Delmas Ready to Get Back to the Field After the Bye

Posted by Chrissie Wywrot on October 30, 2009 – 4:23 pm

“The bye week gave me time to relax and refresh my legs. It helped me get my mind right for the week coming up. I went to Western to watch their homecoming game, plus it was my little cousin’s birthday and he plays for Western – Douglas Wiggins. I took him out and gave him a couple dollars for his birthday, so it was a fun weekend all an all.

“Mentally and physically I’m feeling very prepared. My body is very refreshed, mind-wise and physically. I’ve been out at practice working hard and I’ve been studying film as hard as possible, so I think all-in-all I’m very prepared. All-around, I feel I’m very prepared for the game.

“Looking back at the season so far, we already played 10 games – preseason and regular season – and that’s a college season already. But I can’t take it as that, I’m in the NFL now. We played six games and those six games are gone. All I can do now is think about the rest of the 10 games and hope the season will improve for us, but we have to take it one game at a time.

“I’ve been preparing for each game individually and not thinking about the next game, but just think about the next day. So, I take that approach throughout the week and six weeks passes by very quick.

“As far as the Rams, their record does not give them much credit for the assets that they’ve got on offense and on defense. They have by far one of the best running backs in the NFL in Steven Jackson. He’s very big, he can catch and he can run routes. You hardly see a big dude like that running routes as fast as he is and as physical as he is.

“They’ve also got a great quarterback in Marc Bulger.  The main thing we’ve got to do is to try and get a quick read on him because he has a very strong arm. Once he let’s go, it’s gone. If you’re not there on point, you’re not going to get there. I think for the secondary, we just got get a good read on him; react to the throw.”

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Peterson sees Jackson as the Primary Threat

Posted by Chrissie Wywrot on October 28, 2009 – 8:50 pm

Julian Peterson is familiar with the St. Louis Rams having played them twice a year from 2000-08 as a member of the San Francisco 49ers (2000-05) and Seattle Seahawks (2006-08). Peterson’s teams had a 10-5 record against the Rams over that span.

Because of his familiarity with the Rams’ offense, Peterson understands the importance of stopping their top threat, RB Steven Jackson. 

Peterson: “The biggest thing is you’ve got to stop Steven Jackson. You’ve got to make sure you bottle him up because he is pretty much their offense. They’ve got some good players out there but what I see is Jackson running hard. He is doing a good job running regardless of what their record is, so our biggest thing is bottling him up.”

Jackson has yet to score a touchdown this season, but has been productive despite a tough stretch from a team standpoint. He ranks third in the league in rushing with 635 yards on 143 carries (4.4 average), trailing Cincinnati’s Cedric Benson (720 yards) and Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson (687 yards).

Peterson: “He does everything. He can catch and run. He has the ability to rush for 1,000 yards and has the ability to catch close to 100 passes in a season. He’s a multi-purpose guy.”

Head Coach Jim Schwartz has been impressed with that production and also sees him as the key to stopping the Rams offensively.

Schwartz: “When you’re an 0-7 team, it’s hard to continually rush the football. What happens (when you’re behind) is: (you’re) not able to stick with the run. It says a lot about Steven Jackson that he can be where he is rushing the football – he’s strong, he can run inside, he’s got the speed to run outside, (and) they’re using him a lot in the passing game. (He’s a) very, very talented player.”

Being aware of Jackson’s running style is helpful for a defense because you can come up with ways to counter it. Peterson knows this more than anyone.  

Peterson: “The biggest thing with him is you can’t let him just come at you full steam because that when he’s at his best. You need to stop him before he gets started and try to slow him down at the line. You have to get him to chop his feet.”

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Lions Evaluate and Recharge During Bye Week

Posted by Tara Altman on October 22, 2009 – 6:53 pm

The primary focus for the Lions this week hasn’t been game planning for the opposition; instead, players and coaches are taking the time to evaluate themselves individually and as a team and are looking forward to a couple of days off to recharge both physically and mentally.

TE Casey FitzSimmons, who’s entering his seventh season in Detroit, feels that this year’s bye couldn’t have come at a better time.

FitzSimmons: “I think that this is the latest that I’ve ever had a bye since I’ve been here, but it’s probably one of the best positions for us to be in with Calvin (Johnson), Matthew (Stafford) and all those guys being banged up and injured.”

In years past the week of the bye has generally been a short practice week, wrapping up on Wednesday.

This year, the practice schedule was a little different as players had Tuesday off and a practice on both Thursday and Friday morning.

FitzSimmons: “If we’re not winning and not doing the things that we need to get done then obviously we’ve got to fix it. That’s what we get paid to do: practice and work. It’s our job, so for us to come out here during the bye week, I’m looking at it as a chance to get better and get this team on the right track and win some football games.”

