Sometimes I think certain NFL teams release injury reports on their star players with the intent of throwing their next opponent off guard. Traditionally you would think you would not want your opponent to know your star player, like wide receiver Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions, is hurting. But the Lions seem to go out of their way to provide every possible detail of Megatron's current medical condition. Maybe the Lions' hope is the Eagles let up a little in preparation for facing him, I don't know. But I do know Johnson will be playing on Sunday, no matter how much the Lions will want to cast doubt upon that conclusion.
Johnson has been battling a knee injury for several weeks and it was reported during the FOX broadcast on Thanksgiving that he was having the knee drained every other week.
During the Lions' 40-10 win over Green Bay, Packers cornerback Sam Shields landed directly on Johnson's knee while making an interception.
Johnson did not practice yesterday. Okay. But the Eagles know they need to practice as if Megatron were 100%, because that's the guy they will see on Sunday.
Also not practicing yesterday for the Lions was safety Louis Delmas (knee) and running back Reggie Bush (calf).
Bush participated during the portion of practice open to the media on Tuesday, but was sidelined for Wednesday's session.
In addition to those three players, Lions cornerback Chris Houston was limited as he continues to battle back from a foot injury suffered in the team's loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs on Nov. 24.
For the Philadelphia Eagles, defensive end Clifton Geathers (not injury related), linebacker Najee Goode (hamstring), wide receiver Jeff Maehl (concussion) and safety Earl Wolff (knee) did not participate in practice.
Conditions are expected to be cold and rainy on Sunday in Philadelphia, but that won't keep Megatron out of the action. The conditions might limit the playing time of Reggie Bush and Delmas, however.
Speaking of Reggie Bush, it was only a little over a week ago that the Lions' quarterback Matt Stafford suggested that Bush should "Shut Up!"…
Stafford perked up some ears when he rebuffed Reggie Bush's proposal to have a players-only meeting.
The quarterback said it wasn't needed.
But it appears the meeting occurred anyway.
The meeting lasted about 15 minutes, and included about 15-20 of the team's foremost veteran leaders. That includes Stafford, Bush, Calvin Johnson, Dominic Raiola, Nate Burleson, Glover Quin and more.
"It wasn't like a State of the Union. Like, 'Oh my God!'" veteran center Dominic Raiola said. "It's just tightening up the screws — not letting it get too loose. Just tightening it up."
"We have a young team, and a lot of the young guys look up to the older guys in their rooms. With that group we have, there's an open line of communication if anyone needs to talk about anything. It's not like before, where you're going to puff out your chest if I call you out. We can do that now, and we didn't have that before, and that's a good thing."
Bush originally suggested a players-only meeting was required after the previous Sunday's demoralizing loss against the three-win Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Stafford rejected that suggestion a day later, though, saying it wasn't necessary. He went so far as to say he's been here a long time and knows what it takes to win, which lit up Detroit sports radio last Tuesday morning with discussion of whether or not that was a veiled shot at Bush.
Bush is in his first season with the Lions.
But Bush said he didn't mean to override Stafford's role as a captain, and was merely suggesting what he thought was required for the team to turn the corner."It wasn't suggested just by me. It was a collective thing that was suggested," Bush said. "We were all in there, we had the meeting and we talked. Worked internally on correcting our mistakes and making sure these mistakes don't continue to happen."
"Stafford's the leader of our team, at the end of the day. We can only go as far as he takes us. He's a great player, and we love everything he brings to the game. We're all behind Stafford 100 percent."
Bush is in his first season with the Lions, but is still a respected vet on the team and a member of the club's leadership council. He does, after all, have a Super Bowl ring — while Stafford, Johnson and most of the Lions' core players do not.
Bush doesn't flaunt that around the clubhouse — in fact, he says he's only ever worn his ring once, and that was on the day he received it — but reaching the game's pinnacle does give him clout when discussing what a team needs to right itself. "I don't try to force that on people," Bush said. "I haven't even worn any of my championship rings from college. I wore them the day I received them, and that's it, because I kind of like to leave the past in the past. I don't like to force that on people. I don't like walking into a room and saying, 'Hey, I've won championships, so you guys need to listen to me.' It's not about that.
"I hope there is a certain level of experience I can offer, and also lead by example at the same time. I just feel like for me I guess I try to put in my 2 cents where I can fit it in, but at the same time not trying to force it on people."
Asked for an example, Bush cited turnovers. He said lapses in fundamentals sometimes develop throughout the season, and those need to be caught. But they weren't, and now, the Lions' bad habits have cost them. They have turned over the ball eight times the past two games, and it was time to put an end to it.
"(The meeting) was real casual," Raiola said. "Everyone had their lunch in there. It was cool. Last thing we need is people wondering, 'What's going to happen now? Where do we need to go from here?' That's where guys who have been there before, that have hit rough stretches in the season, that have been to the postseason, who understand what we're playing for — we lean on them."
Stafford says he's been here a long time and knows what it takes to win? Really, Matt? What exactly have you won? I'm curious, did Georgia ever win a national championship?
I apologize…that was petty…and too easy.
The Eagles defense is probably looking at what the other teams in the league have been doing to slow down the Lions' offense. Virtually every team plays press coverage against the Lions but disguise it (they move up during snap count). They will rush at least 5 guys, with safeties playing over the top. If Stafford turns his head one way, they key on the runner because when Stafford fakes he never turns his head back. The fifth rusher is quite often a delayed rush. If Bush goes out to the left, the opposite LB joins the pass rush.
On offense against the Lions, the Eagles are surely observing that most teams keep 7 guys in to pass-protect, sending only 3 or 4 guys out on routes. The routes are all medium to deep, as they hope to have plenty of time facing only a 4-man rush. When the Lions' DB's play off coverage, at least one if not 2 receivers will run go-routes or stop-and- go's. Lions usualy commit their LB's and one safety to the run protection, and that leaves at least one DB with no help over the top. The LB's and at least one safety drop into zone protection when they recognize pass play and quite often are covering empty space.
That's a somewhat simplistic look at the Lions from a game-planning perspective, I admit. I'm not a football mind when it comes to all the variables and nuances of the sport. I'm just suggesting that maybe in that team meeting called by Reggie Bush, they should have talked about changing up some of their defensive and offensive tendencies—– patterns which are so obvious even a knucklehead such as I could read them and beat them.
Ultimately, though, it comes down to physicality, and as befuddled a team as the Lions can be, they are extremely physical.
The Eagles are in for a street fight, one way or the other, and all the clever planning and preparation in the world won't change that fact.