Lions Thin At Linebacker Position

Loss of Bailey, coupled with more injuries, leaves team thin at important position. Much more, plus comments from head coach Steve Mariucci inside.

The one thing the Lions didn't need going into the 2004 NFL season was a serious injury to a linebacker. In fact, the linebacker position was the area of their defense the Lions probably could least afford to lose one of their best players.

That's what happened to them last week, however, when Sam linebacker Boss Bailey went to visit a surgeon in Athens, Ga., for what was expected to be a routine arthroscopic procedure on his sore right knee and it turned into a major undertaking.

Dr. Mixon Robinson, who performed surgery when Bailey blew out a knee at Georgia in 2000, found more cartilage damage than expected and the Lions aren't sure when they'll get him back.

"I don't want to give you a number of weeks because we need to see how he responds to the treatment," coach Steve Mariucci said. "But, hopefully, it will be at some point this season."

Bailey has been advised to keep his weight off the knee for several weeks before beginning the rehab work.

Special teams standout Donte Curry, Bailey's backup at the strong side, is expected to take over the starting job. Although Curry is considered a capable backup, it could be costly to the Lions if Bailey is lost for most or all of the season.

Bailey, who started all 16 games and played well last year as a rookie, is considered one of the Lions' best young defensive players. His speed and athletic ability made him an instant starter.

The Lions viewed Bailey as the only sure-fire starter in their linebacker corps for 2004. Veteran Earl Holmes and rookie Teddy Lehman are battling for the middle linebacker job; James Davis and rookie Alex Lewis were competing for the weak side linebacker position.

Lewis suffered a high ankle sprain also last week and is likely to be out of action for a couple of weeks, leaving the Lions extremely thin at linebacker.

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