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.


Detroit Lions DT Nick Fairley hasn't lived up to first-round standards

 Nick Fairley is one of two top 20 picks in the 2011 draft class, who didn’t start last week in the NFL. The other  is N.Y. Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara.

 Clearly the Detroit Lions defensive tackle has not lived up to first-round standards early in the second season of his career. 

  Fairley, the 13th overall pick in the 2011 draft, was slowed down by a broken foot in his rookie season. This year he’s healthy, but inconsistent. He appears overweight and, of course, hanging like a black cloud over his head are the two offseason arrests (drunk driving, marijuana possess) which could still cost him a suspension from the NFL.

  With Corey Williams out on Sunday against the Vikings following knee surgery, it will be Fairley or Sammie Hill who gets the start. Hill certainly gets better reports from defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham.

 Much was expected of Fairley this season. It’s early, but Hill, a 2009 fourth-round pick out of Stillman, is the better player at this point.

 It is too early to say Fairley is a draft bust. But it’s safe to say he should be better. Corey Williams doesn’t get enough credit for his solid play, so it’s understandable that Fairley is behind him on the depth chart. But with Williams out this week, Fairley should have been playing well enough that there is not a question whether he or Hill will start.

  Does it matter? Yes. Both will see playing time, but it will show who the coaches have more confidence in.

  My guess is that Sammie Hill will get the start just like he did last year in three games — two during Ndamukong Suh’s suspension and one when Williams was out injured.

 (Follow @PaulaPasche on Twitter.)


5 things Detroit Lions must do to beat Minnesota Vikings

Here are five things the Detroit Lions must do to beat the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at Ford Field:

1. Stop Adrian Peterson who is still not 100 percent following ACL surgery eight months ago. He’s still been effective, but runs mostly between the tackles because he hasn’t got his burst back yet. The Lions have done a good job against Peterson. Last year he had 17 carries for 78 yards and a touchdown in one game and didn’t play the second against the Lions.

2. Get the offense going from the get-go. Defenses the last two weeks haven’t been giving Detroit anything downfield, so they’ve been dinking around with short yardage plays in the first half. It just seems that the offense has been out of sync early. Is it a coincidence that both games have been losses? I think not.

3. Get Calvin Johnson involved early. Last week he had one catch in the first half and six in the second. I know he’s double- and triple-covered but certainly there’s a way to get him open across midfield at the very least.

4. Special teams coverage units must play better than at Nashville where they allowed a punt return and a kickoff return for touchdowns. On the kickoff, Jason Hanson kicked the ball in the opposite location of where he was supposed to. On the punt return Ben Graham was hurt kicking and couldn’t act as the safety, but still. Better coverage needed.

5. Defensive line must step up. No sacks last week against Jake Locker, that should change this week against Christian Ponder. At the very least, they need to put more pressure on the young Vikings quarterback.

Prediction: Lions 38, Vikings 24


Matthew Stafford back at Detroit Lions practice

ALLEN PARK — Matthew Stafford practiced for a second straight day on Friday. The Detroit Lions quarterback was a full participant in the portion of practice open to the media.

 Despite a hip injury, he is expected to start on Sunday at Ford Field against the Minnesota Vikings.

 Tony Scheffler, coming off a calf injury, practiced again and is also expected to play.
 Louis Delmas (knee) and Travis Lewis (quad) did not practice. Neither did Corey Williams who had knee surgery on Tuesday and is week to week.

 (Follow @PaulaPasche on Twitter.)


Detroit Lions Corey Williams has knee surgery; will miss Sunday's game against Minnesota Vikings

ALLEN PARK — Detroit Lions starting defensive tackle Corey Williams will miss Sunday’s game after undergoing knee surgery on Tuesday, the team announced today (Thursday).

 Williams has been on and off the injury report the last two weeks with knee issues. Coach Jim Schwartz said he’s out for Sunday at the Minnesota Vikings and his status is week to week. The Lions have a bye the following week.

 Williams will be replaced as a starter either by Nick Fairley or Sammie Hill. In the first three games, Fairley has played a total of five more snaps than Hill making it tough to judge who will start. Late last season when Ndamukong Suh was suspended for a pair of games, Hill got the start.

 Whether it’s Fairley or Hill who start, both are expected to play significant time in Williams’ absence.

 (Follow @PaulaPasche on Twitter.)

Matthew Stafford returns to practice Thursday

ALLEN PARK — Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who injured his right hip in Sunday’s loss at the Titans, was back at practice today (Thursday). The Detroit Lions quarterback moved fine and, just like always, led the team down the field in the first sprint workout.

 Only the first 30 minutes are open to the media, but during that time Stafford looked like his usual self.

 Also returning to practice were tight end Tony Scheffler (calf) who was injured in the Rams game, and wide receiver Titus Young (knee) who missed Wednesday’s practice.

