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.


Five things learned at NFL Combine

INDIANAPOLIS -- For the Lions and other NFL teams the NFL Combine is a huge step towards determining draft boards -- players they like, others they have no interest in.

After four days at the Combine, here are five things we’ve learned about the Lions and the draft.

1. This year’s draft is weighted heavily defensively and that includes a good cornerback class. Some experts say there’s a drop-off after the top two -- Patrick Peterson (LS) and Prince Amukamara (Nebraska). While others think Brandon Harris (Miami) and Jimmy Smith (Colorado) could also be drafted in the first round.

Amukamara seems a possibility for the Lions with their 13th overall pick if he’s not gone already. He’s just waiting to show that he’s not a slow guy when he runs his 40-yard dash at the Combine on Tuesday.

The former teammate of Ndamukong Suh has no off-field issues and said one of his strengths is his competitiveness which happens to be one of the top items on the list for Lions general manager Martin Mayhew,

2. Mayhew has said he will take the best available player with the 13th overall pick, within reason.

Count on this the Lions will not draft a quarterback with that pick of any of their other four picks.

“I’m putting all my eggs in the Matt Stafford, Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton basket on that. To be honest with you, I haven’t evaluated a lot of these quarterbacks. When we interview our 60 guys (at the Combine), we won’t interview a single quarterback,’’ Mayhew said.

Quarterback Cam Newton of Auburn was the talk of the draft. Everyone knows his physical ability and he proved it with his Combine workouts including a broad jump of 10-feet-6 inches. Still there are questions whether he can make the transformation to a pro-style offense.

3. Drafting an offensive tackle is a possibility for the Lions even though Mayhew likes what he has with young developmental tackles in Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard. “We have a lot of needs. We’ll take the best player available. I wouldn’t say we wouldn’t take a tackle because we have Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard,’’ Mayhew said.

4. The Lions planned to interview 60 players at the Combine and bring another 30 to Allen Park for physicals and interviews. They are nowhere close to deciding who they will take with the 13th pick or later rounds either. That’s why Mayhew laughs when he peruses mock drafts.

Mayhew said after the Combine last year they still had not made a decision on whether they would draft Ndamukong Suh with the second overall pick because they had too much homework to do with other players.

5. The Lions won’t be looking at kickers either. Mayhew said they had decided on whether or not they want to keep Dave Rayner, who filled in last season after Jason Hanson injured his kicking knee. But he didn’t say what the decision was.

Hanson is still under contract and is rehabilitating his knee.

“I think the big thing in that whole discussion is where Jason Hanson is physically. I think, right now, we don’t have an answer for that. But by the time we get to this summer, we’ll know exactly where he is and how he’s feeling and what he’s able to do and what he’s not able to do,’’ Mayhew said. “We’ve got a good evaluation on both of those guys and see how it all plays out.’’

Hanson, who is 40 and has 19 seasons with the Lions, has been injured in training camp the past two seasons.

“We take everything into consideration. His age is a factor, more so, I think, than his health each season. He’s getting old, he’s getting older. That’s one where we have a lot of time to make a decision on,’’ Mayhew said.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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NFL Combine: CB Brandon Harris has something to prove

INDIANAPOLIS -- Patrick Peterson (LSU) and Prince Amukamara (Nebraska) are considered the top two cornerbacks in this draft class and could both be top 10 picks. Many experts think there’s a drop-off after that.

Brandon Harris, a cornerback from the University of Miami (Fla.), would like to prove that he belongs with the big guys.

Harris, whose stock has fallen after a disappointing showing in the Sun Bowl, has talked casually with the Detroit Lions and said he has a meeting set up with them here at the NFL Combine. Cornerback is one of the positions of need for the Lions.

“I’ve watched Prince and I’ve watched Patrick Peterson for a while now. They’re two great cornerbacks. Make no mistake about it they’re great guys. I just think making as many plays as they’re making they’re getting the credit they deserve. A lot of us may not have the numbers or the physical stature of those guys, we just have to come out here and show what we can do at the Combine and show everybody this is not a two-person DB class but we are skilled, we can play,’’ Harris said on Sunday morning.

He said the decision to come out early was made by he and his parents. His dad, Tim Harris, coached him in high school and was USA Today's national coach of the year in 2007.

“I told them we have a great opportunity in front of us. I’ve worked my tail off ever since I was small at this game of football I love,’’ Harris (5-11, 195 pouonds) said. “It’s always been my goal to play at the next level and this is the highest level of football my parents supported me and said let’s go for it.’’

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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NFL Combine: MSU's Greg Jones has talked to Lions

INDIANAPOLIS -- Greg Jones thought about leaving Michigan State a year ago, but has no regrets about his decision to wait.

“It was a family decision. We weren’t initially all on the same page, it took us a while we went back and forth to make a decision. Once we all came together to come back my senior year that’s what we stayed with,’’ Jones said. Jones said he will do all the workouts at the NFL Combine. He is ranked as the eighth best inside linebacker in the draft by the National Football Post.

He said he talked to the Detroit Lions at the Senior Bowl.

The decision to wait until this year to come out could cost him financially because of a potential new NFL rookie wage scale. But it doesn’t matter.

