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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.


NFL salary cap - Top 5 questions answered about $133 million per club cap

NFL salary cap numbers for the 2014 season were released on Friday. 

Here is the information from the NFL Players Association:

1. What is the 2014 salary cap?
The 2014 salary cap is set at $133 million per club, a $10 million increase over the prior year.

2. How does that number impact each team?
The $133 million is the per club salary cap. However, each team may, at its own discretion, carry over unused salary cap room from the prior league year. Most clubs elected to carry over salary cap room from 2013 to 2014. The average carry over for those teams that elected to do so was $6.1 million per club. Thus, those clubs have an average of $139.1 million to spend on player salaries in 2014.

3. How is the salary cap calculated?
The Salary Cap is calculated by taking a percentage of all projected NFL revenues, subtracting projected benefits for the upcoming season, and dividing by 32 teams.

4. What are team minimum cash spends?
Under the current CBA, clubs have minimum cash spending requirements. For the years 2013-2016, clubs are required to spend an average of 89 percent of the salary cap over the four-year period. League-wide, clubs must spend an average of 95 percent of the salary cap over the four-year period.
This creates a cash-spend floor, forcing historically low-spending clubs to offer overall competitive compensation for packages.

5. Are player benefits taken out of this $133 million?
The $133 million salary cap is the cap on active player salaries. In addition, each club will spend in excess of $33 million in benefits. This includes pension, severance, workers’ compensation, insurance premiums, disability benefits, etc. 

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

Detroit Lions Brandon Pettigrew top free agent tight end now available

After the Saints franchise tagged tight end Jimmy Graham and Dennis Pitta re-signed with the Ravens on Friday, Brandon Pettigrew became the top free agent tight end available.

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said at the NFL Combine that signing Pettigrew, a first-round pick in 2009, was definitely a priority.

Pitta’s contract was for five years for $32 million which would be similar to what Pettigrew could expect from the Lions if they re-sign him. Pettigrew has one more year of service than Pitta. 

“We had our free agency meetings, our coaches liked him, what he can do,’’ Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said at the NFL Combine. “(He’s) an all-around sort of guy.’’

Teams can start talking to free agents on Saturday, March 8, and they can sign free agents starting at 4 p.m. on March 11.

Pettigrew had 41 catches for 416 yards in 14 games last season. 

Perhaps the key stat is they he cut his dropped passes. In 2013 he had four drops on 45 catchable passes for a 8.89 percent of drops. In 2012 Pettigrew had nine drops from 68 catchable passes  or 13.24 percent. (Statistics courtesy of

Other tight ends on the Lions roster are Joe Fauria who had 18 catches with  seven touchdowns in his rookie season. Mayhew said he’d like to get him more involved in the offense, not just in the red zone.

Michael Williams who missed his rookie season with a hand injury. Dorin Dickerson is a restricted free agent and it’s uncertain if the Lions will offer him a tender. He played in five games last season with two catches for 34 yards.

If the Lions don’t re-sign Pettigrew, they would look to free agency for a veteran or perhaps look for an all-around tight end in the draft. 

Eric Ebron, the 6-foot-4 tight end out of North Carolina, could be a possibility with the 10th overall pick. His hands could be an issue though. He has a 11.43 percent drop rate per

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

Detroit Lions coordinators could move on to head coaching positions

With the new coaching staff, the Lions on offense and defense will look somewhat different.

It’s not just coach Jim Caldwell who will have a major impact on the Lions. 

The Lions’ offensive and defensive coordinators are younger and will coordinating in the NFL for the first time.

The 48-year-old Teryl Austin, who will run the defense, was most recently the secondary coach for the Baltimore Ravens while the 42-year-old Joe Lombardi was the quarterbacks coach for the New Orleans Saints the past five seasons.

They replace the 67-year-old Gunther Cunningham on defense and the 50-year-old Scott LInehan.

“I don’t really have a preference as far as the age of the coordinator or experience level of a coordinator, I just want good coordinators,’’ general manager Martin Mayhew said. “I’ve known Teryl Austin for a long time, I’ve talked to him on the sidelines at combines and Senior Bowls. I have great respect for his abilities.