 Still missing from action were Corey Williams (knee), Travis Lewis (quad) and Louis Delmas who hasn’t practiced since Aug. 7 knee surgery.

(Follow @PaulaPasche on Twitter. E-mail her at


Stafford does not practice; 5 others also out

ALLEN PARK — Matthew Stafford did not practice today (Wednesday) after injuring his right leg in Sunday’s loss at Nashville. 

 Stafford, who doesn’t walk with a noticeable limp, was on the field wearing a baseball cap working with quarterbacks Shaun Hill and Kellen Moore.

 Tight end Tony Scheffler was running along the sidelines, but did not practice. He missed Sunday’s game with a calf injury.

 Also not practicing during the portion open to the media were Louis Delmas (knee), Corey Williams (knee), Titus Young (unknown injury) and Travis Lewis (quad).

 Delmas has not practiced since Aug. 7 knee surgery. 

 The Lions (1-2) host the division rival Minnesota Vikings (2-1) at Ford Field on Sunday.

(Follow @PaulaPasche on Twitter.)


Nick Harris signed after Graham placed on IR

Punter Nick Harris is back.

Ben Graham, who injured his calf in Sunday’s loss at Nashville, was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Tuesday.

Harris, who punted for the Lions for eight years, was signed. In his time with the Lions he averaged 42.5 yards per punt.

 He was released by Detroit just prior to the 2011 season and then was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was in camp this summer with the Carolina Panthers, but released on Aug. 27.

 It’s a good move for the Lions. Along, with punting, Harris has eight years of experience as a holder for Jason Hanson.

  (Follow @PaulaPasche on Twitter.)

NFC North: Thanks to officials, standings not what they should be

Lions fans know a bit about how Packers fans feel today after they were robbed of a win by the officials at Seattle on Monday night.

In the 2010 opener at Chicago, Calvin Johnson made a catch/non-catch in the end zone which would have given the Lions a win and a good start to the season. Of course, those were the real officials.

 With the replacement officials it was different. Even the NFL admitted in a statement on Tuesday that they missed the offensive pass interference by Golden Tate that would have ended the game.

 Since the Packers are a division opponent, do Lions fans have a little sympathy? They should. What they saw happen on Monday night could happen to the Lions on Sunday when they play the surprising 2-1 Vikings.

Just like no one predicted, the Vikings are atop the NFC North ratings, tied with the Chicago Bears at 2-1.

The Packers and Lions are at 1-2 with no help from the replacement officials.

The Lions got screwed out of 12 crucial yards in overtime on Sunday when the official marked the ball in the wrong spot after the Stephen Tulloch personal foul penalty. Coach Jim Schwartz said the alternate official was standing on their sideline and they told him the ball was not being spotted correctly. He said the official was adamant that the spot was correct. Replay shows the officials were wrong.

Would it have made a difference in the game? Possibly. The Lions down-played it on Monday because they feel they shouldn’t have been in that situation, but it mattered.

When I woke up today, I thought NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would find a way to get the regular officials back to work. His defiance is just hurting the league.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)


Coming off loss to Titans, 10 suggestions for the Lions

Is the Lions’ 44-41 overtime loss at Tennessee the end of the world?

 Of course not.

 Is it the end of their playoff hopes?

 Absolutely not.

 Should they have beaten the Titans who started the season 0-2?

 Yes. Yes. Yes.

  It was an all-around 44-41 overtime loss for the Lions on Sunday in Nashville. It ended on a miscommunication that cost them the chance to at least tie the game in overtime with a field goal.

The Lions should have won, but they didn’t. It wasn’t that the Titans were a bad team, they’re full of talent. They just gotten in bad situations in their first two games, both losses.

  Still, there are 13 games left in the season. Here’s all the Lions have to do to trend upward:

1. Get the offense going in the first half, don’t wait to play catch-up in the second half.

2. Get the ball to Calvin Johnson. I know he’s double- and triple-covered in the first half, but there’s got to be a way to find him before half-time. The Lions had 18 rushing plays and 18 passing plays at the half. That kind of balance is not a good thing for a team that depends on the pass.

3. Continue to give the ball to running back Mikel Leshoure who was solid in his NFL debut with 16 carries for 100 yards and a touchdown and four catches for 34 yards. Mike Martz, the FOX analyst and former coach, described him as a truck and a Maserati. Good line and it fits.

4. The defensive line needs to consistently apply pressure. This was first game without a sack. 

5. Poor special teams play on coverage units cost a pair of touchdowns. Granted, the lateral on the punt return was a trick play, but still there should be enough speed on the field that someone could have gotten there and made a tackle.

6. The secondary is still an issue. Chris Houston made a few key plays. Not sure if communication is the problem. Of course only two of the Titans’ five touchdowns were scored on the defense. Two were on returns and one was a fumble recover returned for a score.

7. Clean up the penalties. They were an issue last season and definitely a problem on Sunday. Ten penalties cost 91 yards and the game.