“I don’t regret anything, I hold true dearly to myself that I won a Big Ten championship, not too many people in the world that can ever say that. I’m very happy and proud to be a part of that with my teammates for everybody. I’m more mature than I was then. I feel very strong about my decision,’’ Jones said.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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NFL Combine: Lions express interest in CMU's Bellore

INDIANAPOLIS -- Nick Bellore made the tough decision to give up hockey for football and it has paid off so far.

The Detroit Lions are one of the teams that has spoken to Bellore at the NFL Combine. He is ranked as the 10th best inside linebacker in the draft by the National Football Post.

Bellore, who is 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds, played both middle and weakside linebacker at Central Michigan.

Coming from a MAC school is no longer considered something to overcome to make it to the NFL level.

The Super Bowl winning Green Bay Packers had three former Central Michigan players on their roster -- Frank Zombo, Josh Gordy and Cullen Jenkins.

“It’s awesome to see those guys do well,’’ Bellore said.

Bellore, who grew up in Whitefish Bay, Wisc., was at a football camp at the University of Michigan, when he met a coach from Central Michigan and got an offer.

He carries the distinction of serving as a three-year captain.

“I’m not sure someone who is a true sophomore has been (a captain). It was an honor being voted by the players, everything throughout college is having the respect of your teammates and I felt that really showed they had admiration for me and I tried to lead the team to the best of my ability,’’ Bellore said.

Bellore missed just one game while playing for the Chippewas. That was a week after he tore up the inside of his mouth from molar to molar that required 16 stitches in a game with a fluke chin strap incident.

Like a true former hockey player, he stayed in the game.

“It was a Western Michigan game. You don’t come out for those games,’’ Bellore said.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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NFL Combine: Ryan Mallett has no regrets about transfer from Michigan

INDIANAPOLIS -- Quarterback Ryan Mallett has no regrets about transferring from Michigan to Arkansas upon the arrival of coach Rich Rodriguez.

“I had a great experience at Michigan, I met a lot of great people -- coach (Lloyd) Carr, coach (Scot) Loeffler -- one of the main reasons I went there. It was a great experience for me, I learned a lot of things,’’ Mallett said during his media appearance Saturday at the NFL Combine.

"The transition was because of the offense. When I left to go to Arkansas, coach Rodriguez had Denard (Robinson) do what he wanted to do. Obviously if you watch me play I can’t do that. So I thought it was best if I went somewhere else.’’

He said he spoke to Rodriguez for about 10 minutes.

“We decided it would be best if I didn’t stay,’’ Mallett said.

Mallett, who played for Carr at Michigan as a true freshman behind Chad Henne, is generally considered to be one of the top five quarterbacks in the upcoming draft.

Rumors have been spreading about character issues, but he dismissed them.

“Ask the coaches, ask the peoples I’ve worked with before, if you want to know about my character they’ll tell you,’’ Mallett said.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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Chiefs GM refuses comment on tampering charges against Lions

INDIANAPOLIS -- It was the Kansas City Chiefs who filed tampering charges against the Detroit Lions in December, but Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli would not offer any insight on Saturday morning while addressing the media at the NFL Combine.

“That’s a league issue that was handled and I really don’t have any comment on that at all,’’ Pioli said.

The Lions have until Monday to appeal the charges. The Lions lost a seventh-round draft pick and will swap fifth-round picks with the Chiefs.

On Friday, Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said the team had not decided on the next step.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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MSU's Mark Dell aims to stand out in deep receiver draft class

INDIANAPOLIS -- This year’s draft is expected to be deep at wide receiver, so Mark Dell know he has to find a way to stand out.

Dell, who played at Farmington Hills Harrison and Michigan State, turned to former Spartan Javon Ringer to give him some pointers on the NFL Combine.

“He gave me good advice. He said don’t be overwhelmed, just be relaxed, sell myself, don’t try to be anyone I’m not,’’ said Dell, one of four Spartans at the Combine.

It’s not unusual for Michigan State to be represented by a wide receiver.

“I would like to think so we’ve had a lot of great wide receivers come out of Michigan State, they have a lot of great receivers still to come,’’ Dell said.

He’s not sure why Michigan State has such a tradition at receiver, but he’s happy to be a part of it.

“I guess they just recruit well. You have a lot of great receivers -- like Plaxico (Burress), Derrick Mason, Muhsin Muhammad, Blair White, Devin Thomas, myself, B.J. Cunningham next year. There’s a lot of great guys there,’’ Dell said.

Dell said one of his strengths that he tries to sell is his work ethic.

“I’m a hard worker, just me as a player, as a person. There’s a lot of off-the-field things they want to know about family background and things like that. Just telling them I’m a good character guy, how great of a player I am, how hard of a worker I am,’’ said Dell who is expected to be a late-round pick if drafted.

The other Spartans here at the Combine are tight end Charlie Gantt, linebacker Greg Jones and cornerback Chris L. Rucker.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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Lions' Mayhew takes the blame for tampering charges

INDIANAPOLIS -- Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said he takes the blame for the tampering charges that were issued against the team by the NFL a week ago.

“As far as the tampering case just like anything else you win some, you lose some. As of right now we lost that one. I take the blame for that, it’s my fault.

