Lions Notebook: Marinelli, Smith reunite

Chicago coach Lovie Smith and Lions coach Rod Marinelli are just about as close as two NFL coaches can be, although they're certainly not as close as they were 10 years ago. More news, notes and quotes inside.

Chicago coach Lovie Smith and Lions coach Rod Marinelli are just about as close as two NFL coaches can be, although they're certainly not as close as they were 10 years ago.

That's when they were rookie NFL coaches with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, rooming together in one cramped room at the Holiday Inn Express.

"We had enough room for both of us to turn around," Smith recalled. "It seemed like we bumped each other every time we went by each other."

Tony Dungy had hired them straight off college coaching staffs. Smith had been coaching linebackers at Ohio State and Marinelli had been coaching the defensive line at Southern Cal.

Working together on what would eventually become known as Dungy's signature cover-2 defense, Smith and Marinelli became -- and remain to this day -- very close friends. That's one of the reasons the game Sunday at Soldier Field will be so interesting.

For one week, the old pals won't be talking football on the phone during the week. They'll be plotting and trying to take advantage of their familiarity with the other's game.

"It's not about Rod and Lovie," said Lions guard Damien Woody. "It's not about personal issues. It's about winning a football game."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The return of WR Az-Zahir Hakim, signed two days after the season-opening 9-6 loss to Seattle, gives offensive coordinator Mike Martz another weapon in his passing attack.

Hakim played and was extremely productive for Martz in St. Louis earlier in his career. In three seasons with the Lions (2002-04), Hakim was less productive but his comfort level with Martz is expected to change that.

Hakim's presence brings up a couple of interesting strategy/personnel questions, however:

How much will his playing time impact the playing time of Mike Furrey and Eddie Drummond, who shared the slot receiver role in the opening game? And if Mike Williams was a healthy scratch for the season opener, will he ever be active now that another productive receiver has been added to the roster?

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

  • RT Rex Tucker, who did not start but played briefly against Seattle, is expected to be ready to return to his starting job if coach Rod Marinelli chooses to start him ahead of Barry Stokes, who got most of the snaps in the opener. Tucker is fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered in training camp and now has had enough practice time to be ready for fulltime duty.
  • LG Ross Verba, who was inactive (hamstring) for the season opener against Seattle, was listed as questionable for the Lions game Sunday at Chicago. Verba was the starting LG until he was injured late in training camp. If he is unable to start, Rick DeMulling will get his second start at LG against the Bears.
  • OG Rick DeMulling started at LG in the season opener against Seattle and might be back in the starting lineup for game two Sunday at Chicago. DeMulling is the backup to Ross Verba, who has suffered a strained hamstring late in training camp and is listed as questionable for the Chicago game.
  • WR Az-Zahir Hakim, signed Tuesday by the Lions, began practice Wednesday but it is uncertain whether he will be ready to play in the game Sunday at Chicago. Hakim has the quickness and elusiveness coach Rod Marinelli likes and he is familiar with the Mike Martz offense from their time together in St. Louis but might need more conditioning before he's ready for game action.
  • TE Casey FitzSimmons, who suffered a broken wrist in the first preseason game, had hoped to be able to return for the Lions' game Sunday at Chicago but coach Rod Marinelli indicated that would be unlikely. FitzSimmons is not yet practicing so it appears likely he won't play for at least another week.

    GAME PLAN: The Lions have find a way to get their offense started after being held to two field goals by the Seattle Seahawks but it won't be easy against the Bears, who shut out Green Bay in their opener. They're likely to have a difficult time running against the Bears defensive line and MLB Brian Urlacher but better play from WRs Roy Williams and Corey Bradford will help QB Jon Kitna move the ball passing.

    MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
    --Lions FB Cory Schlesinger vs. Bears MLB Brian Urlacher. Schlesinger and Urlacher have had some monumental battles over the years and, even though the Lions have changed their offense under coordinator Mike Martz, there will still be times Schlesinger is the lead blocker, working against Urlacher.
    --Lions RG Damian Woody vs. Bears DT Tommie Harris. Harris can be a huge disruptive inside force; Woody will have at least partial responsibility for keeping him from creating havoc.
    --Lions DT Shaun Rogers vs. Bears QB Rex Grossman. Rogers had two of the Lions' five sacks against Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck. That kind of assault on Grossman would go a long way in keeping the Bears' offense under control.

    INJURY IMPACT: The Lions survived the season opener without any serious injuries. LG Ross Verba (hamstring) missed the opener and is still questionable but it appears RT Rex Tucker (knee) will be ready to return to the starting lineup after a training camp injury. Casey FitzSimmons, who was the starting TE when he broke his wrist early in the preseason, and rookie WR Shaun Bodiford (knee), a solid special teams player, missed the opener and are not expected to play in Chicago. LB Teddy Lehman and WR Scottie Vines are on the reserve/physically unable to perform list.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 19 -- Consecutive games in which punter Nick Harris has had at least one punt downed inside the opponent's 20-yard line. He led the NFL with 34 punts downed inside the 20 last season and had only two touchbacks.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Nobody's in this game to come close. If you feel good about that game, you're probably in the wrong business." -- Lions quarterback Jon Kitna on the hard-fought 9-6 loss to Seattle in the season opener.


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