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.


Pro Bowl draws attention, but ....

Watching the Pro Bowl on Sunday? Me either. What is to be done with this monstrosity? The NFL changed it up this year moving it to the week before the Super Bowl (instead of the week after) and moving it to South Florida, the site of Super Bowl XLIV. It’s the first time in three decades it hasn’t been played in Honolulu. It will be back in Hawaii in 2011 and 2012, although the timing of the event has not been decided.

Certainly the NFL needs a way to honor its best players, but the Pro Bowl is just not top-notch football or even close. Some pundit has suggested moving it to August. That's crazy talk. What if a player was injured and missed the whole season because of a meaningless Pro Bowl game?

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said this week that this Pro Bowl has garnered a lot more attention. He's right on that. But the attention has not all been positive.

No Lions on the roster, I know a big surprise. If you're so inclined the Pro Bowl will be carried at 7 p.m. Sunday on ESPN.



Super tickets for a good cause

It’s short notice, but for the right price you can pick up a pair of tickets to the Super Bowl on Feb. 7 and feel like you’re doing good at the same time.

Lions’ linebacker and amateur wood carver Zack Follett is auctioning off a pair of Super Bowl XLIV tickets and an original wood carving. The proceeds will go to the American Red Cross International Relief Fund to assist efforts in Haiti.

The auction is through the NFL’s auction web site and will be open until 12:05 p.m. on Monday.  See for information.

The Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints will clash in Miami where it’s nice and warm.


Off to the Super Bowl

 When running back Mike Hart graduated from Michigan, most pundits and talk-radio chatterers figured that his football career was done. They thought he would never make it in the NFL. Well, maybe he won’t. But’s he’s managed to hang around long enough with the Indianapolis Colts, who drafted him in the sixth round in 2008, that now Hart is going to the Super Bowl. Nice work.

 It’s not to say that Hart has a future in the league, but he came back after ACL surgery in his rookie season in 2008. This season he was bounced on and off the roster, and on and off the practice squad, but played in nine games and was on the field in Sunday’s AFC Championship win over the Jets as a reserve running back and on special teams.

Hart is one of just one of two former Wolverines on the Colts’ roster. Defensive back Marlin Jackson has come up big at times, but is on injured reserve.

 The Saints also feature two former Wolverines — wide receiver Adrian Arrington and center Jonathan Goodwin. In fact, each of the two Super Bowl rosters feature 10 former Big Ten players.



Be kind, have pie

Lend a hand, have some pie. Sounds like a good combination, eh?

The Lions are teaming up with Achatz Handmade Pie Co., to raise money for the Haiti Earthquake relief. On Friday, Feb. 5, from noon to 2 p.m., Detroit Lions will meet and greets customers at four local Achatz pie shops. From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. that day, for a $10 donation customers will receive a free slice of pie or a hot bowl of soup to-go. All proceeds will benefit the Salvation Army Disaster Relief Fund in Haiti.

Punter Nick Harris will be at the Troy location at 1063 E. Long Lake Road; kicker Jason Hanson will be at the Sterling Heights Pie Shot at 35736 Van Dyke; defensive end Jared DeVries will welcome customers at the Shelby Pie Shot at 46575 Hayes Road; and former defensive lineman Luther Elliss will be at the Oxford Pie Shop at 40 N. Washington.

Three of the Lions — Gosder Cherilus, Cliff Avril and Louis Delmas — have Haitian backgrounds with friends and family on the island.


A few changes made

Continuity is key to winning in the NFL especially when it comes to coaching staffs that are trying to turn around a franchise. You know, like the Lions. Not only did the Lions’ staff have to get to know the players last season, they had to adapt to working with each other.

Prepping for the 2010 season, they’ll be two steps further along the way. They know which players they want to keep and which they don’t. They also understand each other and won’t have to explain systems and philosophies to each other. That is all down.

Quarterbacks coach Jeff Horton has reportedly left to take over as offensive coordinator at Minnesota. He won’t be replaced. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will continue to work with the quarterbacks. He was hands-on last season even with Horton there and that won’t change.

The only other key change is that special teams coordinator Stan Kwan was fired and Danny Crossman brought in from the Carolina Panthers. Crossman had excellent results with the Panthers’ special teams in 2008, then struggled in 2009 which is why he was fired. Kwan’s special teams improved somewhat from a dreadful start, but it wasn’t enough to keep his job.