The way I feel about it, when that kind of thing happens what you have to go back and re-evaluate what you did, what you didn’t do, things you can do differently then you move on,’’ Mayhew said on Friday morning.

He said there are too many positives going on with the team right now to concentrate on the negatives.

Mayhew said they have until Monday to decide whether to appeal the charges.

The charges were filed by the Kansas City Chiefs in December and are believed to involve Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham and safety Jarrad Page, but that has not been confirmed.

Mayhew made a statement on the tampering, but would not answer questions about it.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche. Come back throughout today and the weekend for updates from the NFL Combine.)

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Lions' GM Martin Mayhew: 'There will be football this fall ...'

INDIANAPOLIS -- Lions general manager Martin Mayhew would not answer any questions regarding the “L word” during a breakfast meeting with beat writers today (Friday).

Here’s what he had to say about the potential NFL lockout: “There will be football this fall, we will play when there is football. Up until then and into that process we’ll just rely on the league’s direction. ...’’

Mayhew did confirm a report that in the event of a lockout teams will be able to keep in touch with injured players through their rehab process.

“We’ll be able to monitor their rehabs, I’ll leave at it. They won’t be out there on their own with us having no clue of where they are physically,’’ Mayhew said. “We’ll be able to be in touch with people be in contact about their rehabs.’’

Several Lions are in rehab including quarterback Matthew Stafford, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch.

(Follow me on Twitter @paulapasche.)

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Mayhew: Carpenter, Palmer to compete for starting outside linebacker roles

INDIANAPOLIS -- Outside linebacker is considered a position of need for the Detroit Lions who will release Julian Peterson and are unsure if Zack Follett will return following his spinal injury last season.

However, Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said this morning (Friday) that Bobby Carpenter and Ashlee Palmer will compete this season to start at outside linebacker.

Carpenter joined the Lions midway through last season when the linebacking corps was depleted by injury.

“Guys like Bobby Carpenter, Ashlee Palmer, John Wendling, down the stretch those guys made a huge impact for us. I thought Bobby did an outstanding job, he came in, he learned our system, he knew all the spots, he knew all the special teams stuff and he made plays for us on the field,’’ Mayhew said. “He made a couple big plays on the passing game on third downs for us, we were happy with his performance we thought he did a good job.

“I see him certainly as a guy who competes for a starting job at outside linebacker for us, I see Ashlee the same way. Both those guys have played well enough and there’s enough good tape ofd those guys playing in our system to say those guys can be starters,’’ Mayhew added.

Palmer got off to a slow start last season, his first with the Lions. But improved as the season went on and his playing time increased due to injuries.

“Coming from Buffalo last year, having to learn a new system, (Palmer) is still a young player, so I think it was sort of picking up our scheme, knowing his job, performing at a consistent level,’’ Mayhew said. “He was also playing a lot of special teams and defense at the same time. That’s always tough for a young player. He had a good season for us though, for a young guy, and his arrow is still going up.’’

Follett is still a question mark. He continues rehab. Mayhew said they are taking “a wait and see approach” and it’s out of their hands. It will be more a decision for Follett and he has not made it yet.

Immediately after the season, Mayhew said Peterson would not be with the team this coming season. He reiterated that on Friday, but said Peterson has yet to be released.

(Check back this afternoon for more from Mayhew’s breakfast on Friday morning with the Lions beat writers. Also check out a live chat from the Combine at noon on Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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NFL Combine: Schilling discusses 'drama' at U-M, forgives Justin Boren

INDIANAPOLIS -- Left guard Steve Schilling went through a rough transition at Michigan after coach Lloyd Carr retired after Schilling’s first season and Rich Rodriguez was hired.

“It was a tough situation from Day One, obviously there was a lot of what you would say drama, ups and downs and things like that. NCAA violations -- there was a media storm for three years,’’ Schilling said at the NFL Combine on Thursday. Schilling has not kept in touch with Rodriguez and has not met new coach Brady Hoke.

“Everything I’ve heard is positive, he’s got a pretty good track record at schools where he’s been. He’s coached at Michigan before, understood how we did things before,’’ Schilling said.

It took a few years but Schilling has forgiven his freshman roommate Justin Boren.

After their freshman season when Carr retired, Schilling stayed at Michigan, while Boren transferred to Ohio State.

They had not spoken since then -- until Wednesday night when they went to dinner.

“(It was) really interesting, kind of awkward at the start. There’s obviously hard feelings. When someone is going to transfer, you wish they’d stay with your team, when they transfer to your biggest rival it adds a whole other level,’’ Schilling said on Thursday at the NFL Combine.

“Justin is a good guy, he had to make the decision he had to make,’’ Schilling said. “I forgive him for that. I wish it never happened.’’

Schilling said Boren was respectful and didn’t gloat about the Buckeyes’ success.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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NFL Combine: Schwartz says Erik Coleman's experience a huge plus

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Lions beefed up the secondary last week when they signed safety Erik Coleman who had been released by the Falcons.

But until today (Thursday) at the NFL Combine they did not have a comment on the acquisition.

Coach Jim Schwartz said at this point it’s uncertain whether he will start opposite Louis Delmas, or serve as a backup.

