Lions get Calvin back
While backup quarterback Daunte Culpepper has been back at practice since last week, and starter Matthew Stafford has been able to practice three straight days now, the Lions got more good news for their offense Thursday, when Calvin Johnson (knee) practiced for the first time since injuring his knee against the Steelers.
Johnson, DT Sammie Hill, FB Jerome Felton and DE Turk McBride — all full- or part-time starters — were limited in practice, while LB Zack Follett (illness), DE Jason Hunter (ankle) and DT Grady Jackson (knee) were held out of workouts.
The week before the bye, Lions entered the game at Green Bay minus four starters — including Stafford and Johnson — and finished it with third-string quarterback Drew Stanton on the field, and a goose-egg on the scoreboard for the first time since 2001.
While the practice status of Johnson and Stafford guarantees nothing for Sunday's home game against the Rams, it at least gives the Lions hope. Without that passing combination, the Lions' offense isn't much better than that of the Rams (0-7), who have scored just five offensive touchdowns in seven weeks.
"You start with a guy like Calvin — he obviously changes the game. He changes not only our offense, but he changes the way defenses play, so I think that's obviously a big factor," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said of the impact of their possible return.
Beyond that, the two need to reestablish the rapport that could make them one of the top duos in what's become a pass-happy NFC North Division.
"I think the strides that Matt had made early in the season, he needs to be able to pick that up again," Schwartz said. "The one thing that's going to happen is they'll play when they're ready. Not to get out there before they're ready. That will be the evaluation. ... The evaluation (of their status) is going to be, 'Are they physically able to do their jobs?' And if they are, then they'll be out there. If they're not, then they won't."
Neither player spoke to the media after Thursday's workout.