8. Brandon Pettigrew has to work on holding onto the ball. He was stripped on a catch which was returned for a touchdown. He also had at least one drop which seems to be a common occurrence.

9. Appreciate Jason Hanson. Not only did he keep the Lions in the game with three first-half field goals, he took on punting duties and was able to perform everything at his usual high level.

10. Be better prepared for situations like the final play which cost the Lions at least a chance to tie the game in overtime. Shaun Hill took blame but it should be on the coaches.

(Follow @PaulaPasche on Twitter. E-mail her at

Scheffler, Lawrence Jackson among inactives

Look for rookie WR Ryan Broyles to get involved in the Lions’ offense today, coming out of the slot, since TE Tony Scheffler (calf) is inactive at Nashville against the Titans.

 DE Lawrence Jackson (calf), who practiced all week, but who was limited playing just nine snaps last week, is a no-go.

 No other surprises among the inactives who include: QB Kellen Moore, LB Travis Lewis (quad), S Louis Delmas (knee), T Jason Fox and T Corey Hilliard.

(Follow @PaulaPasche on Twitter.)


5 things Lions must do to beat Titans

Five things the Lions need to do to beat the Tennessee Titans at Nashville on Sunday:

1. Give Mikel Leshoure the ball and let’s see what he can do. He’s a bit of an unknown since he hasn’t played for almost two years due to a torn Achilles’ followed by a two-game suspension. He swears he’s 100 percent. 

 2. Go deep. This was just attempted a few times in San Francisco and with good reason due to the 49ers defense. Matthew Stafford’s downfield passes can be game changers. 

 3. Even with cornerback Chris Houston and Bill Bentley back, the secondary could use a little more help from the front seven. The Titans’ offensive line has a few holes which should make it easier for the Lions’ defensive line to add more pressure. Ndamukong Suh has 2.5 sacks in two games, but rates his play as average. We’ll take average from him, but some of his linemates have to step up.

4. Tackle well. It was not an issue in the win over the Rams, it was certainly a problem in the loss to the 49ers.

5. Get the ball to Calvin Johnson.

Prediction: Lions 34, Titans 21


Scheffler, Delmas doubtful; Lacey questionable

 Tight end Tony Scheffler (calf), Travis Lewis (quad) and Louis Delmas (knee) are all listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game at the Tennessee Titans on Friday’s injury report. None of them has practiced all week.

If Scheffler does not play expect tight end Will Heller and rookie wide receiver Ryan Broyles to see more action. Broyles was activated last week but did not play in the loss at San Francisco.

Cornerback Jacob Lacey made his first appearance on the injury list all week. He was limited in practice on Friday with a toe injury. He’s listed as questionable as is defensive tackle Corey Williams who has a knee injury.

Chris Houston (ankle), Bill Bentley (concussion) and Calvin Johnson (foot) are all listed as probable.

ALLEN PARK — Defensive tackle Corey Williams (knee) who hasn’t practiced this week, returned for the portion that was open to the media today (Friday). 

Williams didn’t have a full practice a week ago and yet played in the loss at San Francisco.

Only three others were out injured on Friday: Tony Scheffler, who hasn’t practiced all week with a calf injury; Travis Lewis who hasn’t practiced for two weeks with a quad injury; and Louis Delmas who hasn’t practiced since knee surgery on Aug. 7. On Thursday, coach Jim Schwartz said Delmas is still week to week not day to day.

The Lions (1-1) play at the Tennessee Titans (0-2) on Sunday. Kickoff is 1 p.m. Ron Pitts and Mike Martz (yes, that Mike Martz) will call the game on FOX.

(Follow @PaulaPasche on Twitter.)


Don't tug on Superman's cape

  In some games the NFL replacement refs are more noticeable for their incompetence than others.

 Players like Calvin Johnson have a bird’s-eye view.
 “There was definitely a hold on me on a third down, I think it was in the first half I beleive. It was in the middle of the field but they don’t see it,’’ Johnson said on Thursday.
 “I believe the game is moving real fast for a lot of (replacement officials). It’s kind of like coming from college to the League. Things are moving a lot faster. hopefully they catch on to the speed and get up to the speed of the game,’’ he added.
 The hold involved the defenseman pulling on Johnson’s jersey.
 “Exactly, that’s not hard to see,’’ Johnson said.
  While he’s on the field he’s not shy about mentioning infractions to these officials.
“You got to talk to them, if something is happening. Last game i went up and told them the guys are holding,’’ Johnson said. “We didn’t get a call, you just want to make them alert about it.’’
   He said usually he doesn’t talk to the regular officials.
  “When we had our regular guys, they’re good,’’ Johnson said. “I’m not discrediting these guys they’re doing the best they can.’’