This week the Lions’ coaching staff is in Mobile, Ala., coaching the North team in preparation for Saturday’s Senior Bowl. It’s a good chance for them to get to know some of the nation’s seniors. It’s an opportunity they relish.



Former Lions in the news

Three former Lions have been in the news this week. The latest news is that former running back Reuben Droughns is reportedly under investigation for growing marijuana at his house. Droughns hasn’t played in the NFL since 2008.

Former wide receiver Tommie Boyd was arraigned Thursday for six felony counts including first- and second-degree criminal sexual conduct. He is being held in the Macomb County jail.

Then there’s former defensive tackle Luther Elliss who is in severe financial trouble after making bad investments. He spoke out this week in an effort to help others.

While neither Droughns or Boyd has been convicted, the most sympathetic of the three is Elliss. He was a passionate, driven defensive tackle for the Lions. When he was with the team, they won games. His heart was so huge that he and his wife adopted six children to go along with five of their own. Too many professional athletes spend away their earnings carelessly. That wasn’t the case for Elliss. It’s a heart-breaking story.


Every opportunity is key

Because the Lions had such an awful season they got the benefit of coaching in the Senior Bowl. The coaching staff will be put to work for a week to cobble together a team that hopefully won’t embarrass itself on national television. (Well, it’s the NFL Network, if that counts.)

Coach Jim Schwartz is excited. He’s been on two Senior Bowl coaching staffs and knows it can give him insight into certain players especially those who might fall to the middle rounds of the draft. He can see their workout habits, get a grasp of their skill level and mindset and then, ultimately, see how they respond under pressure. In the draft every morsel of knowledge is key.

Schwartz and his staff will be coaching the North on Jan. 30 at Mobile, Ala. Twenty-one of the current Lions — and four draft picks from last year — played in the Senior Bowl.


Always the black cloud

On the way to digging up other info, I stumbled upon these two quotes from on Dec. 5, 2001. The Lions were 0-11, on their way to a 2-14 season. The words might sound vaguely familiar since we’ve heard variations of them for the last nine years.

“Something always seems to happen at the worst time and the story turns out with the same ending. It's disheartening to go through this every week. People may think it sounds silly, given our record, but I know we are a better team than this’’ —  DE Robert Porcher.

“Just one Monday morning I want to wake up and feel the good kind of sore. I want to be able to look in the mirror and see that the black cloud is gone.” — TB James Stewart.


A new wrinkle

The NFL’s new draft format this April might add a few new wrinkles. Instead of holding all rounds on a Saturday and Sunday, the draft will be more prime-time friendly. It starts with round one at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 22. Then on April 23 at 6:30 p.m. rounds two and three will be decided. It will wrap up on Saturday, April 24, starting at 10 a.m. for rounds four through seven.

After the first round, general managers will have all Thursday night and Friday during the day to regroup and possibly make draft trades. Same goes for Friday night between round three which is Friday night and round four which starts on Saturday morning.

“I think they will be longer days. I think the teams that have the benefit of picking first the next morning will be in a good situation. You look at your board, you start to ask yourself how important Player A is, if you could just get Player A. ... I think you’ll see a lot of trading of those rounds,’’ Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said.

The Lions have the second overall pick. While there is more need on defense, Mayhew wouldn’t rule out drafting an offensive player.


Two rookies honored

 Lions safety Louis Delmas and tight end Brandon Pettigrew were named to the Pro Football Weekly/Professional Football Writers of America 2009 All-Rookie team today.

Pettigrew’s rookie season was cut short after he tore up his knee in the Thanksgiving Day game. The first-round pick (20th overall) was just finding his stride and had caught a combined 15 passes for 165 yards in the previous three games.

Delmas became the first NFL rookie ever — and just the second NFL player in history — to score on a safety, a fumble return for a touchdown and an interception return for a touchdown in the same season. His hard-hitting was his trademark, but it also became apparent he has the skills and football smarts to be a solid NFL safety.

Life's too short

With the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, there’s so much tragedy it’s almost mind-numbing. It’s getting difficult to watch on television.

So it almost seems small in comparison that the Chicago Bears suffered a loss over the weekend. Gaines Adams, a 26-year-old defensive end, died of cardiac arrest on Sunday.  Most Bears fans hadn’t gotten to know him because he hadn’t been there long. He arrived in October in a trade with Tampa Bay.