“I just recently met Joe (Lombardi), I was in his interviews, he was outstanding, very highly recommended. Both of those guys were very highly recommended,’’ Mayhew added.

It’s a possibility that Austin and Lombardi will break the mold and move on to be NFL head coaches unlike other Lions’ coaches in the past.

“I don’t think it’s far-fetched to say that either one of those guys could be a head coach in four or five years. ... I’m really excited about our staff in general,’’ Mayhew said.

Cunningham will remain with the Lions in a new role, while Linehan has been hired by the Dallas Cowboys as the passing game coordinator.

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


Detroit Lions re-sign long snapper Don Muhlbach

You can get off the edge of your seat now.

Veteran long snapper Don Muhlbach has signed a one-year deal to return to the Detroit Lions for an 11th season. It’s worth $1.02 million with a $65,000 signing bonus.

It’s the third straight year the 33-year-old Muhlbach, who went to the Pro Bowl a year ago (see photo), has signed a one-year deal.

With rookie punter Sam Martin and new-to-Detroit kicker David Akers last season, Muhlbach was a settling influence.

"With Sam going into his second year it was also important to us to have that veteran leadership within that core group of specialists," special teams coordinator John Bonamego said on the team web site. “Because whoever our kicker ends up being is more than likely going to be a younger guy who's less experienced. You can't fabricate the experience, and in our league, that means something."

Akers will not return this season.

The Lions have two young kickers — John Potter and Giorgio Tavecchio — signed to reserve/futures contracts. They’ll take a look at them this spring and see if one is ready.

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


Transcript of chat discussing Detroit Lions' options in draft, free agency

Join me for a live chat at  3 p.m. Thursday to discuss the Detroit Lions. As always, it's a busy NFL season. The NFL Combine where 300-plus prospects were tested and interviewed is over; free agency opens March 11 and the draft is May 8-10. Bring any questions or just read along.


NFL Combine - Justin Gilbert fastest defensive back in 40

Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard (in photo) and Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State are considered the top two cornerbacks. They ran like it on Tuesday at the NFL Combine.

Dennard’s first two unofficial runs were timed at 4.42 and 4.46 with his official time at 4.51.

While Gilbert turned in unofficial blazing times of 4.35 and 4.38 and an official time of 4.37 which was the lowest of all the defensive backs.

Both could be available to the Lions with the 10th overall pick.

Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller, brother of Lions’ wide receiver Corey Fuller, wanted to beat Corey’s 4.32 in the 40 from the 2013 Combine. Kyle Fuller’s two unofficial times were 4.40, but his official time was 4.49. In Kyle Fuller’s defense Corey ran track and field for Kansas before transferring to Virginia Tech to play football.

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


NFL Combine - Michigan's Taylor Lewan, Auburn's Greg Robinson display blazing speed (UPDATED)

Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan raised his draft stock Saturday morning with an official time of 4.87 in the 40. Lewan, at 6-foot-7, weighs 309. 

He was the speediest offensive lineman.

Auburn’s Greg Robinson, who is 6-foot-5 and 332 pounds, had an official 4.92 after a false start. 

Michigan’s Michael Schofield, who is 6-foot-6 and 301 pounds, ran an unofficial 5.01.

Those are blazing speeds for offensive linemen that size.

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


Lions Martin Mayhew says Joe Fauria's role could expand

INDIANAPOLIS — Joe Fauria’s catch-to-touchdown ratio was 18 to 7 in his rookie season.

Not bad.

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said on Friday that he thinks Fauria’s tight end role can be expanded under the new coaching staff.

“It’s going to be for him, learning a new offense. It’s going to be his second offense in two years. Getting into a comfort level with Matthew (Stafford). I think Matthew had a comfort level with him in the red area moreso than in the field,’’ Mayhew said at the NFL Combine.

“And then the offensive coordinator feeling comfortable to create opportunities for him to get the ball. So, it’ll be a process. He certainly has the talent level to suggest he can be more productive in the field than he has been,’’ Mayhew added.

