Garcia May Return To Lineup Sunday

ALLEN PARK - It could very well be remote, but there is a chance that Lions' backup quarterback Jeff Garcia could be activated for Sunday's tilt with the Carolina Panthers.

Garcia, hobbled with a sprained ankle and broken fibula suffered in early September, practiced in pads for the first time on Thursday. He returned to practice last week, but has shown improved mobility each day.

"He will be the third quarterback, but we have to decide if he will be in uniform or not," said Lions' head coach Steve Mariucci following Thursday's practice. "He shouldn't play. I don't think he should play."

Garcia would disagree. The veteran backup has been chomping at the bit since ditching his crutches, and given the lack of productivity from starter Joey Harrington, opportunity might await.

The initial prognosis asked Garcia to miss 6-8 weeks, and possibly longer if his injured ankle was slow to heal. Garcia predicted he would return in five weeks. On Sunday, it will be six.

"We need to wait and see," reiterated Mariucci. "I don't think he will be cleared to play. Would he love to be in uniform? Oh yeah. Could he benefit from going through a workout before the game? I suppose. Obviously, I wouldn't want to be tempted to put him in there - even if everybody is hurt and Jeff is the only one standing there because he shouldn't play yet."

"He is getting closer though. We were more worried about the ankle, because we thought the ankle would take longer to heal than the fibula. Well, the fibula is going on six weeks tomorrow and the ankle we thought would be longer, but the ankle seems to be better."

Mariucci has a similar decision to make with fullback Cory Schlesinger, who has practiced in pads since Monday. Schlesinger is listed as questionable on the team's injury report, but it could be a gametime decision on whether or not he is activated.

Meanwhile, receiver Roy Williams (quadriceps) and return specialist Eddie Drummond (knee) were sidelined for the third consecutive practice. Williams is slowly improving, but Mariucci is unlikely to risk further injury if he does not practice at full-speed on Friday. Williams will remain a gametime decision.

Last season, it was believed that Williams returned too early, aggravating a previous ankle injury that had sidelined him earlier during his rookie campaign. Asked whether or not this would affect his decision, Mariucci said there aren't any comparisons between the two injuries.

"He fought through that ankle thing last year for almost a whole season," Mariucci said. "It wasn't fun to watch him practice because he limped around the whole season, but he sucked it up and tried. He had surgery after the season. This is different because this is not a surgical thing. This is a pulled quad. It is a pulled muscle, and you monitor it like you would monitor a hamstring pull. You go when it is ready. If you can't run fast, then you can't play wide receiver."

Drummond could return to practice on Friday, but is also questionable to play.

Stayin' Busy Wide receiver Charles Rogers, who will miss the second of a four-game suspension on Sunday, is still working out with the ball club. According to Mariucci, Rogers arrives in the morning with the rest of the ball club and does individual excercises. He also sits with the team during meetings. As a part of his suspension, though, he is prohibited to join the team during practice sessions.

Defensive end James Hall will be held out of Sunday's game. Last season's sack leader is still recovering from a nagging groin injury, and is listed as week-to-week. Mariucci said Hall is making progress.

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