Calvin Johnson returns; four sit out practice

ALLEN PARK — Wide receiver Calvin Johnson returned to practice today (Thursday) after sitting out on Wednesday.
 Still missing were Tony Scheffler (calf), Travis Lewis (quad), Corey Williams (knee) and Louis Delmas (knee).
Cornerbacks Chris Houston and Bill Bentley were back to work for the second straight day. Bentley, who is coming off a concussion had a limited practice on Wednesday.
 Cornerback Drayton Florence, who had forearm surgery on Tuesday, was standing on the sidelines. He was placed on injured reserve with the designation to return. He is out for six weeks and can play in a game in eight weeks.
The Lions (1-1) are preparing to play at the Tennessee Titans (0-2).

(Follow @PaulaPasche on Twitter. Email her at


Six miss practice; Leshoure, Bentley return

ALLEN PARK — Calvin Johnson, Tony Scheffler, Louis Delmas, Drayton Florence, Corey Williams and Travis Lewis did not practice today (Wednesday).
 However, CB Bill Bentley returned from a two-week layoff due to a concussion and CB Chris Houston was back after practicing on a limited basis last week, but not playing on Sunday.
Mikel Leshoure was back after a two-game suspension and oddly enough was the last player to run onto the practice field. Due to a 48-hour roster exemption, a player does not have to be cut to make room on the roster until 4 p.m. today.
 Also at practice were CB Jerome Murphy who was claimed off waivers on Tuesday and CB Conroy Black who was signed to the practice squad on Tuesday in place of Stephfon Green.
 The Lions will play at the Tennessee Titans at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Ron Pitts and Mike Martz will call the game to be televised on FOX.
(Follow @PaulaPasche on Twitter.) Email her at


10 quick reasons not to panic after Lions loss to 49ers

So the Detroit sports talk radio airwaves were driven on Monday by Lions fans who apparently thought the Lions were going 16-0.

Ten quick reasons not to panic after the Lions lost at San Francisco:

1. The 49ers were heavily favored in the nationally televised contest. They had just come off a huge win at Lambeau Field, holding the Packers to 15 points. If that didn’t prove they had a good defense then what would?

2. The Lions are 1-1, tied with the other three NFC North teams, with 14 games remaining. It was the second game, for goodness sake.

3. Yes, the secondary had some issues. Perhaps it’s because they were missing three starters — Chris Houston, Louis Delmas and Bill Bentley. Houston should be close to returning, maybe Delmas too.

4. Matthew Stafford is still Matthew Stafford, the same quarterback who passed for 5,038 yards last season. He’s thrown four interceptions in the first two games. Last year he threw just 16 in the whole season. Against the 49ers, his downfield options were mostly taken away so he had to play differently. Once the running game gets in gear, he’ll be fine.

5. Jason Hanson.

6. The running game needs help and will get it when Mikel Leshoure returns this week. also reported that free agent running backs Ryan Grant and Steve Slaton will visit with the Lions this week. GM Martin Mayhew always is on the lookout to improve the roster.

7. The Lions are 3-point favorites over Tennessee even at Nashville. The Titans are 0-2. The Titans are not the 49ers.

8. The defensive line might just be a little fired up after San Francisco left tackle Joe Staley called them “extremely” over-rated. The line sacked Alex Smith three times and put good pressure on him at times, but not consistently. They might want to show Staley a little something, something.

9. Only six NFL teams are 2-0.

10. Calvin Johnson.

(Follow @PaulaPasche on Twitter. Order her new book, “100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die’’ here. It’s also available at bookstores.)

Lions got beat by a better team in the 49ers; secondary, run game help is on the way

Sure the Lions had a chance to win, but you’ve got to admit it’s pretty clear that the San Francisco 49ers were just the better team.

They proved it Sunday night with a 27-19 win over the Lions at Candlestick Park.

So the Lions are now 1-1, tied with the Packers, the Bears and the Vikings in the NFC North. They play next Sunday at the Tennessee Titans.

The good news is that this Lions’ bunch will only improve.

They were playing without three starters on the secondary. Louis Delmas and Chris Houston reportedly were going through workouts on the field prior to the game. Both have to be getting closer to returning to play. Houston practiced for three days last week on a limited basis. Bentley’s concussion could keep him out a while, there is no timetable for him to be cleared for contact.

Also, Mikel Leshoure’s suspension will be over on Monday. Remember the final preseason game? He looked pretty effective and could make a big difference in the running game.

Running back Joique Bell apparently ensured himself a roster spot with six carries for 14 yards and two receptions for 59 yards. When Leshoure returns, a roster cut will have to be made. It could be Keiland Williams who was active, but didn’t get into the game on Sunday night.

WR Ryan Broyles was also active on Sunday, but didn’t have a ball thrown his way. He will be a valuable addition to the offense when he gets up to speed.

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


Houston, Delmas out at San Francisco; Broyles in

Chris Houston and Louis Delmas won’t play tonight at San Francisco. Both were listed as doubtful on Friday’s injury report.