“I think physically he fits what we’re looking for, sizewise and things like that. He also has starting experience, I think that’s important. We need, Amari Spievey needs to develop for us, he needs to continue. He did some things very, very well as a rookie, other things he played as a rookie,’’ Schwartz said.

“It helps tremendously when you have Erik who is still young, fits the job description and also has a lot of starting experience, can start, may be a backup again -- that race hasn’t been run yet. It was one of those situations he was available, he fit the job description of what we were looking for and it was good to add him,’’ the coach added.

The 28-year-old Coleman started in his first two seasons (2008 and 2009) with the Falcons, but was injured in the opener last year and replaced by a younger guy.

“When he came back healthy they had gone to their younger player and that guy played pretty well. I thought he played well in the opener that was the only film we had on him last year,’’ Schwartz said.

Coleman, who was drafted by the Jets out of Washington State, started 45 of his first 48 NFL games with the Jets.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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At combine: Lions' Schwartz won't comment on Stafford's progress

INDIANAPOLIS -- Lions coach Jim Schwartz will not speculate on what could happen to the rehabilitation process of quarterback Matthew Stafford should there be a lockout of the players.

If a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached by the end of the day on March 3, there remains a possibility the NFL owners could lock out the players. If that happens, teams will not be allowed contact with the players.

“I remain optimistic that we’re (not) going to cross that bridge. You’re not going to get me to comment on something that may or may not happen,’’ Schwartz said this morning (Thursday) at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Field.

After missing 13 games last season with shoulder injuries, Stafford underwent shoulder surgery on Jan. 21 which was unexpected.

“The way we are with our rehab schedule, the way we’ve rehabbed all our players all along I remain hopeful we’ll continue on that track and that we won’t have any interruption,’’ Schwartz said. (Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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NFL: Good sign both that sides continue to meet

INDIANAPOLIS -- The threat of an NFL lockout is still a reality, but the signs continue to be positive that maybe the NFL owners and the NFLPA have found some middle ground.

Today (Wednesday) was their sixth straight day of meeting with a federal mediator in Washington, D.C. There is a news blackout on the talks and obviously both sides are living with that. The fact they continue to meet is news they cannot hide.

A mediator’s decisions are not binding like in arbitration, but the fact that he’s kept both sides at the bargaining table for six days has to be a good sign. They are under no obligation to sit there, if they thought it was a waste of time they would have blown town days ago.

The current collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of the day on March 3. Perhaps if an agreement has not been reached but is close they will extend that agreement for a few weeks.

The NFL will meet with general managers, coaches and excecutives from all 32 teams here in Indianapolis on Thursday.

I’ll be covering the NFL Combine through Sunday, with updates throughout each day.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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Safety Erik Coleman happy to be a Lion

Newest Lions safety Erik Coleman is happy to be moving to Detroit.

He tweeted today: “I am extremely excited to lend my services to the Lions and the wonderful city of Detroit! Let's go Lions!!! #blessed”

After being released by the Atlanta Falcons last week, the 28-year-old safety signed a one-year deal with Detroit.

He wore No. 26 in Atlanta, but maybe will have to change that because Louis Delmas wears No. 26.

Follow him on Twitter @ErikColeman26.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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Report: Lions sign safety Erik Coleman

The Lions have signed safety Erik Coleman to a one-year deal according to a report from

Coleman was released by the Falcons last week after falling down the depth chart during the 2010 season when he started just one game of the dozen he played in.

The 28-year-old safety played for three seasons with Atlanta and started all 16 games in the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

Coming out of Washington State, he spent his first four NFL seasons with the Jets where he was a starter for the first three years.

Coleman’s release was timely because it allowed him to sign with another club before a possible lockout on March 4. If there is a lockout no players will be allowed to sign.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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Lions lose draft pick for tampering with Chiefs' player

The Detroit Lions must forfeit their 2011 seventh-round draft pick because the NFL has determined the club has violated the NFL anti-tampering policy.

The decision was announced today (Friday). The team has until Feb. 28 to appeal.

A statement released today by the NFL says: ...”The Detroit Lions have violated the NFL Anti-Tampering Policy by commenting publicly to the media about the Lions’ desire to acquire players then under contract to the Kansas City Chiefs and by having impermissible contact with a player (or his agent) under contract to the Chiefs. The violations occurred in 2010.’’

The Chiefs filed tampering charges against the Lions in early December.

Although no names were given in the NFL release, it is believed to involve Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham and former Chiefs safety Jarrad Page who is now with the Patriots.

Page played two full seasons as a starter under Cunningham when he was the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator.

Tampering is defined by the league office as: "Any interference by a member club with the employer-employee relationship of another club or any attempt by a club to impermissibly induce a person to seek employment with that club or with the NFL."

The Lions will also have to swap fifth-round picks with the Chiefs. Detroit will now have the 23rd selection of the fifth round while Kansas City will move up to ninth.

(Paula Pasche covers the Lions. Follow her on Twitter @PaulaPasche. Read her Lions Lowdown blog at

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Link found between birthdays and NFL success

The Lions’ last four first-round picks from the past two drafts all have birthdays in January and February. Coincidence? Probably not.

