Lambeau nightmare 'a blessing'

<!--Default NodeId For Bill Schroeder is 292391,2002--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:292391]>Bill Schroeder</A> went from the doghouse to the penthouse about as fast as possible for a NFL player.

Schroeder went from starter to the bench after an outright disaster during his long-awaited Green Bay homecoming. A big game just seven days later against the New York Jets, coupled with a season-ending injury to Az-Zahir Hakim, Schroeder will be back in the starting lineup for the Week 12 game against the Bears.

Schroeder didn't protest his benching, not that he could make much of an argument after dropping all three passes thrown in his direction during the 40-14 debacle at Green Bay. He rebounded in a big way against the Jets, though, with touchdown catches of 37 and 7 yards in a 31-14 defeat.

"That game will always haunt me," Schroeder said of the Packers game. "Maybe it was a blessing. Maybe it was something that God was saying: ‘look, maybe you're starting to get a little lackadaisical. Maybe you need to concentrate a little more.' It did help."

Schroeder and Hakim were signed to add a big-play spark to the Lions passing game, but those additions have not paid off. Hakim, the former Rams reserve, put up decent numbers (37 catches for 541 yards and three touchdowns) until getting hurt. Schroeder has battled several nagging injuries and the drops.

He had just 17 catches for 233 yards and three touchdowns through 10 games. He flashed some of what the Lions thought they had during his 37-yard score against the Jets. He lined up in the slot, came back for an underthrown pass, made a couple moves and outran the pursuit.

The Lions are hoping Schroeder is ready to break out of his season-long funk. Hakim dislocated his hip during the Jets game and is out for the season, meaning Schroeder will join Germane Crowell in the starting lineup.

Hakim, who had a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown, had the best speed of the Lions' receivers.

With Hakim out, Scotty Anderson becomes the third receiver, and Larry Foster and the just-signed Jacquez Green will get more playing time. Like Hakim and Schroeder, Anderson and Foster have not been immune to the drops. That needs to change if the Lions want to salvage something from this season.

"These men are professional football players," Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg said. "This is what we do for a living, we play football and we play it to the best of our ability. It doesn't matter who's hurt or who's playing, we've got another football game (against) Chicago."

Such is life in the NFL, as Schroeder knows all too well. He dropped a pass on the Lions' second offensive series against Green Bay to kill a drive. Another drop landed in the hands of the Packers' Marques Anderson, who returned the interception for a touchdown. Schroeder was benched after that, but re-entered the game in the final minutes only to drop a pass on the final play of the game.

After the game, Mornhinweg was steamed as, by his count, the Lions dropped 10 passes.

"Our defense was on the field the whole danged first half because we couldn't catch the ball," Mornhinweg said. "I'm still hacked off about it, where I can't see straight. I still am. We've got to catch the football."

"There were certain players that caught extra balls today," Mornhinweg added. "And I would expect, being professional football players, if you drop a ball in practice, you go and catch 100 when the defense is out there. That's what I expect."

About the only thing Schroeder caught in Green Bay was the bus, which he quickly boarded after the game. He finally met the media a few days later, when he called his performance "one of the most embarrassing days of my career." He called his first drop a killer because the Lions had momentum after Hakim scored a touchdown on the first play of the game.

"Az does a great job scoring a touchdown right off the bat," Schroeder said. "Two plays later I drop a ball and the crowd gets right back into it. "Unfortunately, that play - I think - was a huge turning point in the game. It just started the ball rolling.

"Unfortunately, Marty wanted to get the ball back in my hands and he tried again. That led to a pick. Those types of things absolutely cannot happen. I feel I completely let this team down."

Schroeder's slippery fingers caused Mornhinweg to insert Crowell in the starting lineup, even though Crowell is far from vintage form after a couple off-season knee surgeries. He missed most of the first half of the season recovering from those injuries. While Crowell lacked his speed and moves, he did give the offense a sure pair of hands.

"Look, they're paid to catch the ball," Mornhinweg said. "I'm sick of talking about it. We catch the ball here, period."

Before the Jets game, Schroeder was asked if he felt the need to win back the Lions' fans. He replied that "first and foremost" he needed ‘to get my teammates on my side first.'

More performances like the Jets game will go a long way toward erasing the memories of his Lambeau Field nightmare.


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