Fauria, who is 6-foot-7 and was undrafted, has work to do on the blocking part of his game but Mayhew says he just doesn’t seem to fit on the line of scrimmage.

“I think he’s more of a move guy,’’ Mayhew said. “I think he’s genetically predisposed to not be on the line of scrimmage as much as some other guys. He’s definitely a gifted athlete, he has great hands.’’

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

Detroit Lions Mayhew: Nick Fairley needs improved commitment to offseason program

Nick Fairley’s shortcomings in the offseason haven’t escaped Lions general manager Martin Mayhew.

“As I’ve told him, I’d like to see his commitment to the offseason program improve and see him on a consistent basis. It’s voluntary but if he’s not training with us I’d like to see him training somewhere,’’ Mayhew said on Friday.

The general manager said he wasn’t singling Fairley out, he was just answering a question.

“There are a handful of guys who can do a better job with that. I think that’s an important part of being a professional athlete,’’ Mayhew said.

Fairley, a first-round pick in 2011, will be in the fourth year of his rookie contract in 2014. Per the collective bargaining agreement, the team must decide whether to exercise the fifth-year contract option on first-round picks before May 3.

Mayhew said it’s been discussed but there is nothing he can disclose at this time.

“I’ve talked with him and his agent,’’ Mayhew said. “We talk on a regular basis.’’
Fairley is not the only defensive tackle with a contract issue. The Lions are trying to sign Ndamukong Suh to an extension but he hasn’t hired an agent after firing his long-time agents several weeks ago.

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

Long-term deal possible for Detroit Lions Joique Bell

Detroit Lions running back Joique Bell, a restricted free agent, could be signed to a long-term deal instead of being offered a tender. General manager Martin Mayhew explained the situation on Friday morning.

“We can tender him, he’s going to be here,’’ Mayhew said. “We met with his agent a couple nights ago. We had a good discussion, there’s a possibility we might work on long-term deal with him, but either way he’s going to be with us.

“The reason why we would talk about (a long-term deal) is we want something that would make sense for us. Sometimes it is in those situations, sometimes it doesn’t make sense for us to do something long-term. We’ll kind of see how that dialogue goes. We just started talking to him,’’ Mayhew added.

Bell, who is entering his fourth season in Detroit, provided a one-two punch at running back along with Reggie Bush last season. He finished with 166 carries for 650 yards and eight touchdowns. Bell (Wayne State) also had 53 catches for 547 yards.

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

Detroit Lions Gunther Cunningham new duties two-fold

Gunther Cunningham’s new Lions’ duties will be two-fold.

With the new coaching staff in place under Jim Caldwell, Cunningham is no longer the defensive coordinator. His 33 years of NFL coaching experience, though, is valuable and the Lions will use it. 

“He’s a dual report to myself and coach (Jim) Caldwell,’’ general manager Martin Mayhew said on Friday. “He’s going to do a lot of work for coach Caldwell during the season in terms of scouting upcoming opponents. And with us I’ve assigned him a position (group) for the Combine, he’s going to work on that position and he’s got some other personnel responsibilities that he’s going to do for us as far as scouting and evaluating players.’’

It’s not all that usual for a coach to stick around after he’s been relieved of his duties, but the 67-year-old Cunningham is an exception.

“He’s a good football coach, he’s very knowledgeable about the game,’’ Mayhew said. “I think he’s a good evaluator, he’s been that for us in the past. He had a desire to be here, I have great respect for him.’’

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

Detroit Lions Ezekiel Ansah rehabs from shoulder surgery; injury updates

Ezekiel Ansah underwent shoulder surgery a few weeks ago in Los Angeles according to Lions general manager Martin Mayhew.

The defensive end, who was a first-round pick in 2013, is rehabbing the shoulder in Los Angeles now.

It appeared he injured his shoulder in the snowy Philadelphia game last season, but Mayhew wasn’t sure if that is what led to the surgery.