For ninth-year veteran tackle Jeff Backus, the extra days of work this week have been beneficial, giving players an opportunity to reflect on the past six weeks.

Backus: “This is definitely a different approach than we’ve had the last few years and I think it will give us a chance to make some drastic improvements here in the second half of the season. There’s nothing wrong with putting in a little extra work and doing some self-evaluations and trying to get better.”

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Pettigrew, Lions Get In Bye Week Practice

Posted by Chrissie Wywrot on October 21, 2009 – 6:30 pm

“So far this year we’ve played really hard. Last game, though, I think we just had some breakdowns. There’s a lot of stuff we didn’t do right. I’m glad we’ve got this bye week to go back and look over everything and make a lot of improvements so we can definitely change things up next week. There’s a lot of stuff we can do in this bye week.

“In a game like that, it’s not really an ‘off day’ – all you can do is keep battling through. Sometimes it happens like that where everything’s just off and everybody’s off and you’ve just got to keep on keeping on. I don’t think we laid down – stuff just wasn’t going right.

“As far as how I’ve seen myself improve, I’ve seen flashes here and there. A lot of stuff we work on I have definitely seen improvement. We’ve reviewed all the film from all the games.

I’m going to keep doing that throughout the week. Definitely there’s a lot of stuff I need to work on. Nothing really just stands out as one particular strength – I’ve seen flashes and really need to work on all of them.

“There have just been a lot of mental errors and it’s keeping me from playing at the speed that you want to play. It’s just being indecisive. It will slow you down a lot on the field and you can’t do that here. I’ve heard as a rookie that it’s supposed to happen, but if you’re a player you’re not going to let it happen. But sometimes you think too hard about it so you’re not going to get it done.

“This week is really about just focusing on us and what we need to do and, I guess, just getting back to the basics. Last week we broke down. We just need to get back to the basics, focus on what we need to focus on and do what we do best.

“As far as this weekend, I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet. I don’t know if I’m going to be here – I may go home. I’ll relax – of course, but I don’t know if I’ll be here or in Texas.

“Once we get back it will be about trying to get some wins. Just go out and get everybody on the same page. That’s No. 1 – everybody on the same page and hopefully we’ll get it together and turn it around.”

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Despite Injuries, Culpepper sees Positives

Posted by Tara Altman on October 16, 2009 – 8:03 pm

Heading into their final game before the bye week, the Lions are one of many teams suffering from injuries and several players have been thrust into greater roles than they had taken on previously.

At wide receiver, the injury to Calvin Johnson that took him out of last week’s game vs. Pittsburgh forced other receivers to step up their game. Dennis Northcutt and Derrick Williams, who saw his greatest amount of playing time since being drafted in the third round of this year’s draft, both made plays in the game to give the Lions a chance to come back.

Quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who also stepped in for the injured rookie Matthew Stafford, believes that the ability for backup players to step in is a positive for the Lions, and expects players to do the same on Sunday against the Packers.

Culpepper: “You’ve got guys who have to step up. It’s an opportunity for certain guys who have made plays in the past and have worked hard to get to this level, they know that when you have an opportunity to go out and make a play you’ve got to step up and do it.”

Since the Lions bye week—and a chance for injuries to heal—is still a week away, those players stepping up will be key to getting a victory at Green Bay.

A Lions win at Lambeau Field which would be the first since 1991, but despite the losing streak, the Lions insist that they’re approaching this one like any other road game and focusing on winning, no matter where it takes place.

When asked if he thought about breaking the streak, Culpepper was quick to rule it out as a factor.

Culpepper: “The thing is you’ve got to focus on what you can handle, and that’s going out and playing winning football. That’s what we’ve got to do to come back with the win, and that’s our main goal. Everything that happened in the past really doesn’t matter. It’s all about us going out, executing our game plan at a high level, and doing whatever it takes to win.”

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D-Line Looking to Pounce

Posted by Chrissie Wywrot on October 15, 2009 – 8:27 pm

This week, the Lions’ defense will line up against a team that is leading the league in sacks allowed.

The Green Bay Packers, who have struggled with injuries along their offensive line, have allowed 20 sacks over their first four games.

Does that create a stir amongst Detroit D-linemen?

Head Coach Jim Schwartz: “There’s two sides to that. We need to put that fire out also – we gave up seven. They gave up eight. We talked about that a little bit yesterday with both teams needing to get some protection things straightened out; receivers, quarterbacks, offensive line, everybody’s responsible for allowing sacks. They had a bye week. I’m sure they’ve addressed a lot of things.”

Green Bay lost Chad Clifton to an ankle injury and Daryn Colledge to a knee injury, but both may return this week against Detroit.