Drayton Florence will start at left cornerback while Jacob Lacey will start at right corner.

Also inactive against the 49ers are: QB Kellen Moore, CB Bill Bentley (concussion), LB Travis Lewis (quad), OL Jason Fox, OL Corey Hilliard.

Rookie WR Ryan Broyles, who was inactive last week, has his chance to see his first NFL action.

Erik Coleman and John Wendling will once again start at safety.

(Follow @PaulaPasche on Twitter.)


5 things the Lions must do to beat the 49ers

Five things the Detroit Lions must do to beat the 49ers in San Francisco:

1. Stop Frank Gore from breaking through for long runs. The Lions run defense was successful in Week One against the Rams’ running back Steven Jackson. They must do the same with Gore who, in four career games, has averaged 125 yards against the Lions.

2. Run the ball effectively. Kevin Smith is the starter and had a solid game against the Rams, but the 49ers defense will be tougher against the run. Smith got much help from the offensive line, they’ll need to aid the cause at Candlestick Park.

3. Limit turnovers. Despite the overwhelming odds, the Lions beat the Rams despite having a plus-three turnover ratio thanks to three interceptions by Matthew Stafford in the first half. He’s a gunslinger, but the 49ers will make the Lions pay for turnovers

4. Defensive line must put pressure on quarterback Alex Smith like they did Sam Bradford. The line finished with four sacks (the NFL added another one days after the game), they need to sustain the attack.

5. Stay focused. Don’t let the bright lights of Sunday Night Football or all the talk about The Handshake become a distraction. Don’t think about the fact the Lions haven’t won in San Francisco since Nov. 2, 1975. From the way the Lions talk, this shouldn’t be an issue, but things change.

(Follow @PaulaPasche on Twitter. Order her new book, “100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die’’ here. It’s also available at bookstores.)


Chris Houston listed as doubtful for Sunday; complete injury report

ALLEN PARK — Cornerback Chris Houston, who has practiced on limited basis for three days, is listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game at the San Francisco 49ers on the Friday injury report.

Houston has not played since he sustained a high ankle sprain in the Aug. 25 preseason game.

“We’ll see when we get to Sunday what he can do and everything else,’’ coach Jim Schwartz said after Friday’s practice. “See how he can help and, if he can, then we’ll put him on the field. If he can’t, we won’t. He is valuable to our defense and I think he does have a calming influence.’’

Also listed as doubtful are Louis Delmas (knee) and Travis Lewis (quad). Delmas hasn’t practiced since Aug. 7 surgery while Lewis sat out all week after injury in the opening game.

Defensive tackle Corey Williams (knee) did not practice this week but is listed as questionable along with defensive end Lawrence Jackson (calf) who returned to practice on Friday.

Cornerback Bill Bentley, who sustained a concussion in the win over the Rams, is listed as out. He has not been cleared for contact.

If Houston doesn’t play look for Jacob Lacey and Drayton Florence to start.

At safety Erik Coleman and John Wendling started last week and should get the nod again.

(Follow @PaulaPasche on Twitter.)

NFC North: Packers expose Bears' flaws

ALLEN PARK — Think way back to a few weeks ago before the NFL season started.

Many folks out there — some credentialed, some not — were picking the Bears to finish second in the NFC North behind the Packers, with the Lions in third place.

Did Thursday night’s Packers 23-10 win over the Bears change anyone’s minds?

It could still happen, it’s early. But the Bears looked pretty horrid in the loss at Lambeau. My thought watching the first half was this: “For the love of God, when are the Bears going to sign a legit left tackle?” Jay Cutler has been getting beat up for years. Not that he’s perfect but give the guy a chance. He’s way too emotional on the sidelines. Certainly you want a quarterback with fire in his belly, but not one that yells at teammates on the field and on the sidelines in clear view of everyone.

The Packers (1-1), coming off a home loss to the 49ers, have some work to do on offense, but their defense was dominant.

Sunday’s game at the 49ers could tell us much more about the Lions. I hate the term “measuring stick game” but that kind of fits this week.

By the way, I picked the Lions second in the NFC North behind the Packers and in front of the Bears. I’m still comfortable with that prediction.

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

Four sit out Friday's practice; Lawrence Jackson returns

ALLEN PARK — On the final day of preparation before flying to San Francisco on Saturday, four Lions did not practice.

Sitting out were Corey Williams (knee), Louis Delmas (knee), Travis Lewis (quad) and Bill Bentley (concussion).

Lawrence Jackson, who missed Wednesday and Thursday practices, was back at work during the portion of practice open to the media on Friday.

The injury report at 4 p.m. today could list early inactives. It seems pretty clear that Bentley and Delmas will not play. Bentley hasn’t been cleared for contact since sustaining a concussion in the win over the Rams. Delmas hasn’t practiced since knee surgery on Aug. 7.