“It was one that we had kind of flagged when we drafted him that it might be an issue down the road,’’ Mayhew said on Friday morning. “It was something we were aware that might need to be fixed.’’

Calvin Johnson’s surgeries on his knee and finger were relatively minor according to Mayhew.

Johnson is currently rehabbing the finger.

Wide receiver Ryan Broyles, who is coming off Achilles tendon surgery, is on track, Mayhew said. He wasn’t specific whether Broyles will be ready for training camp.

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

Detroit Lions wait for Ndamukong Suh to sign a new agent

Martin Mayhew’s hands are tied in an effort to get Ndamukong Suh signed to a contract extension to clear salary cap space.

Suh fired his long-time agents several weeks ago and has not hired a replacement, Mayhew said on Friday morning.

“I talked to him about a week ago (and said), ‘We’re going to be at the Combine next week. I don’t want to rush you on the agent thing, if you have one by then it would be nice,'’’ Mayhew said.

Then Mayhew called him on Thursday and Suh told him he’s close, but still hasn’t decided on an agent.

Suh’s current contract would count $22.4 million  against the salary cap in 2014. An extension would free up much needed space.

“If you go back to the last two that we did that were big deals, that were extensions with Matthew (Stafford) and Calvin (Johnson), Matthew’s was done after the start of free agency. Calvin was done on the eve of free agency,’’ Mayhew said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if this would happen the same way.’’

Mayhew doesn’t seem to be concerned about getting a deal done. There are no plans to trade the defensive tackle who was a first-round pick in the 2010 draft.

“I anticipate we’ll get something done. He has said he wants to be here, we’d like him to be here,’’ Mayhew said. “That’s my mindset right now.’’

Still Mayhew said he has enough cap space to get done what he wants to in free agency even if a Suh deal is not done. That includes getting a deal done with tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Teams can start talking to free agents on March 8 and can sign them on March 11.

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

Detroit Lions aim to re-sign Brandon Pettigrew

INDIANAPOLIS — Lions general manager Martin Mayhew will be meeting with Brandon Pettigrew’s agent this weekend at the NFL Combine.

When asked if re-signing Pettigrew, who could become an unrestricted free agent, is a priority, Mayhew said, “Definitely.”

“We had our free agency meetings, our coaches liked him, what he can do,’’ Mayhew said at a breakfast meeting on Friday morning. “(He’s) an all-around sort of guy. He’s a guy we’ll be talking to, we’ll meet with his agent at the Combine.’’

The Lions are looking to extend Ndamukong Suh to clear cap space, but the fact that is not done yet is not a factor in signing Pettigrew.

“That’s not a concern at all in terms of getting something done with (Pettigrew),’’ Mayhew said.

The Lions could give Pettigrew the franchise tag, but Mayhew was noncommital on that. 

“You never know how things are going to go,’’ Mayhew said.

Pettigrew, a first-round pick in 2009, played in 14 games last season and finished with 41 catches for 416 yards. 

While tight end Joe Fauria had a good rookie season, he is not the all-around tight end that Pettigrew is just yet. Fauria needs to improve his blocking skills.

The Lions drafted tight end Michael Williams in 2013, but he missed his rookie season with a hand injury.

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


Jim Caldwell on whether Lions will re-sign Brandon Pettigrew

Maybe you can interpret Lions coach Jim Caldwell who gave a round-about answer Thursday when asked if the Lions would re-sign tight end Brandon Pettigrew who can become an unrestricted free agent.

It’s clear the new coach has watched film of Pettigrew who was a first-round pick in 2009.

“Pettigrew is a talented guy — big, talented, can block at the line of scrimmage, but also can catch the ball as well,’’ Caldwell said. “Across the board you find guys who have certain skill sets, he’s got a real fine skill set and obviously I think you’ve been able to see that through the years.’’

Still he was unclear about getting Pettigrew back.

“We have to look at every option, that’s one of the things. We’ve got to have contingencies for every single thing. We’ll look at it from both sides of it and see how things work out,’’ Caldwell said at the NFL Combine.

