing Monte, you would know this rings true ...

“Watch your thoughts for they become your words,
Watch your words for they become your actions,
Watch your actions for they become your habits,
Watch your habits for they become your character, and
Watch your character for it becomes your destiny.’’

Signs of encouragement

Coach Jim Schwartz has found a couple signs of encouragement in the first two games, both losses. He likes the fight in his team. Even though they were down 14-0 at New Orleans in the first quarter they never quit.

“We sort of rallied a little bit and sort of held our own. We didn’t completely fold right there. We came out in this game (against Minnesota) and established some things that we wanted to do and, at times, looked like the team that we’re going to be, that we want to be,’’ Schwartz said on Monday.

The coach was also pleased that they got the running game going against the Vikings when they finished with 129 rushing yards. Kevin Smith had 83 of those.

“There were times that we were rolling 8-, 9-yard runs after 8-, 9-yard runs. You’re going to have a couple of bad runs in there that look bad there, but I was pleased with that mentality of ‘we can run against anything.’ The mentality of, ‘Hey look, we’re down and still fight.’ Those are all positive signs,’’ Schwartz said.

Rookies make a mark

The opener in New Orleans marked the first time since 1978 that the Lions had started four rookies. If Deandre Levy starts in place of injured linebacker Ernie Sims (shoulder) on Sunday against the Redskins that would boost the number to five. That includes quarterback Matthew Stafford, tight end Brandon Pettigrew, defensive tackle Sammie Hill and safety Louis Delmas.

That’s a ton of inexperience on the football field, but the Lions don’t have much choice if they want to play their best. “It means something good for the future because they’re gaining experience,’’ veteran linebacker Larry Foote said.

A few years back Foote played in Pittsburgh with rookie starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who led them to a 15-1 season. So you never know. “It depends on the individual, the scheme and how the ball bounces,’’ Foote said.


Sims could miss time

ALLEN PARK — Middle linebacker Ernie Sims suffered a “fairly significant” shoulder injury diving out of bounds in Sunday’s loss to Minnesota. He is undergoing more testing. Coach Jim Schwartz said today that there’s a good chance he will miss some time. The coach would not be specific about who would replace him, but did say there’s a chance it could be rookie Deandre Levy, a third-round pick.

If Levy should start — and that’s still an if — he would be the fifth rookie starter on the team. Already on defense there are defensive tackle Sammie Hill and safety Louis Delmas who are both rookies. On offense there are two rookie starters —  quarterback Matthew Stafford and tight end Brandon Pettigrew.

Something to build on

While there are no moral victories in the NFL, at least the Lions have something to build on after their 27-13 loss to Minnesota on Sunday. Detroit finally played well in the first half. It’s a start. Last week they were down 14-0 to the Saints early on and could never dig out. That was the M.O. last season too. These Lions (0-2) have a long way to go, but we saw a spark of something on Sunday. They have to put frustration aside this week and figure out how to play two solid halves of football before they step on Ford Field on Sunday to face the Washington Redskins.

Of course the Redskins (1-1) are a frustrated bunch too. They beat the lowly Rams 9-7 on Sunday, but couldn’t score a touchdown. They were inside the Rams’ 11-yard line four times and failed to cross the goal line. — PAULA PASCHE


This and that

This and that from the Lions 27-13 loss to Minnesota:  In the first quarter the Lions led in time of possession 9:24 to 5:36. But through four quarters it was almost dead even with the Lions at 30:25 to 29:35 for Minnesota. ... The Lions were just 5 of 13 (38 percent) on third-down conversions. The Vikings were 3 of 11 (27 percent). ... Linebacker Larry Foote had a team-high 10 tackles. He and Jason Hunter each sacked Favre. ... The Lions were missing two starters due to injury — G Daniel Loper (knee) and defensive end Cliff Avril (hamstring). ... It was the 125th straight game that the Vikings defense has not allowed one individual to run for more than 100 yards.  ... After just two penalties in their opening win against Cleveland, the Vikings had five for 43 yards. The Lions did them one better with six for a loss of 46 yards. ... Perhaps the biggest applause of the day came when Ernie Harwell was introduced as the honorary captain for the coin toss.

Up and running

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Tune in to Sunday's Lions-Vikings live blog

Avril doubtful, other injuries

Starting defensive end Cliff Avril, who hasn’t practiced all week with a hamstring injury, is doubtful to play on Sunday. Schwartz rotates his defensive ends throughout the game so Avril’s presence would be missed.

“Regardless of whether you’re the starting end or the third end, you’re going to get time and you're going to roll through and all of those guys play. He’s done a little bit of stuff on the practice field this week. We’ll just see how he is on Sunday,’’ Schwartz said of Avril.  Jason Hunter is likely to start in Avril’s place.

Defensive lineman Turk McBride was claimed off waivers this week. Schwartz expects him to play at defensive end for the Lions, although he has played tackle also. The coach wouldn’t say if he plans to play McBride on Sunday.

