Bell Keeping Former Player's Locker Off-Limits

ALLEN PARK - Four days before the Lions' season opener, Kelvin Pritchett's name finally came off the Allen Park locker he had occupied the last three years. But that doesn't mean the locker is available to any old defensive lineman-come-lately.

"Can't nobody get in there," said defensive tackle Marcus Bell, the occupant of the locker next door. "They can't move nobody in. They might have taken the name down but they ain't movin' nobody in. I'm holding it down for Kelvin Pritchett."

As teammates last season, Bell and Pritchett became friends. And, when members of the media started kidding Bell about guarding the locker until Pritchett returned to the team, he went along with the idea.

Until the end of camp, some players actually felt that Pritchett, a 14-year veteran, might rejoin the team if there was an injury on the defensive line. There have been no injuries, however, and it appears now that Pritchett, who will be 36 on Oct. 24, will make his retirement official.

Meanwhile, Bell said he will continue to guard Pritchett's old locker, which he now uses for the overflow of his own equipment and clothes. "Can kill two birds with one stone," Bell said, grinning. "I need it."

The whereabouts of the nameplate off Pritchett's locker is something of a mystery, according to assistant equipment manager John Brown. Brown said none of the equipment men removed the nameplate. Pritchett's shoulder pads and helmet also remain in the locker.

"No one's told us," Brown said, "so we just leave it alone. Until we officially hear that he's (retired) ... we held the number, held the locker. That's it."

It didn't hurt that Pritchett was one of the best-liked players in the locker room.

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