“My preference is to make certain we put ourselves in the best position to win, that’s my preference. That changes upon how we look and evaluate a guy,’’ he added.

Pettigrew played in 14 games last season with 41 catches for 416 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Tight ends on the Lions' roster are Joe Fauria who had a solid rookie season and Michael Williams who spent his rookie season on the injured reserve list.

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

Lions' Jim Caldwell says coaches responsible for locker room, everything

INDIANAPOLIS — Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he didn’t want to draw direct parallels to the Lions and Dolphins, but he said it’s important for the coaching staff to know and understand players to prevent a situation similar to the one with the bullying scandal between Dolphins Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin. 

“In coaching one of the things that’s extremely important to us is we understand the guys that come into our locker room that are there to help us and to help us win,’’ Caldwell said today (Thursday) at the NFL Combine. “We really make certain that hazing does not exist in that atmosphere. That’s the thing that we look at and talk about and profess early on. When I have an opportunity to meet with our team on April 7 — it will be the first time I see the great majority of them together — that will be something obviously we will emphasize in terms of our philosophy overall.’’

By terms of the NFL collective bargaining agreement, April 7 is the first day players and coaches can work together on a team with a first-year coach.

Caldwell, who was hired on Jan. 14, was coach for the Colts for three seasons.
This is not his first rodeo. He puts responsibility on the coaches.

“We’re responsible for everything, in that sense. We’re responsible for wins and losses, we’re responsible for the conduct of our staff, we’re responsible obviously for our players as well,’’ Caldwell said. “That’s how we’re judged. We have to make certain that we understand that and therefore do everything we can to make certain it’s going in the direction we like.’’

With strong leadership from veterans and even young guys like Matthew Stafford, the Lions’ locker room atmosphere has not been an issue of contention. 

Sounds like Caldwell aims to keep it that way.

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin talked to the media earlier on Thursday.

“I want everybody to know, I’m the one responsible for the workplace environment at the Miami Dolphins,” Philbin said.

“We’re going to have a better workplace, I promise you that,” Philbin said. “I’m going to make sure that happens.’’

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

Lions' Jim Caldwell on releasing Nate Burleson, Louis Delmas

INDIANAPOLIS — At the NFL Combine today, Lions coach Jim Caldwell explained why wide receiver Nate Burleson and safety Louis Delmas were released last week.

“Obviously two good men, when you look at those two guys in terms of leadership,’’ Caldwell said. “I could tell in preparation to play them and then also just talking to the guys on the team that understand and realize the great contribution they made to the team overall. 

“But we have to take a look at everything. Evaluate everything. Obviously just in terms of personnel office, our coaching etc., see where things fit. We have to make adjustments along the way, not all of them are going to be pretty. Obviously that’s where we are today,’’ Caldwell said.

It seems obvious, money was an issue. Burleson, who was willing to take a pay cut, was set to make $5.5 million and Delmas $6 million in 2014.

A possible return of Delmas, who has struggled with left knee woes, has been reported.

“I think in this business you never say never, but we’ll see what happens,’’ Caldwell said.

Caldwell will have more to say later this afternoon when he talks to the Detroit media.

(Follow @PaulaPasche on Twitter. Order her book,  “100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die

’’ here. It’s also available at bookstores.)

Bills coach thinks Jim Schwartz a great fit in Buffalo

Buffalo coach Doug Marrone said he thinks Jim Schwartz is a great fit as defensive coordinator for the Bills organization.

“I knew how he worked, I knew how he prepared, I knew it was difficult schematically to go against,’’ Marrone said at the NFL Combine this morning (Thursday.)

“I thought he was a great fit and it was a great move for our organization,’’ Marrone said.

He said Schwartz’s experience as a head coach is obviously beneficial.

“i always tell people when i was an assistant coach and I’d look and always say what’s the head coach doing, where is he, what’s going on,’’ Marrone said. “Then when you become head coach it’s like, ‘Holy cow i can’t believe i ever questioned that.’’’

Schwartz was fired by the Lions on Dec. 30 after five seasons.