Expect Chris Houston and Jacob Lacey to start at corner with Drayton Florence at the nickel.

At safety Erik Coleman and John Wendling started last week and should get the nod again.

Kickoff is Sunday at 8:20 p.m. in NBC’s Sunday night game with Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth calling the game and Michele Tafoya reporting from the sideline.

(Follow @PaulaPasche on Twitter. Order her new book, “100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die’’ here. It’s also available at bookstores.)


Calvin Johnson returns; 5 others still out

ALLEN PARK — Calvin Johnson, who sat out Wednesday’s practice with a foot injury, was back at work today (Thursday) during the portion of practice that was open to the media.

Still missing from practice were: DT Corey Williams (knee), DE Lawrence Jackson (calf), LB Travis Lewis (quad), S Louis Delmas (knee) and CB Bill Bentley (concussion).

Chris Houston, who practiced Wednesday after missing several weeks with a high ankle sprain, returned to practice today.

The Lions are preparing to play the 49ers at San Francisco on Sunday Night Football.

(Follow @PaulaPasche on Twitter. Order her new book, “100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die’’ here. It’s also available at bookstores.)


Raiola downfield on TD, but he says it best

ALLEN PARK — Did Lions center Dominic Raiola get away with being downfield when Kevin Smith caught the game-winning touchdown on Sunday?

Offensive linemen are not allowed to be more than one yard downfield before quarterback releases the ball. Raiola was about half a yard past that range.

“I would say I farted in public. I’d like to call it that — farted in a restaurant, popping a pimple, if you will,’’ Raiola said Wednesday.

Here’s what happened from Raiola’s perspective:

“I pulled around and I felt Kevin (Smith) push me a little bit. I was trying to inch my way back, I saw him catch the touchdown.

“I didn’t really celebrate right away. I looked at one sideline, I looked to that sideline, I cleared the flags, both refs were in the end zone. It was close.

“I think Mike Pereira (former NFL vice president of officiating) said it would have been ticky-tac if they called it. I wasn’t trying, I just hovered around the line, him trying to get out kind of pushed me forward a little bit. I didn’t want to (raise my hands) like I didn’t do it. I was trying to nudge my way back.’’

The five-yard pass to Kevin Smith put the Lions up 27-23 with just 10 seconds remaining.

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

Calvin Johnson sits out practice

ALLEN PARK — Calvin Johnson, Louis Delmas and Bill Bentley did not practice today (Wednesday).

Chris Houston was back at work for the first time since he suffered a high ankle sprain in the third preseason game.

Johnson was on the field with his teammates, but had no helmet and was not working in individual drills. It could just be a day of rest for the veteran receiver. More information will be on the late-afternoon injury report.

Bentley suffered a concussion in the third quarter of Sunday’s win over the Rams. He must pass tests to be cleared for contact.

Delmas hasn’t practiced since Aug. 7 knee surgery.

The Lions, who haven’t won in San Francisco since 1975, play at the 49ers at 8:20 p.m. on Sunday.

(Follow @PaulaPasche on Twitter. Order her new book, “100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die’’ here. It’s also available at bookstores.)


With Matthew Stafford, interceptions are going to happen

It seems that Matthew Stafford assaults record books in most every game he plays.

With his 355 passing yards on Sunday, Stafford joined Drew Brees as one of only two quarterbacks in NFL history who has passed for at least 350 yards in four straight games.

Sunday was his 30th start and with 172 yards in the first half, he surpassed 8,000 career yards and joined just four others to have at least 8,000 passing yards in their first 30 starts. He joins Kurt Warner, Dan Marino, Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers in that category.

In Sunday’s win the three interceptions got a little more notice than the records.

While it’s way too early in Stafford’s career to compare him to the greats, history does teach a lesson.

You might remember Brett Favre, the guy in the Levi commercials. He set NFL records in his distinguished career for passing touchdowns (508) and for interceptions (336).

With an aggressive quarterback like Stafford interceptions are going to happen. Three in one half might be a little much, but they are going to happen. He only had 16 all last season, but he had four in the loss at Chicago.

Like coach Jim Schwartz said there’s a fine line between pressing and being aggressive.

“Matt’s very aggressive throwing the ball. He’s got a great arm and he can make throws that maybe some other people can’t,’’ Schwartz said. “Some of those throws are tough to make on a consistent basis, let’s put it that way. ...

“What mattered was the way we came out in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter. The way that we had a short memory, we were able to come out and get touchdowns when it mattered. I think that was more important. When we were throwing that last couple series, Matt wasn’t all of a sudden conservative and taking checkdowns and I think you’ve seen that from other quarterbacks in history, around the League and stuff like that. Maybe he’ll make a couple bad plays and all the sudden is a lot more conservative, the coach becomes a lot more conservative. Matt wasn’t that way.’’