It’s not uncommon for athletes to die young. It’s just always sad.


Cherilus, Avril seek help

ALLEN PARK — Lions’ right tackle Gosder Cherilus and defensive end Cliff Avril, who both have relatives in Haiti, want to get to the earthquake devastated country as soon as possible to help. But right now both feel they can help more by working the phones from their homes here in the United States to raise money and find help. Both spoke on a conference call to Detroit media members today. 

Cherilus, who was born in Haiti and lived there until he was 14, plans to get there in the next two to three weeks.

“Since last night I talked to my grandmother, she’s doing OK. She left (the United States) about a month ago. Every winter she doesn’t like the cold here so she travels to Haiti to spend the winter there. My brother is over there too. I have cousins, they said we lost the house we were fortunate nobody got hurt. They said the house is pretty messed up, but it didn’t collapse. There are cracks all over the house, but it didn’t collapse thank God,’’ Cherilus said.

“Most of my close family they’re doing good. My grandmother has her cousins’ children — they lost two of them. One of whom she was with her boyfriend, lost her. My cousin’s husband lost both of his legs. We’re still searching for more people,’’  said Cherilus who is raising money through his foundation at

Avril’s cousins who lived there were fortunate to survive with just bumps and bruises. Avril and his family had been waiting by the phone at their Jacksonville, Fla., home and finally were able to talk to them on Thursday evening. They are OK for now, but like everyone else there they will need food and water to survive in the upcoming days and weeks.

Lions safety Louis Delmas also has relatives in Haiti.

The Detroit Lions have donated $10,000 to the American Red Cross International Relief Fund. The NFL will promote donations to Haiti during this weekend’s playoff games. See or text HAITI to 90999.



Leadership worth a new contract

Martin Mayhew has said he wouldn’t rule out bringing linebacker Larry Foote back for next season.  Both he and coach Jim Schwartz know the impact that Foote had on the team — and not just on the field.

“Larry brought a lot to the table in terms of his leadership with that group, the things he did in our community, he’s a guy who wants to be in Detroit, that’s important,’’ Mayhew said.

Foote, who had spent his first seven years in the NFL in Pittsburgh, signed a one-year deal last May. One reason the Lions wanted him was for his leadership. Foote didn’t let them down.

Repeatedly through the season two rookies continuously praised Foote for helping them in their first NFL season. DeAndre Levy was such a good student he filled in at middle linebacker when Foote missed the last two games because of injury and he did a stellar job. Safety Louis Delmas never let an opportunity get by when he didn’t mention how much it meant to have the support of a veteran guy like Foote.

Mayhew said last week he’d had preliminary talks with Foote’s agent. It won’t break the bank to sign him (he made $1.5 million in 2009). It’d be a great first step for the 2010 season to get Foote under contract.


Avril awaits word from Haiti

There’s not much Cliff Avril, the Lions’ defensive end, can do but sit by his phone and wait for news from Haiti after Tuesday’s devastating earthquake. Avril has several cousins who live in Haiti and he and his family have not heard if they were survivors.

“The biggest thing is we’d just like to know,’’ Avril said in a phone interview from his home in Jacksonville, Fla.

Avril was born and grew up in Florida, but used to visit his grandmother in Haiti every summer until she passed.

His parents grew up in the area around Port-au-Prince that was hit the hardest by the earthquake and that's where his cousins live. “I’ve been watching on TV. It’s crazy all the devastation,’’ Avril said.

For more on Avril’s connections to Haiti, see Thursday’s Oakland Press.

Cherilus grew up in Haiti

The horror of the earthquake in Haiti continues to grow as death estimates range up to 500,000. It’s incomprehensible. Over the next days we’ll hear of those who have relatives and friends who live there. It’s difficult to imagine what it must be like to not know what has happened to those you love.

It has to be a tough day for Lions starting right tackle Gosder Cherilus who was born in Haiti in 1984 and lived there until he was 14. Even though he moved to Massachusetts and played at Boston College, he has never lost his Haitian accent.

Reportedly Lions defensive end Cliff Avril has relatives in Haiti too.

We’re trying to reach both players and get their comments on the earthquake. Stay tuned.