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


NFL Network's Mike Mayock says draft deepest in 10 years

Ask any NFL general manager or scout, what he is looking for in the draft.

The word "playmaker'' would certainly rank in the top five of their replies.

That's why NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock loves the NFL's 2014 draft class. He called it the best and deepest draft in 10 years during a conference call on Tuesday.

"I think it’s a couple things,'' Mayock said. "One, is the playmakers at the top end of the draft. It’s not just a couple guys. There’s three offensive tackles that could go in top 10, there’s three quarterbacks that could go in top 10. Then you’ve got guys like (outside linebacker) Khalil Mack who’s a difference maker. The (Anthony) Barr kid from UCLA (outside linebacker), C.J. Mosley (inside linebacker) from Alabama. (Sammy) Watkins from Clemson is a tremendous wide receiver. We’re 10 or 11 or 12 players deep right there and we haven’t even talked about the safety from Louisville (Calvin Pryor) or the tight end from North Carolina (Eric Ebron). and I could go on and on. 

"There’s more quality at the top end of this draft than I’ve seen in a long time,'' Mayock said.

"Wide receiver and offensive tackle is particularly deep. (You) can go three rounds,  rounds deep this year and get a starting offensive tackle,'' Mayock said. “I think there’s pretty good corners three-four rounds deep.''

This is all good news for the Lions who have the 10th overall pick and a need at cornerback, wide receiver and safety.

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

Live chat on Detroit Lions set for 3 p.m. Thursday

Join me at 3 p.m. Thursday for a live chat discussing the Detroit Lions. I'll be in Indianapolis covering the NFL Combine. Bring your questions about the draft, free agency or whatever else is on your mind. We always have a lively discussion.


Detroit Lions keeping Gunther Cunningham is a good move

Gunther Cunningham, the Lions defensive coordinator at the time, went on a rant of sorts in October about Nick Fairley being a throwback player.

The 67-year-old Cunningham should know. He is entering his 33rd NFL coaching season. 

When a new coaching staff was brought in after Jim Schwartz was fired, Cunningham still wanted to stay around even though he would lose his coordinator position. He signed a two-year deal prior to the 2013 season.

He will return as a senior coaching assistant and will help with game planning on both sides of the ball, according to the team web site. Teryl Austin was named the new defensive coordinator weeks ago.

“What I'm basically doing is game-planning teams,’’ Cunningham told “Jim (Caldwell) asked me to do it on both sides of the ball. That doesn't mean that's necessarily what they're going to do, but it gives me something to really sink my teeth into.

“The biggest thing for me is that the assistants and Jim and Martin (Mayhew) and all of them trust what I'm going to give them. They are doing the hard fact game planning. All I’'m trying to do is lend my experience and my background and what I've seen and what I think when I look on tape.’’

Cunningham told reporters in December that he was not ready to retire. He came to Detroit to win a championship and he still had work to do. His new assignment should allow him for a less intense schedule. Although would not be surprised if he still starts his days at 4 a.m.

Cunningham has kept himself relevant by keeping up with technology and retaining his ability to deal with players who are much different today than they were in 1980.

Before a practice it was common to see Cunningham on the sidelines chatting it up with offensive players as much as those on his defense. 

As defensive coordinator he was required to talk to the media one day each week. It was always a treat to hear his insights on his current players and also those from the past such as Leslie Oneal.

He’s a good communicator and even though it was Schwartz who brought him to Detroit, Cunningham seems like the sort of person whose allegiance is to the team and won’t dwell on team politics.

Keeping Cunningham on board is a good move for the Lions. His NFL knowledge  can’t be denied.

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


Detroit Lions release Louis Delmas

Louis Delmas is the Energizer Bunny.

The Detroit Lions safety brought such energy to the field every time he stepped over the white line. Of course, he didn’t really ever quit moving or talking. And he was loud. If Delmas was in the room, everyone knew it. A true energy force.

With one year remaining on his contract, Delmas was released on Thursday.

He was one of two cuts — the other was veteran wide receiver Nate Burleson. Both had grown to be Lions’ fan favorites.