Other injuries: DE Andre Fluellen (knee) and CB Eric King (shoulder) are listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. CB Phillip Buchanon (neck) DT Grady Jackson (knee), CB William James (foot) and G Daniel Loper (knee) were limited in Friday’s practice, but are probable for Sunday. Buchanon missed the opener at New Orleans.

Bob Kowalkowski dies at age 65

ALLEN PARK — Bob Kowalkowski, an offensive lineman for the Lions from 1966-76, died on Thursday night at Henry Ford Hospital in West Bloomfield after a short illness. He was 65.

Kowalkowski, who was a Lions’ starting guard through most of his 11 seasons in Detroit, kept close ties with the team and the community. His wife Judy, the Lions manager of accounting operations, has worked in the Lions’ front office since 1990. His son Scott was a linebacker and special teams standout for the Lions from 1994 through 2001.

“The entire Kowalkowski family means a great deal to our organization,’’ said Tom Lewand, president of the Lions. “Obviously, the football side of their contributions is well known but, off the field, the family contributes enormously to the Lions and to our entire community. Bob was a special leader on the field and off.’’

Bob Kowalkowski founded the Kowalkowski Open golf tournament in 1973 with friends from the Gladwin Lions Club to support Leader Dogs for the Blind. His Bob Kowalkowski Scholarship Award helped enable students with financial needs and high academic achievements attend college. In 1991, the Kowalkowski Open grew into what is now known as Kolo Charities, which has helped raise thousands of dollars for a variety of charities in Michigan. Included among them is the Detroit Lions Courage House which benefits the child abuse prevention and treatment program at HAVEN in Oakland County.

  Funeral arrangements for Kowalkowski are incomplete.

Game sold out

ALLEN PARK — The Lions announced at noon that they have sold out Sunday’s home opener against the Minnesota Vikings which means the game will be televised on Fox-TV 2 locally. Kickoff is 1 p.m.

The Lions had received a 24-hour extension on Thursday when they announced there were 1,700 tickets remaining. The Lions (0-1) have sold out every home opener since 1999. Last season five games were blacked out on local television.


Lions add Turk

In the NFL, “the Turk” is the guy that all fringe players fear at cutdown time, the guy who delivers the bad news that they haven’t made a team.

Having benefitted all offseason long from their perch atop the waiver claim list by grabbing up player after player cut by other teams, the Lions claimed another Wednesday, picking up defensive end/linebacker Turk McBride, who was cut by Kansas City on Tuesday. McBride practiced with the Lions Thursday.

“I always heard about (the Turk). I watched ‘Hard Knocks’ when I was in high school,” said McBride, whose given name is Claude Maurice, and who was featured on the HBO Show himself in 2007. “The Turk tapped me on my shoulder in Kansas City, so I know the feeling.”

A former starter at defensive end, McBride was a second-round pick of the Chiefs in 2007, when Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham held that same position in KC, but did not fit the new 3-4 scheme installed by first-year head coach Todd Haley.

Considering that he dropped down to 255 pounds to gain the mobility needed for outside linebacker in the 3-4, the Lions will need to put 10-15 pounds back on the third-year pro, and hope he can contribute to the pass rush, possibly as early as Sunday.

“He did everything they wanted him to do, he lost a lot of weight to do it, but you know obviously it didn’t fit their scheme, and we were fortunate to be able to get him,” said Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. “We’re excited about him. I think his skill set fits what we do on defense.”

Cliff Avril did not practice Thursday, missing his second straight day of work. If Avril, who started opposite Dewayne White against the Saints, can't go Sunday against the Vikings, the Lions' options for starters are a trio of waiver acquisitions — McBride, Jason Hunter and Copeland Bryan — or a converted defensive tackle — Andre Fluellen.

The Lions cut defensive tackle Orien Harris on Wednesday to clear room for McBride on the roster.

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Former Lions coach Monte Clark dies at 72

ALLEN PARK — The Lions announced Thursday that former head coach Monte Clark passed away at Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital late Wednesday night at age 72, after an extended battle with bone marrow malignancy.

The head coach of the Lions from 1978-84, Clark cashed in the No. 1 pick in the 1980 draft for Billy Sims, and rode the Heisman Trophy winner to two straight playoff appearances, and the team’s first divisional title since its heyday in the 1950s. Clark may be best remembered for praying as Lions kicker Eddie Murray lined up a 43-yard field goal in the waning minutes of a 1983 divisional playoff game against the 49ers. The miss meant the Lions, who hadn't won a playoff game since their 1957 NFL championship, would have to wait another eight years before finally ending a 34-year drought with a postseason win.

Clark's football career, which spanned more than 60 years as a player, coach and consultant, was highlighted by his role as an offensive line coach for Don Shula's Dolphins, which won two Super Bowls and lost another in the early 1970s, and recorded the NFL's only perfect season (17-0) in 1972.

For more details on Clark's career, check Friday's print edition of The Oakland Press.

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Lions get extension from NFL

With the Lions 1,700 tickets shy of reaching a sellout for Sunday's home opener, the NFL granted a 24-hour extension on Thursday afternoon, giving the organization until 1 p.m. Friday to sell the remaining tickets or have the game blacked out on local television.