Stafford’s aggressiveness is what makes him a standout, a record breaker. Interceptions are going to happen.

By the way, Stafford and several members of the offense including Nate Burleson, Kevin Smith, Dominic Raiola, Jeff Backus, Stephen Peterman and native Michigander Tony Scheffler have a brief moment in the new Pure Michigan Statewide Singalong. And, no, they don't sing.


Houston to practice Wednesday; handshake talk begins

ALLEN PARK — Cornerback Chris Houston said he will practice on Wednesday. This is good news for the Lions secondary as they prepare to play the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night.

Houston has not practiced since he sustained a high ankle sprain on Aug. 25 in the third preseason game.

Jacob Lacey started for him in Sunday’s win over the St. Louis Rams.

The patched-up secondary played a solid game but got tons of help from the defensive line and the secondary.

Free safety Louis Delmas has not practiced since Aug. 7 knee surgery. He did not speak to reporters today and coach Jim Schwartz would not offer information on his status. John Wendling got the start for Delmas.

Rookie cornerback Bill Bentley suffered a concussion in the third quarter on Sunday. Schwartz said he will have to go through a certain protocol to be cleared for contact.

Schwartz, who was in good humor following Sunday’s win, said he has seen 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh several times since their famous “handshake” following the 49ers win at Ford Field last season.

Since then Schwartz said they have shaken hands several times “without incident.”

5 things we learned in Lions win over Rams

Five things we learned in the Lions 27-23 win over the St. Louis Rams:

1. Kevin Smith played a stellar game and not just because he scored a pair of touchdowns. He pass protected, he had tackles on two of the interceptions and he ran the ball effectively. He rushed for 62 yards, but they were effective yards. In the 80-yard fourth-quarter drive that led to Smith’s five-yard run for a score, he also had a 13-yard scamper on a first down. He answered some of the questions about the Lions’ running game. If he can stay healthy he will be a huge factor in the offense.

2. Matthew Stafford is human and will throw interceptions. His experience paid dividends. Prior to Sunday, he had five career games where he had thrown three or more interceptions and was 0-5 in those contests. He is a comeback kid and afterward said there’s nothing more fun in the NFL than a two-minute drive.

3. Ndamukong Suh’s sustained pressure on Sam Bradford was one reason the Rams offense just couldn’t get much going. They only had 251 net yards and one of their touchdowns was an interception returned for a touchdown. Suh who had one sack wasn’t alone, the defensive line had a solid game. Nick Fairley and Corey Williams also sacked Bradford. Just like last year, there was a heavy rotation on the defensive line with the second group on the field in several key situations.

4. Titus Young still has some growing up to do after an after-the-whistle head butt penalty. Coach Jim Schwartz didn’t seem as upset about it as I would have expected. Overall the Lions only had three penalties compared to seven for the Rams. Doug Hogue was penalized for illegal formation and rookie Jonte Green for holding. Penalties were an area of concern heading into this season. It was a good start on Sunday, except for Young.

5. The secondary — minus two starters in Louis Delmas and Chris Houston — performed beyond expectations. They lost starter Bill Bentley in the third quarter due to concussion-like symptoms and still it worked. They gave up just one ball of more than 20 yards that was a 23-yard touchdown to Brandon Gibson. Cornerback Drayton Florence said afterward there’s plenty of work to do but some of the guys had just been together for four practices. The team is hush-hush about injuries so no way to know if Delmas and Houston will be ready for Sunday’s game at San Francisco. Houston said last week he’s day to day.

(Follow @PaulaPasche on Twitter. Order her new book, “100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die’’ here. It’s also available at bookstores.)


Lacey to start for Houston; Wendling in for Delmas; complete list of inactives

DETROIT — As expected Louis Delmas and Chris Houston will not play in the Lions season opener against the Rams at Ford Field today.

Neither practiced all week. Delmas has been out since Aug. 7 knee surgery, while Houston has not practiced since injuring his ankle in the Aug. 25 preseason game.

Jacob Lacey will start at left corner for Houston while John Wendling will start free safety for Delmas.

Also inactive for the Lions: QB Kellen Moore, Ryan Broyles, Tahir Whitehead, Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard.

Inactive for the Rams are: Darian Stewart, Terrance Ganaway, Ty Nsekhe, Shelley Smith, Matthew Conrath, Michael Brockers and Darell Scott.

(Follow @PaulaPasche on Twitter. Order her new book, “100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die’’ here. It’s also available at bookstores.)

History to be made with first female official

DETROIT — Regardless of the score between the Detroit Lions and the St. Louis Rams, history will be made at Ford Field today (Sunday).

Shannon Eastin will serve as line judge making her the first woman to be an official in an NFL regular season game. Eastin officiated a preseason contest between the Packers and Chargers.

The 42-year-old Eastin is entering her 17th season of football officiating, most recently for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

The NBA broke the barrier with female officials in 1997 when Violet Palmer and Dee Kantner became first women to referee NBA games.