Ndamukong Suh’s birthday is Jan. 6, while Matthew Stafford’s in Feb. 7. Jahvid Best turned 22 on Jan. 30 while Brandon Pettigrew will celebrate on Feb. 23.

Don’t want to tell the Lions how to do their business when it comes to the draft, but ... they might want to look for a first-rounder with a birthday in January or February. Or maybe they’ll do their due dilligence and just coincidentally their top pick, at No. 13, will have a January or February birth date.

It all fits in with the book “The Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s a fascinating look at why some people -- like Bill Gates and the Beatles -- achieve so much more success than others. Hard work, at least 10,000 hours of it, is a part of it, but circumstances play a huge role.

One of the early chapters explains why the rosters of Canadian junior hockey teams are heavily tilted toward players with birthdays in January, February and March.

It’s because the Canadian cutoff birthday is Jan.1, and when the little skaters start out in midgets or Timbits, those kids are more physically mature and able to compete better because they’re older. So as they move along, they earn spots on top teams, draw the better coaches and the chance to continue to move upward. Gladwell presents the rosters of the two teams in the 2007 Memorial Cup as evidence and it’s amazing.

It’s got to be the similar in the NFL. Generally kids born in January and February are the oldest in their class. It means everything physically and mentally.

So birth date can play a role in the success of an athlete. The author used hockey as an example, but perhaps it applies to the NFL too.

Lions coach Jim Schwartz has read the book, I heard him recommend it during a speech at a caddies banquet at Oakland Hills. So maybe he’s onto this. Maybe that’s why his top picks have birthdays in January and February.

Perhaps Matt Millen never read it and that’s why of the eight first-round picks he made only one had a birthday earlier than May. That was wide receiver Mike Williams (Jan. 4).

Evidence? Here we go: Joey Harrington (Oct. 21), Ernie Sims (Dec. 23), Charles Rogers (May 23), Roy Williams (Dec. 20), Gosder Cherilus (June 28).

The only exception is Calvin Johnson whose birthday is Sept. 25. No good explanation other than he’s off the charts -- quite literally.

So there you go. Now we have another reason to add to the list of why Millen struggled with the draft. He paid no attention to birth dates.

(Paula Pasche covers the Lions. Follow her on Twitter @PaulaPasche. Read her Lions Lowdown blog at

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Mediation a step in right direction for NFL, NFLPA

It’s certainly a good sign that the NFL and NFLPA have agreed to meet with a federal negotiator on Friday. It does not mean that an agreement will be reached before the current collective bargaining agreement expires on March 4. However, it’s a step in the right direction and shows they can agree on one thing.

No official negotiations have taken place since last week.

Mediation is different from arbitration which is binding. Mediation is something like going to a marriage counselor.

The NFLPA released this statement: “The NFL Players Association has always focused on reaching a fair collective bargaining agreement through negotiations. We hope that this renewed effort, through mediation, will help the players and owners reach a successful deal.’’

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, an independent U.S. government agency, will oversee negotiations in Washington beginning Friday, according to the Associated Press.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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Mayock: Lions could draft tackle in first round

If cornerback Prince Amukamara of Nebraska is available when the Lions pick 13th in April’s NFL draft, they should nab him. That’s a big if, though.

That’s the opinion of Mike Mayock, the NFL Network’s scouting combine and draft analyst, who shared his thoughts on a conference call Thursday.

The Lions found good fortune with Ndamukong Suh, also from Nebraska, when they made him the second overall pick last year. In fact, the Lions have quite a contingent from Nebraska including Suh, Dominic Raiola and Kyle Vanden Bosch.

Amukamara is a 6-1, 205-pound cornerback who is projected in the top 10 in many mock drafts.

The Lions top needs are at outside linebacker, cornerback and safety, but there’s a chance they won’t fill one of those positions in the first round. They are unlikely to reach down, instead they will pick the best player at that position who fills a need.

At cornerback, Mayock thinks there’s a big dropoff after Patrick Peterson (LSU), who should go in the Top 10, and Amukamara who could also be a Top 10 selection. Mayock is not a big fan of Brandon Harris (Miami) or Aaron Williams (Texas). He didn’t see either one as a good option for Baltimore with the 26th pick, obviously meaning they would not provide enough value for the Lions at 13th.

The top two outside linebackers, in his opinion, are Von Miller (Texas A&M) and Akeem Ayers (UCLA). However both of them are more suited to a 3-4 defense, not the Lions’ 4-3.

“I don’t think Bruce Carter of North Carolina is worthy of a first-round pick,’’ said Mayock noting that Carter, an outside linebacker, is coming off knee surgery.

He sees the offensive tackle positions coming into play at the 13th pick for the Lions. He rates the top three as Anthony Castonzo (Boston College), Tyron Smith (USC) and Nate Solder (Colorado).

With the NFL Combine starting on Feb. 24 in Indianapolis, the draft picture should shake out a bit more.

Unlike last year when the consensus top three picks were Sam Bradford, Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy -- although not necessarily in that order at the Combine -- there is not a clear picture, at least yet.

Mayock has named his four top quarterbacks -- Blaine Gabbert (Missouri), Jake Locker (Washington), Cam Newton (Auburn) and Ryan Mallett (Arkansas) -- but he is not sold on any one of them.