Another thing to consider is that the Packers went up against one of the best defensive fronts in the league – Minnesota – in their last game in which they surrendered eight sacks.

Schwartz: “It’ll be interesting to see if they have some of their personnel back. They’ve had some injuries, particularly at the left tackle position. I don’t think it’s any extra this week just because of what happened. I think that every week you’re going to try to put pressure on the quarterback, whether you do it with four man rush, whether you do it with blitz.”

For Detroit, DE Cliff Avril is getting back into the swing of things after suffering a Week 1 hamstring injury. Avril has tallied a sack-fumble (at Chicago) and a half sack (vs. Pittsburgh with Andre Fluellen), but is still working to get the scheme fully under his belt.

Avril: “I’m still learning week-in and week-out. It’s still a constant battle. I’m getting better, I’m just trying to find my niche and do what I need to do to stay on the field.”

Avril also struggled mentally after suffering the hamstring injury.

Avril: “When you get hurt sometimes you still have it in the back of your head. Practice is usually supposed to be harder than a game, but you don’t necessarily have to chase somebody 20 yards down the field. That was my biggest fear at first, but it’s getting better. I was chasing people down (against Pittsburgh) and it felt fine.”

Speaking of injuries, the Lions’ defensive line has had its fair share. Avril is back, but starting defensive ends Dewayne White and Jason Hunter are still out with hamstring and ankle injuries, respectively.

Avril: “It’s a constant rotation. It seems like when one guy’s getting healthy another guy gets hurt. Everybody’s got to be ready to play; I think that’s the biggest thing. If you’re not a starter, you don’t get a lot of playing time anyway. It’s just all about mentally preparing and going out there and being confident.”

Avril says it’s the little things the defense has been struggling with, such as not aligning properly and allowing a hole for the opponent to run through.

But defensive leaders, such as veteran LB Larry Foote, have helped bring the defense together and will continue to do so.

Avril: “Larry’s always vocal. It’s huge to have a guy like that who’s won a Super Bowl – especially for the younger players. A guy like him, he’s won a Super Bowl, he’s been to the top. He’s been where we want to go. It’s huge for a guy like that to come out and tell you how he feels and how we need to be playing and stuff like that. It’s a big thing.”

Avril’s hoping that will help this weekend at Lambeau Field … a place he is glad to be going to in the month of October.

“It’s great not having to play there in December, but it’s still kind of nippy right now,” he said, laughing. “I mean, it’ll probably be a few more degrees colder, but I didn’t expect it to get cold this quick. But it’s definitely better to be playing them now than in December or January.”

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Williams Make’s an Impact in Return Game

Posted by Tara Altman on October 14, 2009 – 9:05 pm

Reality set in for rookie WR Derrick Williams when he got to the National Football League, but a bright future could be in store.

The Lions drafted Williams in the sixth round (82nd overall) of this year’s draft with the intention of him being an immediate asset in the return game.

Unfortunately, Williams had an unexpected setback and found himself on the inactive list through the first four games of the season.

Williams: “I hit a learning curve while sitting out. That was the biggest thing that I had to deal with. I always played. I was always ‘the guy.’ All these guys were the guys on their team and me just coming in, I had to adjust with that, and settle in my role as a team player.

“There are a lot of rookies that are going through the same thing that I went through. The only thing I could do is to make sure that I was ready for when my number was called, so I could go out there and perform. I just take it as a learning experience.”

Thankfully for Williams, his time on the sidelines was short-lived.

Needing a spark in the return game against Pittsburgh, Head Coach Jim Schwartz looked to Williams for improvement and he didn’t disappoint. Williams averaged 21.4 yards a return to give the offense its best starting position since Week 2.

Williams: “The only thing that you can do is take care of your assignment. As a whole, everybody just needs to take care of the little things and the big things will happen. Little things by just taking care of their assignments, their blocks, kickoff returns, punts – everything is a team game. That’s what is so brilliant about this game we play in because there is no “I” in team and nobody can just go out there and do it themselves.

“We limited the mistakes. We tightened our package down. Anytime we can sneak a good return out there, you know, getting to the 30 or to the 35, that’s definitely going to help the offense out and the only thing I can do is take care of my responsibility and just try to execute everything that I can do.”

In addition to his solid play on the return game, Williams displayed his ability at the receiver position. Due to an injury to WR Calvin Johnson’s knee, Williams was called upon to fill in at the third receiver spot.

He wound up with 37 yards receiving on two catches, and also drew an interference call that helped set up a Lions touchdown.