Despite the attraction of the visiting Vikings' Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson, as well as the Lions' own future franchise quarterback, Matthew Stafford, more than 4,000 tickets remained unsold as of Wednesday afternoon. Brisk sales cut that number more than in half by the 1 p.m. Thursday deadline (72 hours before kickoff), earning the Lions the one-day deadline extension.

The Lions, who have sold out every home opener since the 1998 season at the Silverdome, were blacked out for five of the last six home games last year. The lone exception was the Thanksgiving Day game, when the team used another extension from the NFL to reach sellout status. Until last season, the Lions had not been blacked out since moving to Ford Field in 2002.

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Clearing room for McBride

   Defensive tackle Orien Harris was released on Wednesday clearing a spot on the 53-man roster.  Harris did not play in Sunday’s loss at New Orleans.
 The Lions are expected to claim defensive end Turk McBride off waivers. He was cut by Kansas City. McBride was drafted by the Chiefs in 2007 when Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham was with the Chiefs. The Lions won’t announce a transaction until a player has passed his physical.

4,000 tickets left

ALLEN PARK — With the 1 p.m. Thursday blackout deadline looming, the Lions just announced that there are 4,000 tickets available for Sunday’s home opener against Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings. The last time the Lions didn’t sell out a home opener was in 1998 when they played Cincinnati at the Silverdome. — PAULA PASCHE

Time will tell for Favre

ALLEN PARK — Vikings coach Brad Childress said this morning that only time will tell if Brett Favre is the Brett Favre of old.

“I certainly believe that he’s got the arm skills and pocket awareness and pocket movement that he’s shown in the past. I know he used to run around like a mad man, he can still move. I guess time will tell if he’s the Brett Favre of old,’’ Childress said during a conference call.

The Lions play the Vikings in the home opener at Ford Field at 1 p.m. on Sunday.


A big week for development

This week’s task for the Lions largely involves correcting mistakes they made in the 45-27 loss at New Orleans on Sunday. It’s a huge week in the development of this team. They need to correct, they need to stay confident and, at the same time, prepare for Adrian Peterson, Brett Favre and the Vikings.

 While it was the 18th straight loss, in better perspective it was the first loss for this bunch. The players, like linebacker Larry Foote, seem confident it can be turned around.

“A couple of those big plays we can correct that, those are mental errors. Bottom line, in is this league that’s how you lose, mental errors. The least amount of mistakes you make increases your chances of winning,’’ Foote said.



Nothing new for Foote

ALLEN PARK — After seven seasons with the Steelers, linebacker Larry Foote played his first game as a Detroit Lion. The loss to the Saints wasn’t pretty, but it wasn’t all new territory. Foote was part of winning two Super Bowls in Pittsburgh, but he also was part of some ugly losses. He is not the kind of guy to hang his head.

“It’s just one game, I’m not making excuses for the game about new schemes, new players. It was a nice little butt whooping. That’s nothing. I’ve taken butt whoopings before, but we’ll come out fighting. I know you’ve heard that cliche before, but we’ll see this week,’’ Foote said.

It doesn’t get much easier for the defense with Adrian Peterson, Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings coming to town on Sunday. Peterson rushed for 180 yards on 25 carries for three touchdowns in the Vikings’ 34-20 win over Cleveland on Sunday.

Adjustments the key

ALLEN PARK — A key to the Lions’ success this season will be the adjustments made this week in the aftermath of the season-opening loss at New Orleans and prior to welcoming Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings to Detroit. Coach Jim Schwartz isn’t expected to change his goals — he’s committed to the run game and wants to see tough, physical football. But somehow he’ll have to find a way to make that work. — PAULA PASCHE


CB Buchanon out

NEW ORLEANS — The Lions need all the experience they can get on defense against New Orleans, but they’ll be hurting today without the services of starting CB Phillip Buchanon who is out with a neck injury. He was listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report. Eric King will start in his place.

Other inactive inactives for today’s game: QB Drew Stanton (knee), WR Derrick Williams, CB Kevin Hobbs, CB Phillip Buchanon (neck), DT Orien Harris, G Manny Ramirez, T Jon Jansen and DE Copeland Bryan.

G Stephen Peterman, who missed practice Thursday and Friday with an ankle injury, will play along with K Jason Hanson who is coming back from minor knee surgery. — PAULA PASCHE


Three to watch

Sunday will be a little like Christmas. The Lions are basically a new team and it’s tough to say exactly how they will compete this season. We’ll have a much better idea after they play the Saints.