Putting a number on it

How much change will there be on the Lions roster when they kick off the 2010 season? It’s too early to tell. Even Martin Mayhew, the general manager, is not quite sure.

After the 2008 season, the roster was changed so dramatically that more than half of the names on the 2009 roster were new. Will that happen again?

“We’re not projecting 50 percent (in change), we’re just looking for opportunities to get better and when those opportunities show up we’ll take advantage and see how that plays out,’’ Mayhew said.

 But he left the door open when he said, “I wouldn’t be surprised either way.’’


Just a plain rookie

We all know by now that the Lions had a good, solid draft last April. They got five starters out of it who will be key building blocks for the future.

At the end of the season nine of the 10 draftees were still with the team. Only tackle Lydon Murtha, a seventh-rounder, was gone because he had been signed off the practice squad by Miami during the season.

Rookie Derrick Williams, a third-rounder out of Penn State, proved to be a bit of a head-scratcher. 

Martin Mayhew, the Lions general manager, said he expected Williams to struggle as a receiver. “If you go back to Penn State he was in the wildcat, he was the gadget type of guy. He was not fully developed as a receiver,’’ Mayhew said. “I did not anticipate his struggle as a returner and especially catching the ball. ... I  thought he would do a better job catching punts for us.’’

Williams was benched as a returner during the season and then, due to injuries, given more chances.

The Lions have not given up on him.

“He’s a guy who hasn’t forgotten how to play football. ... I thought we had some very advanced rookies this year in terms of Matthew Stafford, Louis Delmas, DeAndre Levy. Then we had some other rookies who were just plain rookies. I anticipate he’s going to play better next year.’’


Mooch in the mix

Perhaps Steve Mariucci is not done coaching. ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that the former Lions and Niners coach is in the mix to take over at USC after Pete Carroll bolted for the Seattle Seahawks.

Mariucci has not coached since he was fired by the Lions on Nov. 28, 2005. He was canned by Matt Millen after accumulating a 15-28 record.

The Iron Mountain native and best buddy of Tom Izzo has one year of head coaching at the college level on his resume. In 1996 he took Cal to a 6-6 record. From there he went to the 49ers where he was 13-3 in his first season.



Blind sided

Back in 2006 the book, “The Blind Side” appeared in my mailbox. Hadn’t heard of it and had a difficult time of trying to understand exactly what it was   about from reading the book jacket. But I jumped at it and was glad I did. The author Michael Lewis combines a look at how the position of left tackle has evolved in football and weaves it in with the life of Michael Oher who is now with the Baltimore Ravens.

If you’re looking for a good football book, I’d recommend it.

Also, the movie is a riot. Sandra Bullock plays the role of the woman who found Oher and offered him a new life. She’s a Southern belle with a steely edge. It’s not all about football, it’s about life too. A good way to spend a few hours.

Read more about Lions' left tackle Jeff Backus in Tuesday’s Oakland Press.

Down the road

  With the Lions it’s never too early to look ahead and put the 2-14 season in the rear-view window. So let’s look at the schedule as it is so far. Days and times will be filled in after the draft.

  In the 2010 season the Lions’ home opponents will be: Chicago, Green Bay, Minnesota, New England, New York Jets, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Washington.

   The Lions, who own a 20-game losing streak on the road, will hit the road to Buffalo, Chicago, Dallas, Green Bay, Miami, Minnesota, New York Giants and Tampa Bay.


Report: Lions punt Kwan

The first shoe drops in the aftermath of another disappointing Lions season, and perhaps the most anticipated.

According to published reports, the Lions have let special teams coordinator Stan Kwan go, leaving just two position coaches or coordinators — Sam Gash (running backs) and Shawn Jefferson (wide receivers) — held over from the Matt Millen-Rod Marinelli era.

The Detroit News’ John Niyo confirmed the move with a phone call to Kwan, who had been with the Lions for 10 seasons, including the last three in charge of special teams, after the retirement of his mentor, Chuck Priefer.

Lions head coach Jim Schwartz was asked about potential turnover on his coaching staff in Monday’s season-ending press conference.

“There are always changes in the NFL. I don’t want to lock into one way or the other because there are some things that happen for a lot of different reasons. That’s part of the evaluation,” Schwartz answered. “Right now we’re still working on players and things like that but there are a lot of stages to the evaluation of players and coaching staffs and scheduling and schemes and things like that. That stuff will come through.”