He said he has yet to figure out who will be a boom quarterback and who will be a bust. Along with talent, he judges quarterbacks on work ethic (will he be the first guy in the building every morning?), toughness and football IQ.

Mallett, who started his collegiate career at Michigan before transferring to Arkansas, has the God-given ability to throw a football when he has plenty of time. After that, Mayock is not sure. He’s seen him make some horrible decisions.

“I would be very concerned about taking him in the first round,’’ Mayock said.

He said the Combine will be important for Mallett but it’s not about him throwing in shorts. Instead he’ll have to wow the general managers and coaching staffs in night meetings to show he has enough understanding of the game.

That’s how it will go for the 330 players who are invited to Indianapolis. About 250 of them will be drafted. How many of them perform in shorts and in the interviews, could help shape their futures. (Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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Next up: The NFL Combine at Indianapolis

Next week the wonder that is the NFL Combine gets going in Indianapolis. Look for several blog reports and tweets daily from Lucas Oil Stadium from me from Feb. 24-27.

It will give us a chance to get to know the guys who are possibilities for the Lions with the 13th pick in the first round, and a host of others. It’s a gold mine for information and can’t come soon enough.

Will also get a chance to talk to Lions coach Jim Schwartz and general manager Martin Mayhew at length about the Combine and free agency (if there is not a lockout.)

These are definitely the dog days of the NFL season. But the coming weeks should be quite interesting between the Combine, free agency and the impending lockout.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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Is there room for common sense in NFL talks?

Surprisingly, don’t hear much concern from Lions fans about a possible NFL lockout. Certainly it remains a strong possibility.

The current collective bargaining agreement expires March 4. If there is no new deal in place the owners have threatened to lock out the players. Negotiations have been limited and, according to some reports, contentious.

The players would be happy to continue with the same terms of the current CBA, but the owners want a bigger piece of the $9 billion a year in revenue.

A lockout could affect thousands, not just the owners and players. If games are missed, it will hurt local economies.

In that light, the Kansas City Star reported that Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser sent a letter to Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt with a suggestion that makes sense.

Part of his letter read: “Accordingly, I call upon the owners to announce to the fans that they will not lock out the players. The players already have pledged to not strike. By making the parallel commitment, the owners would create the breathing room for a deal to be struck. This is common sense if the owners truly want to keep the game going, as Commissioner Goodell has stated.”

Common sense, what a concept.

Stay tuned for updates in the weeks leading up to March 4.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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Mock drafts: No consensus for Lions' 13th pick

The NFL draft will be a little different for the Lions after the last two years.

In 2009 they already had Matthew Stafford signed to a deal before taking him with the first overall pick.

In 2010, with the second-overall pick they took Ndamukong Suh, a no-brainer. They just had to wait to make sure St. Louis drafted Sam Bradford as everyone thought they would.

This year they will draft 13th in the first round. The Lions have six picks total -- the only round they won’t draft is sixth.

The biggest needs are at cornerback, strong safety and outside linebacker, but the Lions will pick the best available player available, within reason.

A look at early mock drafts is certainly inconclusive about who just might suit up for the Lions in the fall. I chose 10 mock drafts at random to see if there was a trend.

The first four each featured a different Detroit pick: OT Nate Solder, Colorado; OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA; CB Brandon Harris, Miami-Florida; and OLT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College.

In 10 mock drafts, Solder and Ayers were most popular choices with three mock drafts each having them selected by Detroit.

Two had OLT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College, being selected by Lions.

The others were CB Brandon Harris, Miami-Florida, and DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue.

So there you have it. Granted it’s early in the process but there is no consensus yet.

There’s not an agreement at No. 1 for the Carolina Panthers either. But DT Nick Fairley of Auburn and DE Da’Quan Bowers of Clemson are the current favorites.

First night of the draft is April 28. But the NFL Combine is coming right up starting Feb. 24. The Oakland Press will have up-to-the-minute coverage from the Combine.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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Backus one of five Lions named to All-NFC North team

Jeff Backus got a little love today when he was named to the ESPN All-NFC North team. Backus was selected at left tackle over Green Bay’s Chad Clifton.

Backus, who has not missed a game in 10 seasons, does not get a lot of love from Lions fans, but the Lions’ coaching staff shows him great respect and that is what matters.

Backus, who is 33, has another year on his contract.

The Lions are prepared for his eventual retirement with Corey Hilliard and Jason Fox, a fourth-round pick in 2010. Hilliard was solid replacing the injured Gosder Cherilus at right tackle at the end of the season.

Fox saw limited playing time but that was only because the line was mostly healthy.

Other Lions who made the All-NFC North list include wide receiver Calvin Johnson, tight end Brandon Pettigrew, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and kick returner Stefan Logan.

Chicago’s Chris Harris beat out Lions safety Louis Delmas.’s Kevin Seifert put together the list with input from 800 of his followers.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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Imported from Detroit ... a beer vendor

In an effort to make their point that locking out the NFL players would have wide-reaching meaning, the NFLPA brought in a beer vendor from Ford Field to speak at a press conference in Washington, D.C., according to the Associated Press.

"Football and other major sporting events are some of the only things that bring people to downtown Detroit after 5 p.m.," said John Marler, who has worked at the stadium since 2007.