Three players to watch today: Obviously all eyes will be on rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford, but also watch running back Kevin Smith, who is primed for a solid second year in the NFL, and hard-hitting rookie safety Louis Delmas who will get his first taste of the NFL.  — PAULA PASCHE


Hanson probable

The good news for the Lions’ special teams is that K Jason Hanson, who is recovering from minor knee surgery, is listed as probable for Sunday’s game at New Orleans in the Lions’ Friday injury report. Also probable are DE Jason Hunter (ribs), DT Grady Jackson (knee) and WR Dennis Northcutt (hand). ... Guard Stephen Peterman (ankle) did not practice again today and is questionable for Sunday. Also questionable are CB Phillip Buchanon (neck) and WR Yamon Figurs (finger). ... QB Drew Stanton, who is also recovering from knee surgery, has not practiced yet and is listed as doubtful. — PAULA PASCHE

Captains named

Jason Hanson, Dominic Raiola and Larry Foote were named team captains today by coach Jim Schwartz. Their team members voted them in. It marks the third year that Hanson is a captain and the fourth for Raiola. Foote, who came from the Super Bowl champ Pittsburgh Steelers, is a first-time captain. Just like when he was at Michigan, Foote always has something to say. He knows what it takes to be a part of a winning defense. — PAULA PASCHE

It was Schwartz's call

Coach Jim Schwartz made it clear about the involvement of ownership in the decision to start rookie Matthew Stafford over veteran Daunte Culpepper. “Ownership has input in everything. Mr. Ford was very clear from the time I was hired. He demanded and expected that every decision I made I would do what I thought was best for this football team,’’ Schwartz said.

 He thinks the inexperienced Stafford gives them the best chance to win.

 It did not appear there was any pressure to start Stafford to boost ticket sales. All along Lions management has made clear that they wanted the best quarterback to start and they also wanted what was best for Stafford. Of course, with Stafford starting it couldn’t hurt ticket sales. But that does not in any way seem to have been the motivation for the move.  — PAULA PASCHE


Injury report

 Kicker Jason Hanson, who is recovering from minor knee surgery, continued to kick during practice. ... Defensive tackle Grady Jackson (knee) and offensive guard Stephen Peterman (ankle) did not practice. On the injury report they were downgraded from limited practice (on Wednesday) to no practice. ... Phillip Buchanon (neck), wide receiver Yamon Figurs (finger), defensive end Jason Hunter (ribs) and wide receiver Dennis Northcutt (hand) were limited in practice. — PAULA PASCHE

Smith suspended

Now the real mystery of why the Lions cut defensive tackle Shaun Smith has come to light. Smith was one of the cuts on Saturday to get the roster to 53. The NFL has suspended Smith for four games for violating the league’s policy regarding anabolic steroids and related substances, according to an ESPN report. The Lions had picked him up early in training camp after he had been cut from Cleveland.

After practice today, coach Jim Schwartz said he could not comment on the matter. — PAULA PASCHE


Feasting on Stafford

Sports talk radio in this town feasts off Lions quarterbacks. Starter Matthew Stafford is no different. It’s nothing personal. It’s the deal with every Lions quarterback and every Red Wings goalie. Has been for years.  In almost every case, it seems the backup is deemed the better player. (Or maybe it’s just me.)

Stafford’s every twitch will be analyzed and often criticized, but he won’t hear it. “I don’t listen and I’m never going to make everyone happy. That’s the way it is and I understand that,’’ Stafford said. “I’m going to go out and do the best I can and go about my business.’’


Still kicking

ALLEN PARK — Jason Hanson apparently did not have a setback after kicking field goals at practice on Monday. This morning he was out on the practice field and kicking again. He said on Monday that he had no pain after the workout, but the true test would be if he had swelling or pain on Tuesday.

Hanson underwent minor knee surgery three weeks ago. Monday was the first time he kicked in practice since the surgery. He expects at least to be able to kick field goals in the opener Sunday at New Orleans. — PAULA PASCHE


Culpepper reacts

Daunte Culpepper had his chance to speak on Monday after Matthew Stafford was named the starting quarterback, but instead he remained quiet. It wasn’t unusual, Culpepper rarely talks to the media.

Today he issued a statement through the Lions: “Now that the debate is over and the decision has been made regarding the starting quarterback in Detroit, I would like to make the following statement today so that tomorrow I can put all of my energy into helping our team prepare for our opponent.
“The reason I agreed to restructure my contract in order to stay in Detroit was because I knew that I would have a chance to have a full off-season for the first time in over three years. I also knew that I would have an opportunity to finally compete against whoever the Lions brought in whether via free agency, trade or the draft. When the Lions selected Matthew Stafford first overall I was excited. My position is that if you want to be the best you have to beat the best. Coach Schwartz gave me a fair opportunity to compete for the starting job and now the decision has been made that Matt is the best quarterback in Detroit. I support the decision and I am ready to settle into my role. Matt is a great guy and a talented young quarterback. I am confident that he will lead this team to plenty of victories in Detroit for a long time to come. I look forward to helping Matt in that mission in any way that I can this year. My role as his back-up is not to be seen unless needed and not to be heard from unless required. The Lions organization has treated me with respect and class and they can expect the same from me.”

Not a distraction

When Matthew Stafford was named the starter on Monday, coach Jim Schwartz ended speculation that had started the day Stafford was drafted as the first overall pick.