Eastin is part of the replacement crew filling in due to the labor dispute between the NFL and its game officials.

(Follow @PaulaPasche on Twitter. Email her at


Five things the Lions must do to beat the St. Louis Rams

Five things the Lions must do to beat the St. Louis Rams in Sunday’s regular season opener for both teams:

1. Stop Steven Jackson and the Rams run game. Short runs are key, but last season the Lions defense had trouble plugging up the holes and preventing big runs. That has to be a priority this week.

2. Sam Bradford is healthy after going through last season on a wonky ankle. The quarterback has a laser arm and he might just target rookie corner Bill Bentley and the decimated defense which is likely to be playing without cornerback Chris Houston and safety Louis Delmas.

3. Get the ball to Calvin Johnson. Don’t see this as a problem although the Rams have upgraded at corner with veteran Cortland Finnegan and rookie Janoris Jenkins.

4. Establish some type of running game with Kevin Smith, who is coming off an ankle injury, leading the way. Stefan Logan will also be used in the run game along with Keiland Williams. But Smith is the key here.

5. The defensive front seven must pressure the Rams to help out the secondary. The Rams are starting a rookie, Rokevious Watkins, at left guard and don’t think Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams won’t try to exploit his inexperience.

Prediction: Lions 35, Rams 21.

(Follow @PaulaPasche on Twitter. Order her new book, “100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die’’ here. It’s also available at bookstores.)


Houston, Delmas still missing from practice

ALLEN PARK — Chris Houston and Louis Delmas were not on the practice field again today (Friday). Neither has practiced all week which makes them extremely doubtful for Sunday’s opener against the Rams at Ford Field.

The official word could come when the early inactives are released at 4 p.m. today.

John Wendling is expected to start for Delmas who had knee surgery on Aug. 7.

It’s unclear who will start at left cornerback for Houston. It could be Drayton Florence with Jacob Lacey at nickel. Also, Kevin Barnes could be in the mix.

Rookie Bill Bentley will start at right cornerback.

(Follow @PaulaPasche on Twitter. Order her new book, “100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die’’ here. It’s also available at bookstores.)


Lions issue statements on Art Modell's death

Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell died today (Thursday) at the age of 87. Here are thoughts from the Detroit Lions:

— Lions president Tom Lewand: “On behalf of the Ford Family and the entire Detroit Lions organization, we wish to extend our deepest sympathies to David, John and the entire Modell family.

“Our game is what it is today in large part due to the exemplary ownership and leadership of Art Modell.

“His work over the years with our first-ever collective bargaining agreement, numerous network TV contracts and the 1970 NFL-AFL merger helped propel the NFL to unimagined heights of popularity.

“We all are forever indebted to him.”

— Lions owner William Clay Ford Sr.: “On behalf of my wife Martha, our entire family and the Lions organization, I want to extend our deepest sympathies to David and John and everyone who knew and loved Art.

“Art was a great personal friend, and we shared many wonderful times together over the years. The game of football lost one of its’ all-time greats today. Art’s contributions to the NFL during his five decades in the game are immeasurable. I believe that Art did as much as any owner to help make the NFL what it is today. Art was a pioneer, a visionary and a selfless owner who always saw the big picture and did the right thing. Our game would not be what it is today if it weren’t for Art Modell.”

— Lions senior personnel executive James Harris who was former NFL quarterback and Ravens director of pro personnel:

“First thing that comes to my mind are the contributions Art made to the NFL: his teams, to television, to naming Ozzie (Newsome) as general manager. He was a pioneer. Working with him, you got to see what a great person he was. He cared about all of us – players, coaches, scouts, everyone in the front office. Genuine is a word I would use to describe Art. He was a special, special man. And, it’s a shame he is not in the Hall of Fame. He belongs there, and a lot of us know that.”

Delmas, Houston still missing from practice

ALLEN PARK — Louis Delmas and Chris Houston did not practice again today (Thursday) which lessens their chances of being available for Sunday’s regular season opener against the St. Louis Rams at Ford Field.

Delmas has been out since having knee surgery on Aug. 7. He missed all four preseason games.

Houston injured his ankle in the third preseason game on Aug. 25 and has not practiced since.

Safety John Wendling filled in for Delmas in the preseason games and is expected to start in his place on Sunday.

It’s unclear who will start at left corner for Houston but it could be Drayton Florence who was signed on Sunday with Jacob Lacey playing nickel. Kevin Barnes could also be in the mix. Rookie Bill Bentley is expected to start at right corner.

Houston and Delmas were the only players absent from practice for the second straight day.

Sunday’s game will be televised locally on Fox 2 with Chris Myers and Tim Ryan calling the action.

(Follow @PaulaPasche on Twitter. Order her new book, “100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die’’ here. It’s also available at bookstores.)