There could be many twists and turns before the current contract expires on March 4. Both sides met Wednesday, but then canceled the session for today (Thursday).

Owners want a bigger cut of the league's revenues, which are roughly $9 billion, and a rookie wage scale. They also want to add two games to the regular season schedule.

The players are good with the status quo.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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Return to playoffs hinges on one shoulder

That four-game win streak to end the season is one reason Steve Wyche of expects the Lions to be in the playoffs this coming season.

In the NFC, Wyche predicts that Detroit, Tampa Bay and St. Louis will be the three teams back in the playoffs. The teams that were in this year that he doesn’t expect to see return are Chicago, Atlanta and Seattle.

Here’s Wyche’s reasoning for the Lions: “I'm not kidding, but everything hinges on QB Matthew Stafford staying on the field. I'm pegging him to do so and for Detroit to be a wild-card team. The Lions finished on a four-game winning streak and have learned what it takes to compete. They lost six games (Detroit finished 6-10) by five points or less. Those are games in which Stafford could have made the difference. The last two rookie classes have been solid -- especially defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh -- and general manager Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz have shown that they've got things on the right track.’’

There you go. I don’t disagree. The 6-10 record would have been at least 8-8 if Stafford had remained healthy.

He is the whole key to the 2011 season too.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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Lions' odds of winning Super Bowl improve

After all those lousy seasons, Detroit Lions fans have to reach for any bit of good news -- and they do. One of the first things my dentist said to me this morning is that he heard the Lions’ odds of winning the Super Bowl were 35 to 1. And he was happy. Of course, he was happy.

The Lions are in the middle of the pack when odds makers look at next year’s Super Bowl.

According to, the Lions are 50 to 1 shots to win Super Bowl XLVI along with the Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders.

Bringing up the rear are the Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers, each at 100 to 1.

The top three favorites are defending champs Green Bay Packers (7 to 1), New England (8 to 1) and Pittsburgh (10 to 1).

So where were the Packers a year ago? In February 2010 they were 12 to 1 to win Super Bowl XLV which they just did. The favorite was the Indianapolis Colts at 13 to 2.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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Lions' Suh triggers salary bump

Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who won most every major rookie award available, has earned a $1 million bump in his base salary for 2011 which will bring it to $1,405,000 according to information from the NFLPA records posted on Mac’s Football Blog.

When Suh signed his rookie contract in August, it was for $40 million guaranteed and could reach as much as $68 million.

The only other Lion whose salary was triggered by incentives so far was wide receiver Calvin Johnson whose base salary for 2011 will be reduced by $1,575,482 to $8,875,000, but will climb to $14 million in 2012, the final year of his contract.

Detroit WXYT-TV is promoting a "major" announcement tonight involving the Lions. My suspicion is they will announce a deal to carry preseason Lions games. That's only major to Channel 7. As long as games are televised somewhere, fans are happy.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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Super Bowl does not disappoint, unless you're one of 400 without a seat

Turns out the Super Bowl was a winner if you consider the game itself. The Packers threatened to blow it open in the first quarter, but the Steelers would not be counted out.

Overall I thought the commercials were just OK. Liked the mini-Darth Vader ad but can’t remember what it was for -- was it Chevrolet?

Like all of Detroit, absolutely loved the Chrysler ad featuring Eminem. What an awesome tribute to Detroit. Hope they sell a ton of cars because of it, but even if they don’t they got across a good message.

Initial TV rating show a 3-percent bump from last year except in Pittsburgh and Green Bay where the ratings were, of course, phenomenal.

Still can’t help thinking about the 400 ticket holders who had to watch the game on TV in the bowels of the stadium because their temporary seats weren’t approved by the fire marshall.

That is totally inexcusable. The NFL has announced those 400 will be invited to next year’s Super Bowl as guests of the NFL. It’s a nice gesture but they wanted to see their teams play in the big game and they couldn’t because someone didn’t do their job.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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Mother Nature favors Detroit over Dallas when it comes to Super Bowl weather

Perhaps having the Super Bowl in Detroit wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Remember five years ago when Super Bowl XL was held at Ford Field?

The temps were in the 40s in the week leading up to the game won by the Pittsburgh Steelers. In fact, they had to make snow for the Winter Blast activities downtown. Sled dogs brought in for mush demonstrations had no snow to mush on.

The airport was open, the roads were clear and the people were all friendly.

There’s always talk of only holding the Super Bowl in warm-weather cities, but what constitutes warm weather?

You can wipe Dallas off that list. Not only have the temps been in the 20s this week leading up to Sunday’s game but the Dallas folks don’t know how to deal with ice and snow. Apparently they don’t have salt trucks or if they do, they are keeping them out of sight.

Sports writers covering the big game have complained not so much about the weather, but how the city is handling it -- or should we say not handling it.

The icy roads and sidewalks are treacherous and on top of it all the cab drivers are on strike and the Dallas area is quite spread out.

Should weather play a role in the NFL’s consideration of where to hold the big game?

Next year it will be in Indianapolis where they know how to deal with snow and ice. Lucas Oil Stadium is downtown, walkable from many hotels.