Williams: “I was just going out there trying to do what I can do. Anytime the ball was near me I tried to catch it; tried to make a play. We were in a crucial series when we could have tied the game up. I had no choice. I had to go out there and to try and perform and make things count. Especially, being a guy like me, rotating in at third receiver and fourth receiver, you never know when it’s going to be your time to go in there. A freak accident happens and you’re in there, and you have to go in there prepared for all of your assignments.”

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Coming to the game? Check out the Ford Flex

Posted by Chrissie Wywrot on October 11, 2009 – 12:45 pm

Hey Lions fans! If you are heading down to Ford Field to tailgate, keep your eyes open for the Ford Flex.

We will be around Ford Field today offering multiple prizes. If you know how many people the Flex fits, you can find us at Eastern Market and let us know – the first 50 people with the correct answer will get a prize; if you know one of the four colors the Flex is offered in, stop by Madison and Brush Street and get a prize.

If you don’t get a chance to tailgate with us today, you will have the chance to find the Flex again on Sunday, November 1. Also, the Flex will be located at Gate G inside Ford Field throughout the game. Go Lions!

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Steelers Present Tough Defense

Posted by Tara Altman on October 8, 2009 – 9:10 pm

From day one of training camp, the offense’s main focus has been to run the football. In Week 5, the philosophy remains the same.

Last week in Chicago, the offense rushed for only 90 yards, and this Sunday it won’t get any easier. The Steelers defense brings its patented 3-4 defense, which is ranked fourth in the NFL in rush defense.

Center Dominic Raiola is aware of the challenge and feels this game will be a good measuring stick.

Raiola: “Every week we are trying to improve on it. That’s what we set out to do going into this season. It’s going to get better every week. We’ll have to see what we can do. I mean, you figure out things to improve on week-to-week, and come up with better things to do. I think it is just more of a challenge to see where are run game is.

“It’s just different. We make our little adjustments here and there. We have 3-4 rules and then we have 3-4 rules, so we just go over the 3-4 rules. It is a little more preparation because we don’t go against it a lot, but it’s going to be good for us because we are going against two 3-4 defenses in a row.

Fullback Jerome Felton, who has played an essential role in the Lions offense, believes the running game has suffered due to a lack of execution and this week he knows there will be no room for error. 

Felton:  “I just think it was execution (against Chicago). We watched the game and went back on Monday and watched film and I just feel like we didn’t execute when we needed to. We knew they were going to put a lot of people in the box and we were going to throw it early and that’s what we did and we were successful at it. Then, when they took a guy out and went to stop the passing game we should have been a lot more successful running the ball.

“It all comes down to execution and that’s something that’s always a work in progress and that’s something that we have to come in here this week and correct. They’re not going to give you anything cheap; you’ll have to earn everything you get. They’re just a tough bunch and you have to match the intensity and be physical to go play against them.”

The majority of the defenses the Lions will face this year will run a 4-3 defense and Raiola and Felton that facing a 3-4 requires extra preparation in game planning. 

Felton: “We practiced against a 4-3 all through training camp and most of the team’s that we play have been a 4-3, so when you go up against a 3-4 you have two big outside linebackers that are really good at rushing the passer and you have three big guys in the middle. You don’t really get a lot of push on it because they’re really big up front, so you have to get a lot of stretch and try to respond to gaps on the defense. It’s definitely challenging and something that we’re really going to have to focus in on and execute our game plan to be successful.”

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Follett Ready for Opportunity

Posted by Tara Altman on October 7, 2009 – 9:07 pm

No matter what it takes, linebacker Zack Follett is determined to make it in the National Football League.

After being on the Lions practice squad for the first four games of the season, Follett was signed to the active roster on Monday in hopes of improving the special teams.

Follett: “They got me everywhere. My goal is not only to make plays, but to bring a fire to the special teams.”

Follett is excited, or as he put it “stoked,” for the opportunity. Though as a rookie he knows he better not let up. He also understands there are plenty of guys out there ready to take his spot. 

Follett: “The coaches know that I’m not taking a step off just because I got promoted. In this league, when people are as competitive as they are, you don’t have room to back off.”

While Follett will be the first to admit that he doesn’t have the ideal physique of an NFL player, it’s not his size that got him here.

Follett: “I wasn’t blessed with great size, but I played with all heart and fire. That’s what I’m going to try and bring while I’m out there.”

After being drafted 235th overall in the seventh round of this year’s draft, Follett knew he would have a tough road ahead. Almost right out of the gate he faced adversity.

During training camp, he was making strides towards grasping the defensive concepts and coaches were taking notice until a shoulder injury limited his preseason.

Follett: “It was a terrible experience to tell you the truth. I probably went through one of the hardest times in my life as far as mentally dealing with everything. I’m blessed that they kept me around so I could show myself again.”

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