The rest of Lions’ staff is headed to Mobile, Ala., later this month to coach the North squad at the Senior Bowl. The Jan. 30 game will mark the eighth time — and the first since 2003 — that the Lions coaching staff has coached the Senior Bowl.

UPDATE: The Lions confirmed the dismissal of Kwan in an e-mail on Monday.

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Drew to return, maybe Daunte too

ALLEN PARK — Quarterback Drew Stanton will return to the Lions next season. Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew was vague on many personnel issues for the coming year in his season wrap-up media session on Thursday, but he said that Stanton is under contract and will be back.

“Drew’s a still developing guy. I thought he made tremendous strides from the beginning of the year through the season,’’ Mayhew said. “He’s a young guy we drafted, we still believe in Drew Stanton, we’re still going to work with him and try to develop him.’’ 

Mayhew said there is no depth chart so he wouldn’t speculate if Stanton (Farmington Hills Harrison, Michigan State) would be Matthew Stafford’s backup.

Interestingly enough, Mayhew said he would not rule out bringing Daunte Culpepper back. Culpepper’s contract expired so he would have to be re-signed.

“All Daunte has done for us from the first day we brought him in is everything we asked him to do. Sometimes his performance hasn’t been what we wanted. There’s a bunch of guys in that locker room you could say the same thing about. They’re good guys, they work hard but they haven’t made the play that needed to be made,’’ Mayhew said.

 For more on the Lions, see Friday’s Oakland Press.

Senior Bowl an opportunity

ALLEN PARK — The Lions coaching staff will likely coach at the Senior Bowl on Jan. 30 at Mobile, Ala. Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said on Thursday they see a tremendous upside to getting to know some of the top seniors in college football. The Lions have the second overall pick in April’s draft. An official announcement will be made by Senior Bowl officials.

In his season-ending wrap-up media session today, Mayhew said there have been no coaching changes discussed at this time.

He also announced that running back Kevin Smith will undergo shoulder surgery on his left shoulder. He will wait until he is able to walk without crutches due to the recent surgery to repair his anterior cruciate ligament. Smith separated the shoulder early in the season and chose to  harness it and play out the season with the injury.

 For more on the Lions, see Friday’s Oakland Press.


In trouble once again

When you hear that former Lions wide receiver Charles Rogers, the second overall pick in the 2003 draft, has been arrested again, you wonder when will he wise up. It appears the 28-year-old Saginaw native just cannot conform to society standards. Tuesday he was arrested in the middle of the afternoon for intoxication at a Novi Mexican restaurant. He was thrown back in jail today for disobeying a sobriety court order. He had pled guilty in September to impaired driving and re-entered a sobriety court program.


No award for Delmas

Lions safety Louis Delmas was a standout in his rookie season. He became the first rookie and just the second overall NFL player to score on a fumble return, an interception return and a safety in one season. He was a hard hitter and became a defensive leader. It wasn’t enough for him to earn a single vote as the NFL’s defensive rookie of the year.

Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing was recognized with that honor today. It was a runaway. The panel of 50 sports writers nationwide gave Cushing 39 votes. He was a first-round (15th overall) pick out of Southern Cal.

Liions sign 9 free agents

The Lions signed nine free agents today including tight end Dan Gronkowski, a seventh-round pick who spent most of the season on the practice squad, and defensive tackle Terrance Taylor who played for Michigan. Taylor was signed to the practice squad in mid-December.

Also signed were wide receiver Michael Ray Garvin,  wide receiver Kole Heckendorf, defensive back Jonathan Hefney, defensive end Robert Henderson, defensive back Paul Pratt, guard Kurt Quarterman and defensive back Jahi Word-Daniels. All except Hefney were on the Lions’ practice squad to end the season.



No immediate changes made

ALLEN PARK — No changes were announced by the Lions on the Monday after they wrapped up their 2-14 season. Coach Jim Schwartz told the media he and the coaching staff are still going through player evaluations. He would not speculate on whether he’s keeping certain players or whether every member of his coaching staff will be brought back.

The coach said the two biggest issues in the season will be improving depth and finding more front-line starters.

For more on the Lions, see Tuesday’s Oakland Press.

Not that far away

ALLEN PARK — Rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford, who started in 10 games this season, thinks the Lions are not that far away from becoming a respectable NFL team.