However, because of the way Schwartz handled things the quarterback contest between Stafford and Daunte Culpepper never became a distraction to the rest of the team. Credit Schwartz with that. “I think he did that by opening everybody’s job up for competition, I don’t think we had time to worry about the starter,’’ center Dominic Raiola. Instead everyone had to fight for his own job.

Raiola had nothing but superlatives for Stafford, but he also feels  good about Culpepper. “The thing is it was a win-win for us,’’ Raiola said. — PAULA PASCHE


Stafford named starter

ALLEN PARK — Rookie Matthew Stafford was named the starting quarterback today by coach Jim Schwartz. Stafford, the overall first pick out of Georgia, beat out veteran Daunte Culpepper for the start. Schwartz said it was a very tough decision because all three quarterbacks — including Drew Stanton — had played so well.

Stafford will not have to be looking over his shoulder each time he throws an interception or makes a bad decision. “This isn’t an internship, this isn’t a trial basis. He’s our starting quarterback,’’ Schwartz said.

The coach set the criteria months ago. The starter had to be the best quarterback and the most ready to play. “I thought in both of those cases, (Stafford’s) command of the offense is very good, his command of what defenses are doing is very good. What he needed to do is play,’’ Schwartz said.

“I think he had a very good preseason. The stats might not bear that out, stats also don’t bear out touchdown receptions that are taken away by holding penalties. He was on the field for 15 snaps with Calvin (Johnson). In those 15 plays you saw what a dynamic that brings to our offense and the big plays that were there because of that. I was very pleased with what he did in the preseason going back from rookie minicamp and straight through. I think he’s proved every step along the way he’s ready,’’ Schwartz added.

 The Lions open the season on Sunday in New Orleans. See Tuesday’s Oakland Press for more on Stafford.


Four claimed

    ALLEN PARK — The Lions just confirmed they have claimed four players: defensive end Copeland Bryan (Buffalo), wide receiver Yamon Figurs (Baltimore), cornerback Kevin Hobbs (Seattle) and cornerback Marcus McCauley.


Practice squad named

 The Lions named seven to the practice squad today including: Wide receiver John Broussard (San Diego State), tight end Carson Butler (Michigan), running back Tristan Davis (Auburn), linebacker Zack Follett (California), center Dan Gerberry (Ball State), tight end Dan Gronkowski (Maryland) and tackle Lydon Murtha (Nebraska). ... Follett, Gronkowski and Murtha were seventh-round draft picks. As it stands now all 10 of the Lions draft picks are either on the team or the practice squad.

The tweaking continues

The Lions continued to tweak their 53-man roster today. They released defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis, cornerback Cletis Gordon and wide receiver Adam Jennings.

The team would not confirm a report from the St. Paul Pioneer Press that they had claimed cornerback Marcus McCauley off waivers after he was released by the Vikings.

But the trade of quarterback Kevin O’Connell to the New York Jets for an undisclosed future draft pick was confirmed.

CB McCauley claimed; O'Connell traded

The Lions have claimed cornerback Marcus McCauley, who was waived by the Vikings, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. McCauley, who was a third-round pick in 2007, will be called upon to help the Lions secondary which is a weak spot on the team.

Quarterback Kevin O’Connell, who the Lions claimed on waivers Tuesday, has been traded to the Jets according to ESPN. The compensation was unknown. O’Connell was never involved in a Lions’ practice, but worked out for the team on Friday afternoon. He was one of four quarterbacks on the 53-man roster on Saturday night.


Two defensive tackles cut

  The defensive line is certainly an area of concern as the Lions prepare to open the season. Surprisingly, they cut two veteran defensive tackles on Saturday — Shaun Smith and Chuck Darby.
  The Lions had signed the loud-mouth Smith, who had spent seven seasons in the NFL, early in training camp after he had been released by Cleveland. Darby, a nine-year pro, started 15 games at nose tackle for the Lions last season. Perhaps Ikaika Alama-Francis or Andre Fluellen will step into that spot.
  Wide receiver Dane Looker, a multi-dimensional player, had been solid since signing midway through training camp due to the number of injuries to wide receivers. It was surprising that he was cut and third-round pick Derrick Williams made the roster. Williams was drafted as a return specialist and had trouble catching punts in preseason action.
  Here’s a complete list of players who were released:  LB Rufus Alexander, QB Brooks Bollinger, G Milford Brown, TE Carson Butler,WR Keary Colbe RB Aveion Cason, rt, DE Sean Conover, K Billy Cundiff, DT Chuck Darby, RB Tristan Davis, LB Zack Follett, C Dan Gerberry, TE Dan Gronkowski, WR Dane Looker, DB Calvin Lowry, T Lydon Murtha, DB Ramzee Robinson, DB Stuart Schweigert, DT Shaun Smith, LB Spenser Smith, WR John Standeford.
   Even though the final cuts were due Saturday night, the roster is expected to change before the season opener at New Orleans next Sunday. Due to their 0-16 record last year, the Lions have first pick of any players who are waived.