Delmas, a 2009 second-round draft pick out of Western Michigan, suffered with a bad knee the past two seasons. 

He was held out of most of the 2013 training camp and played in just one preseason game. He was on the sidelines at practice every day but the plan was to get him ready to play the first game of the season. It worked.

Delmas was inconsistent on the field. The knee — believed to be tendonitis — prevented him using his full speed. He did have a career-high three interceptions and looked better in some games than others.

He also finished 2013 with 64 tackles, two sacks and eight pass defenses.

Gunther Cunningham was Delmas’ defensive coordinator for the five seasons and the two grew close. Cunningham loved the fire and the passion he saw in Delmas.

He had surgery in August 2012 which forced him to miss the first four games and eight overall that season.

He did play every game in 2013 with 15 starts. It was his first full season.

Delmas hit free agency last spring. He looked at other clubs, but returned to Detroit with a two-year deal. His 2013 contract was incentive-driven according to how many games he was able to play.

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

Detroit Lions to release Nate Burleson, veteran wide receiver

The Lions will release veteran wide receiver Nate Burleson today (Thursday). The move will save $5.5 million in salary cap space.

Burleson, 32, sent a Tweet at 2:20 p.m. that makes it sound like his time in Detroit is over.

“The last 4 years in Michigan been incredible! MY TEAM, FANS & the CITY will missed more than you know! Thank You! Love Detroit!’’ — his Tweet said.

Burleson said three weeks ago in an appearance at Walmart in Sterling Heights, that he knows he would have to re-do his contract for less money to stay in Detroit. At that point he seemed confident it would happen.

Burleson missed seven games in the 2013 season after breaking his left forearm in a freak car accident. He finished with 39 catches for 461 yards and one touchdown.

In 11 NFL seasons he had 457 catches for 5,630 yards and 39 touchdowns.
While not officially a captain for the Lions, Burleson was a strong leader among the wide receivers group and the offense. 

He became a huge fan of the city of Detroit.

On Jan. 20 at an appearance at a Walmart in Sterling Heights, Burleson said he wasn’t ready to retire.

“I don’t know, I only played half a year and put up 40 catches, I figure a full season Nate Burleson stays healthy I can be productive and give you about 80 catches and I’m not going to retire from getting 80 catches,’’ Burleson said that day. “We’ll see, maybe one or two years. It all depends on what we bring back to the city. The sooner we get a Super Bowl in Detroit, the sooner I can consider retirement.’’ 

If Burleson doesn't sign with another team — his age works against him — look for him to start a broadcasting career. He's done offseason work on the NFL Network.

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


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Jim Schwartz doesn't blame Matthew Stafford for Lions' collapse

Jim Schwartz hasn’t said much since he was fired by the Lions on Dec. 30, after five seasons as the head coach.

He did speak out to defend Ndamukong Suh after allegations were made by FOX analyst Heath Evans.

Now he has told Nashville radio station 104.7 that he does not blame Matthew Stafford for the team’s late-season collapse. 

“Yeah, you know, we were 2-6 over the last half of last season, and when you’re 2-6 nobody is feeling good about their performance, whether you’re the head coach, the quarterback or a defensive lineman,” Schwartz said, via and

“But it’s a team game and I wouldn’t pin it on Matt Stafford. Matt’s an outstanding quarterback. He led us to the playoffs. Just about every record in the Lions offense, total offense and passing offense was set by Matt Stafford in the last three years. He’s going to lead that team to many great things in the future. Everybody has some rough spots here and there, and it’s up to the rest of the team to pick you up,’’ Schwartz told the radio station.

Stafford was the first overall draft pick in Schwartz’s first draft with the Lions. 

The quarterback, who turned 26 last week, is entering his sixth season, his first with a new coaching staff under Jim Caldwell. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, who worked with Drew Brees for the past five seasons, and quarterbacks coach Jim Bob Cooter, who worked with Denver's Peyton Manning, will try work with Stafford.

Schwartz has moved on. He’s been hired as the Buffalo Bills’ defensive coordinator.

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