The Thanksgiving Day game is the Lions' proudest tradition and showcase event. The Lions started playing on Thanksgiving Day in 1934, when the franchise moved from Portsmouth, Ohio, to Detroit. No matter how bad they have been over the years, they could count on at least this one nationally televised game. They often rose to the occasion.
But the Lions have lost five of their last six Thanksgiving games, and there's no other way to say it: They played like turkeys in the last three, suffering embarrassing losses to Indianapolis, Atlanta and Miami. Some in Detroit were concerned the NFL would take the tradition away.
"Pretty bad," wide receiver Roy Williams said. "Everybody wants to kick us off the Thanksgiving tradition thing. But I think this one's going to be pretty good."
This year, the Lions are reeling from their first back-to-back losses of the season. But they're still in the thick of the playoff hunt at 6-4, and they're playing host to the team they're chasing in the NFC North, the 9-1 Green Bay Packers.
"This is a good football team," Williams said. "The nation's going to get to see this team go up against one of the best teams in the NFC, and we feel that we can compete with these guys and come out of there with a victory."
Three years ago, the Colts came to Ford Field and absolutely obliterated the Lions. The final score was 41-9, and it could have been much worse than that. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning threw six touchdown passes. The NFL record for touchdown passes in a game is seven. Manning could have tried to tie it or break it. But he left the game late in the third quarter. The Lions benched quarterback Joey Harrington.
Two years ago, the Lions lost to the Falcons, 27-7, after falling behind, 27-0, and scoring a late touchdown to avoid the shutout. Harrington was benched. Coach Steve Mariucci was fired the following Monday.
Last year, the Lions lost to the Dolphins, 27-10. Months after Harrington's messy divorce with the Lions, he came back to Ford Field. And despite being booed by the fans all over again, he threw three touchdown passes to beat his former team.
"This ain't the same," center Dominic Raiola said. "We're not the same. This ain't the same team."
We'll see. Everybody will see.
"It's national," kicker Jason Hanson said. "We haven't earned that kind of exposure. It's just been given to us recently. This year we've somewhat earned it, and it'll be a game that people will want to watch outside of Detroit because it's the Packers and we've played some good games this year. So it's a great opportunity to back up some of the ... If we're good, let's start seeing it."
Individual Player Notes
OT Jonathan Scott will start at right tackle for the Lions, replacing the struggling George Foster. Scott missed the last two games with a broken thumb. But he returned to practice Tuesday morning, felt good and said he would start against the Packers.
"Minor soreness," Scott said, rapping on the hard cast covering his left thumb and wrist, "but it's protected by this cast." Scott said his thumb hadn't completely healed but had reached the point where it could take contact.
"It kind of gives me an advantage because it's kind of hard," Scott said, smiling and holding up his cast. "If somebody gets hit with it, I feel sorry for them."
Kicker Jason Hanson, who has been with the Lions since 1992, doesn't have a lot of fond memories of Thanksgiving, but he remembers one game when John Madden was the broadcaster.
"I remember one year I made some field goals and had a tackle," Hanson said. "Madden was doing it, and they had the turkey leg. I was so excited. I thought, 'Man, I'm going to get the turkey leg.' They gave it to Johnnie Morton. And I felt like I'd been robbed. So I was sour. No, I'm kidding."
DE Dewayne White, who has missed two games with a triceps injury, practiced fully Tuesday. It appears he will start against the Packers wearing a protective brace.
RB Kevin Jones, who has been managing a sore foot all season, appears ready to play against the Packers despite the shorter recovery time this week.
LB Teddy Lehman did not practice Tuesday because of a foot injury. But it is not related to the Lisfranc injury he struggled with earlier in his career, and coach Rod Marinelli said he might be ready for Thursday's game.
DE Ikaika Alama-Francis has not been practicing because of a hamstring injury. Alama-Francis was not expected to be active, anyway. The rookie has been inactive for eight of the Lions' 10 games this season.