Joey Harrington cut

 Former Lions quarterback Joey Harrington was cut by the Saints today according to The 30-year-old Harrington, once the third overall pick, could not beat out 39-year-old Mark Brunell for the No. 2 quarterback spot which is certainly not a good omen for Harrington’s future.

 Final rosters must be cut to 53 by 6 p.m. today.

The cutting begins

It’s cutdown day and the Lions have started the chopping. Kicker Billy Cundiff was an early cut according to Jason Hanson’s status for the opener next Sunday is still not set in stone, but they have a backup in wide receiver Dane Looker who has been kicking field goals in practice. One day he was four for four. His longest was 43 yards. Hanson underwent minor knee surgery three weeks ago.

Other moves according to, not confirmed by the team, are cuts of running back Aveion Cason, defensive tackle Chuck Darby and tackle Lydon Murtha, a seventh-round pick who is a possibility for the practice squad.

The final cut to 53 is due at 6 p.m. today.


Safety looks to be good fit

ALLEN PARK —  The secondary is a concern to the Lions as they get ready to make the roster cut to 53 on Saturday at 6 p.m.  This afternoon they traded a 2010 draft pick to the Bills for safety Ko Simpson.

“I think he fits what we want to do. He’s multidimensional, he’s got size, he’s got good range, he can also tackle,’’ coach Jim Schwartz said. “He’s been a pretty good contributor on special teams.’’

Schwartz said it’s too early to define what role he will play with the Lions.

The coach also said the 53-main roster that is set on Saturday will probably not be the roster for the opener at New Orleans on Sept. 13.  Lions personnel folks will be scouring the waiver wires over the weekend looking for anyone who might be able to help.

Safety acquired

ALLEN PARK — The Lions have acquired safety Ko Simpson from the Buffalo Bills in exchange for an undisclosed 2010 draft choice. The trade is pending Simpson passing a physical. Simpson, who is 6-foot-1 and 202 pounds, spent three seasons with the Bills. He has appeared in 33 career games with 27 starts. Last season he played in all 16 games and finished with 64 tackles.

The Lions released defensive end Orion Martin.

Hoyer survives in New England

 Former Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer has cleared the first hurdle to sticking in the NFL. Undrafted, Hoyer was signed as a free agent by the New England Patriots. Today the Pats released quarterback Andrew Walter who was competing with Hoyer for the backup job. So for now Hoyer is Tom Brady’s backup. New England could sign a No. 2 quarterback and work on the development of Hoyer, but it looks like he has a job for this season. — PAULA PASCHE

No blackout changes

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed again this week that the NFL will not drop or adjust its television blackout policy for home games this season. This could be bad news for Lions fans.

The commish knows some teams — the Jacksonville Jaguars have lost much of their season ticket base — could be in trouble. It’s the first full NFL season where teams are trying to overcome the sour economy to sell tickets.

Last year five of the Lions eight home games were blacked out because Ford Field was not sold out 72 hours prior to game time. The Lions are trying every type of ticket package to boost sales. They even have an all-you-can-eat ticket which gets you a seat and unlimited food and soft drinks. The Lions are facing a double-whammy coming off an 0-16 season and trying to sell tickets when unemployment is 15 percent in Michigan. Of course, as they say, the best marketing plan is winning.


Observations from the win

Observations from the Lions 17-6 win at Buffalo in the final preseason game ...

Matthew Stafford got the offense in a rhythm in a hurry. He was 5 of 9 for 81 yards with a few dropped balls. His 34-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson was called back due to a penalty. It would’ve been a beauty. He had two other impressive pass completions to Johnson on that opening drive. His poise defies his rookie status. Daunte Culpepper sat out with an injured toe. Did Stafford play his way into the starting role at New Orleans? He didn’t hurt his chances. ... Wide receiver Keary Colbert is likely to be looking for work this weekend. He fell on a route which allowed the Bills an easy interception from Stafford. Instead of catching a Brooks Bollinger pass in the end zone, he tipped the ball into the hands of a Buffalo defensive back. If Colbert had a chance after dropping three passes in the preseason opener, it’s likely gone. ... The offensive line played its second straight solid game. Or as Desmond Howard said it, they were playing in midseason form. ...Cornerback Chris Roberson was impressive with an interception and a recovered fumble. ... Quarterback Brooks Bollinger, who had just one full practice after signing on Monday night, was impressive especially on the 39-yard pass to Adam Jennings. ... Rookie linebacker Zack Follett (seventh round) again made some huge special teams tackles. ... Linebacker Jordon Dizon notched six tackles. ... Running back Tristan Davis is a speedster and showed it on his 80-yard touchdown run. ... The Lions are 3-1 in the preseason which is fine until you remember they were 4-0 in the preseason a year ago. -- PAULA PASCHE

Culpepper officially out

The Lions have just announced that quarterback Daunte Culpepper will not play in tonight’s preseason game at Buffalo. Culpepper had not practiced since he took eight stitches in one of his middle toes after stubbing it on carpeting at home after Saturday night’s game. Even though he had not practiced coach Jim Schwartz did not rule him out on Wednesday.