In 2013 it’s at the New Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey which is walkable from nowhere. While New Jersey knows how to handle winter weather, it could be a test of the road plowing systems in the greater New York area. Or it could be unseasonably warm.

When Super Bowl XVI was held at the Silverdome in 1982 it was 12 degrees with a wind-chill of minus-27. Everyone just dealt with it. Saginaw Street in downtown Pontiac was turned into “Bourbon Street North” and was full of partiers and drinkers every night. A little cold couldn’t keep them away.

All the planning in the world makes no difference if Mother Nature dumps on the Super Bowl city.

The NFL shouldn’t restrict the Super Bowl to warm-weather cities and I don’t think they will. The Super Bowl and all the money it brings into a metro area is one reward for building a new stadium. That’s how it came to Ford Field.

It’s almost funny that Dallas is a more miserable winter destination than Detroit. Funny only because I’m not in Dallas.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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Lions' Suh named Pepsi Rookie of the Year

Ndamukong Suh was named the Pepsi Rookie of the Year on Thursday.

The Lions defensive tackle was the first defenseman to win the award in its nine years of existence.

He beat out St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, New England Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty, Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden and Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Williams.

In his rookie season Suh finished with 10 sacks which was more than any other defensive tackle in the NFL. He also had an interception and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.

Suh sailed through the season playing more like a veteran than a rookie. His only bad stat -- he was 0-for-1 kicking on point-after attempts -- can be overlooked since he was just thrown into the predicament after Jason Hanson had been hurt.

Suh underwent right shoulder surgery three weeks ago and is expected to make a full recovery before training camp.

He is the favorite to win the AP defensive rookie of the year which will be announced on Friday night.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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Lions to host strength, conditioning clinic

If you want to know how the pros build strength and conditioning, the Detroit Lions are giving you that opportunity.

The Lions will host their first Strength and Conditioning Clinic at the Lions Headquarters and Training Facility in Allen Park on March 5 from 7:30 a.m.-Noon. It will focus on sports nutrition, speed development, conditioning and strength training.

Included in the instruction will be breakout sessions designed to meet the needs of coaches, athletes and fitness enthusiasts. Participants will be exposed to multiple philosophical approaches, experience numerous training techniques, and a vast array of equipment will be available to try during the clinic.

“This is a great opportunity to bring together those in our community who are interested in sports conditioning and strength training,” said Lions Coordinator of Physical Development Jason Arapoff, who has 24 years of NFL experience. “We hope that we can provide a unique learning environment and open a forum to discuss key issues in this area.”

Along with Arapoff, additional scheduled speakers include the following: Ted Rath, Lions strength and conditioning assistant; Jim Kielbaso, Total Performance; and Dr. Ted Lambrinides, strength and conditioning coach at the University of Kentucky.

The clinic is open to the first 100 participants. Registration is $90 and the deadline is Feb. 16. Participants will receive a clinic DVD, handbook (including speaker notes and handouts), sponsor gift bag and a facility tour. There will also be a raffle giveaway.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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Suh at Super Bowl: Lions will be force in NFC North next season

Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has made the rounds at the pre-Super Bowl festivities in Dallas this week. He’s well-liked and well-spoken representative of the Lions.

Also he could be named AP’s defensive rookie of the year on Friday evening.

On ESPN Radio's "The Scott Van Pelt Show" Suh talked about the Lions: "I think our team is very, very close. One of the reasons I say that is, look at one of the teams that's in this Super Bowl right now, a team that we beat (the Green Bay Packers). I don't take moral victories by any means, but I think we have a group of guys that can play at any point in time. It's just a matter of us playing together like we did at the end of the year, learning how to finish. That's something I think we'll carry on into the 2011 season for us ... and I think that we're going to be a tiger that is definitely going to have to be reckoned with in the NFC North."

Reports say he’s walking around without a sling or brace on his right shoulder which was surgically repaired on Jan. 10.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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Barry Sanders Jr. follows in dad's footsteps

Will never forget years ago at a Lions’ practice in the little bubble beside the Silverdome when Barry Sanders ran the ball in for a touchdown.

It was certainly no big deal to anyone in the bubble except for his son who must have been 3 or 4 years old at the time. He was all excited, jumping up and down because his dad had scored. Apparently he didn’t know his dad was a future Hall of Famer.

Years later now it’s that little boy -- Barry Sanders Jr. -- who is making heads turn at Heritage Hall in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Junior is just a junior so the recruiting talk should intensify leading up to next year’s national signing day. Schools in the mix reportedly include UCLA, Alabama and Florida State.

Here’s the thing, he plays the same position as his dad and has some of the same moves. Check out this video on He’s No. 26, but you’ll figure that out. It’s almost uncanny.

The Sanders kid recently talked to ESPN the Magazine about his famous father.

“It’s definitely an advantage in life having his name, but when it comes to advantages in recruiting I don’t think so. What coaches see on film is what they see on film,’’ Sanders Jr. told the magazine. “Dad doesn’t give football advice. He just doesn’t put emphasis on trying to make me a football player. He enjoys watching me, he supports me, but he couldn’t care less if I played or not.”

That sounds exactly like the Barry Sanders we knew.

In fact in an interview on it’s almost scary how much he looks like his dad and even speaks like him.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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