“I don’t think it’s too far, I really don’t. Add a couple pieces here and there, another year together is going to be a big thing too, just experience playing with each other again for another year,’’ Stafford said.

All in all he said it was a good rookie year. “Obviously I wanted to win more games, but I learned a lot and I feel I’m going to be getting healthy here pretty soon and I’ll be good to go,’’ Stafford said.

He underwent minor knee surgery a week ago and said it went well. He’s still resting his shoulder which was separated late in the season. Stafford is taking it slow in getting back in shape, but expects to be 100 percent when offseason training begins in mid-March.

For more on the Lions' 2-14 season, see Tuesday’s Oakland Press.



How bad is bad?

DETROIT — With Sunday's 37-23 loss to Chicago, the Lions finished the season  2-14 and, combined with their 0-16 mark last season, they have the most losses in two seasons in NFL history. They also have the worst NFL records over a 40-game span and a nine-year span.

Thanks to a St. Louis loss, they will also have the second overall draft pick.

Looking for signs of improvement? This season the Lions gave up 494 points which is the fourth most in NFL history. Last year they gave up 517 points, the second most in league record books. OK, it’s not much but with just a pair of wins, these Lions have to dig for positive signs.

After the game, however, coach Jim Schwartz was not in a reflective mood other than to look at what happened on Sunday.

“The only thing that we judge ourselves on are wins and losses and obviously we lost and had plenty of chances to take control of this game,’’ Schwartz said. “It seemed like every time we did, we made a play that let them get the upper hand and put them back in control.’’

For more on Sunday's loss, see Monday's Oakland Press.

Culpepper to start

DETROIT — Daunte Culpepper will start this afternoon against the Bears which is not a surprise. Culpepper is 0-9 as a starter the last two seasons for the Lions. This will most likely be his last game with the Lions.

Linebacker Larry Foote (foot) is out for the second straight game. Patrick Ramsey is listed as the third quarterback. Also out are: RB Cedric Peerman, DT Joe Cohen, C Dan Gerberry, G Roy Schuening and T Corey HIlliard.


Marty? Really?

So ESPN magazine used scientific data to determine who would be the next successful NFL head coach. The results surprised them as much as it will you — Marty Mornhinweg. One and the same. The same guy who took the wind and was 5-27 as head coach of the Lions.

The article explains that the majority of successful coaches have met four criteria: They were between ages of 41 and 49, they had at least 11 years of NFL coaching experience (not necessarily as the head coach), they were assistants on teams that won at least 50 games over a five-year span and they only had one previous NFL head coaching job. Lions coach Jim Schwartz meets the first three.

Pretty interesting stuff. Mornhinweg, currently the offensive coordinator in Philadelphia, fits the bill. But one of his problems in Detroit was his people skills. No data can measure that. Maybe he’s improved. Whatever ... We'll see in the next month or so if any NFL GM looking for a head coach bites on this theory.



The big secret

ALLEN PARK — Coach Jim Schwartz did not announce the starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the Bears on Friday. While he knows who it will be, he would  not make the decision public.

Drew Stanton started last week at San Francisco, but was benched in the fourth quarter for Daunte Culpepper. Stanton has been limited in practice this week because of an injured ankle.

Culpepper, who is 0-9 as a starter over the last two seasons, said on Wednesday he was glad to get another opportunity to start, but it could have been a slip-up.

Not the same team

The Lions who will face the Chicago Bears on Sunday are not even close to the same team that lost to the Bears 48-28 on Oct. 4 at Soldier Field. Detroit has lost eight starters since then to injury — four on offense, four on defense. Seven of them had their seasons end prematurely when they were placed on injured reserve.

Injured quarterback Matthew Stafford won’t play and neither will tight end Brandon Pettigrew, running back Kevin Smith and right guard Stephen Peterman. On defense the starting lineup has been juggled many times since them. Three who started against the Bears — defensive end Copeland Bryan, cornerback Will James and safety Ko Simpson — have been placed on injured reserve. Linebacker Larry Foote (foot), another starter, is unlikely to play either.

Lions coaches will not use injuries as an excuse and we respect that. But they have taken major hits. Would they have won more games? Maybe a few. But finishing a season with 17 players on injured reserve (six of them are defensive backs) has revealed a lack of depth.