Rookie Matthew Stafford will start and play about 25 snaps. He’ll be followed by Brooks Bollinger, who was signed on Monday, and possibly Kevin O’Connell, who was claimed off waivers on Tuesday.

Drew Stanton is out following arthroscopic knee surgery on Wednesday.

Things to watch in the final preseason game

Although first-year head coach Jim Schwartz has made it abundantly clear — along with new GM Martin Mayhew in albeit a less verbal manner — that the Lions are more than willing to at least fish the waiver wire, and will probably do so right up until the season opener, there are still plenty of wide open competitions among the players already on the roster.

Here are a handful to watch on the field Thursday night, when the Lions take on the Bills. (And, if you take Schwartz at his word, quarterback isn't necessarily one of those battles. Yes, Matthew Stafford will BEGIN the game, and Brooks Bollinger will take over to hand off the ball. Kevin O'Connell may or may not play. Daunte Culpepper won't play, but Schwartz says that the 20-25 plays the erstwhile starter would get won't make or break the competition.)

1. Running back With the quarterback situation likely limiting the playbook, expect to see the second-, third- and fourth-team backs will get lots and lots of chances to impress. Hampered by injury for much of camp, Maurice Morris hasn't shown much, but may get a free pass, since he's a veteran. Jerome Felton's ability to hammer the ball between the tackles has likely cemented his roster spot, while Terrelle Smith gives the Lions a true blocking fullback. Aaron Brown and Tristan Davis have both shown more flashes on offense than Aveion Cason, but the decision may come down to the other things that they can do.

2. Defensive line Four spots seem more or less settled. Dewayne White and Cliff Avril looked like they were competing for the same spot at left end to start camp, but Jared Devries' injury may have put both in the starting lineup. Jason Hunter has been solid — but not spectacular — as a third end, but the fourth end spot is a crapshoot. It could end up being one of the players — primarily Andre Fluellen or Ikaika Alama-Francis — who have been working outside as the overflow from the tackle competition. Grady Jackson is a given at tackle, but the other starting spot probably comes down to the Lions selecting two or three of the remaining contenders — Shaun Smith, Chuck Darby, Landon Cohen, Sammie Lee Hill, Orien Harris, Fluellen or Alama-Francis — for a tackle rotation. None have really established anything so far. Pass-rusher Orion Martin could sneak into the conversation at end, now that he's been in camp for more than a week.

3. Linebacker Everyone knows the Lions starters at the position, where the team added free agent Larry Foote and trade acquisition Julian Peterson to Ernie Sims, but no one knows any of the backups. Depth at this position is scarily thin. Cody Spencer looked like he had a roster spot in his sights before a knee injury sent him to IR, while rookie DeAndre Levy and even — gasp — the much-maligned Jordon Dizon have shown flashes, but the rest of the guys — Zack Follett, Darnell Bing, Spenser Smith and Rufus Alexander — are just that: just guys. If none of them step up, look for this to be an area of interest when the waiver wire gets flooded after 6 p.m. on Saturday.

4. Offensive line Manny Ramirez has had the light come on this preseason, and gives the Lions a solid third guard, if he doesn't manage to earn the starting job at left guard over Daniel Loper, but other than that remaining battle, the starters seem set. Jon Jansen and Ephraim Salaam seem locks as versatile swing backups, but the last spot or two seems to be wide open. Interior reserves Dylan Gandy and Dan Gerberry have been solid, but may lose out to the experience of Jansen and Salaam. Seventh-round pick Lydon Murtha has all kinds of upside, but keeping him would give the Lions five players who are primarily tackles.


Corner claimed off waivers

The Lions have picked up cornerback Cletis Gordon according to Gordon was released by Houston  on Monday after spending a week with the Texans. He was cut by San Diego a week ago.

Gordon played mostly on special teams for the last three years with the Chargers.

With two cornerbacks injured — Anthony Henry and Phillip Buchanon — the Lions were down to four healthy cornerbacks for Thursday night’s preseason game at Buffalo.

Detroit had room on its roster because earlier on Wednesday they released veteran cornerback Keith Smith.



Slim at corner

ALLEN PARK — The Lions will be mighty slim at cornerback for Thursday night’s final preseason game at Buffalo. Anthony Henry (shoulder) and Phillip Buchanon (neck) are not expected to play. Earlier today five-year veteran Keith Smith was released. Earlier in the week Dexter Wynn was released.

That leaves Will James, Chris Roberson, Eric King and Ramzee Robinson.

Coach Jim Schwartz said this morning that there are some other guys they will look at. They do get first choice of waived players. Being 0-16 has its advantages.

Five-year vet released

ALLEN PARK — Cornerback Keith Smith, a third-round draft pick by the Lions in 2004, was released today.

Coach Jim Schwartz has said all along that no one is guaranteed a roster spot based on his history with the team.

Smith has played in 71 of the 80 games during the last five seasons. Last season he missed six of the last seven games with a groin injury.

“He was behind the 8-ball a little earlier coming back from an injury. We had a situation in the last game we wanted to look at some different guys in that same role and thought it would be best to move on from that standpoint,’’ Schwartz said. “There are some other guys we may look at.’’

The coach said it was lack of consistency that cost Smith his job. “You could still see skills, but he wasn’t consistent. What we were looking for we didn’t see it consistently,’’ Schwartz said.


I'ts official, O'Connell claimed

The Lions have confirmed that they claimed QB Kevin O'Connell who was waived by the New England Patiots on Monday. To make room on the roster they released WR Glenn Holt who had just joined the team on Friday.

With Daunte Culpepper questionable for Thursday's preseason game with eight stitches in his foot and Drew Stanton out following arthroscopic knee surgery, the Lions were down to two quarterbacks. Brooks Bollinger, who was signed today, practiced along with Matthew Stafford this morning.

Waive hello

When coach Jim Schwartz spoke to reporters about the upcoming competition in Thursday's final preseason game, he may have dropped a hint about a move the Lions were about to complete.

ESPN's John Clayton is reporting that the Lions — who have first dibs on any player waived by another team, by virtue of their 0-16 finish last year — have again dipped into the waiver wire reservoir, claiming quarterback Kevin O'Connell, who was waived by New England on Monday.

The Lions signed seven-year veteran Brooks Bollinger earlier on Tuesday, filling the void when Daunte Culpepper (toe stitches) and Drew Stanton (knee surgery) missed their second straight day of practice. Culpepper may or may not play in Thursday's preseason finale at Buffalo, but regardless of who plays under center, there will still be plenty of spots up for grabs, according to Schwartz.

“We're not in the position where we're an established team that has a set bunch of starters, you know who you're going to go to the first game with, and all we're trying to do is get them through,” Schwartz said. “We're still in a mode where we're competing. There's still competition for some spots. It's not just competition on this team. These guys are competing with the rest of the league, because the waiver wire exists also.”

Hint taken.

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Beginner's luck

Based on the rotation to date, rookie Matthew Stafford was likely to get the start — or the chance to begin the game, as coach Jim Schwartz jokingly likes to put it — in Thursday's final preseason game at Buffalo. But Schwartz admitted Tuesday that Daunte Culpepper's absence from practice Monday and Tuesday likely cemented the decision.

"Most likely, with the way practice is going now, along with everything else. So Matt will start the game — begin the game — at quarterback," said Schwartz, warning that the move still does not foreshadow anything in terms of a decision on the regular-season starter, nor does it give Stafford any more of a chance than he had before. "Probably no more than if Daunte was playing. And I don't want to rule Daunte out."

Culpepper missed his second day of practice after getting stitches to close a small tear on his foot, suffered when he stubbed his toe at home Saturday night. He watched Monday's practice, but did not attend Tuesday's workout.

"He was sore from walking around all day yesterday, and we thought the best course of action today was to keep him from walking around, keep him off that foot, and hope to see how he responds that way. Any time you have stitches, a lot of times, they hurt like (heck) the first couple of days, then they sort of desensitize. So we're hoping that happens with him," Schwartz said.

Even if Culpepper misses Thursday's game, it won't affect his standing in the derby for the starting job at quarterback.

"No, probably not. I think you still go with — if Daunte doesn't play, you still go with what he's done so far. You can't erase what he's done so far. He's had a lot of practices, he's had a lot of games, a lot of meeting time, and things like that, so you can't erase all that stuff, just because he had a little mishap," Schwartz said. "He has a body of work. He's been at every single practice. He hasn't missed a practice, he hasn't missed a game up to this point, so 20 snaps in this game, 25 snaps in this game, isn't going to drastically change his evaluation."

Culpepper's absence from practice was not the only void at the position. Monday's MRI on Drew Stanton's left knee revealed a tear in the meniscus, and the third-year backup flew Tuesday to Birmingham, Ala., to consult with Dr. James Andrews for arthroscopic surgery as early as Wednesday.

The Lions left Stanton, a second-round pick in 2007, on the active roster, instead releasing guard Terrence Metcalf to make room to sign another quarterback, Brooks Bollinger. Stanton injured his knee in the Alamo Bowl as a freshman at Michigan State, then missed his entire rookie season after knee surgery with the Lions.

"We'll know more after we get it scoped, but we don't anticipate it being a long-term injury," said Schwartz, who did not know precisely when Stanton injured his knee in Saturday's game. "It's hard to really point on anything, because he wasn't sore after the game."

One of the quarterbacks the team brought in for tryouts at the start of camp for just such an emergency, Bollinger split snaps with Stafford in Tuesday's practice, and will play in Thursday's game, and likely will see a fair amount of action, if Culpepper can't go.

"He won't have the whole playbook, obviously, but he'll have enough that we can go out and compete. He'll have enough on first and second downs, a couple of play-actions, a couple of boots (bootlegs). He'll know the whole run game, and then third down, we'll give him a couple of things that we can go with. He's an experienced quarterback — that's not a rookie. He'll be up to speed pretty quick," Schwartz said of the seven-year veteran.

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