Lions Notebook: Dan-O's Back

The Lions plan to start Dan Orlovsky at quarterback Sunday at Indianapolis, even though Orlovsky is less than six weeks into his recovery from two fractures and a torn ligament in his right thumb.

The Lions plan to start Dan Orlovsky at quarterback Sunday at Indianapolis, even though Orlovsky is less than six weeks into his recovery from two fractures and a torn ligament in his right thumb.

Daunte Culpepper, the starter the last five games, didn't practice Wednesday and Thursday because of an injured shoulder. Asked if he ruled out Culpepper, coach Rod Marinelli said: "Yes, but I always want to leave you some wiggle room."

Orlovsky, the starter the four games before Culpepper's signing, slammed his helmet to the turf Thursday after missing some throws in individual drills. But he attributed that to rust more than his injury.

"My thumb feels 100 percent," Orlovsky said. "I don't have any ill effects from the past injury. I feel completely confident that I won't have any ill effects from it."

Asked if he was telling the truth, Orlovsky smirked and said: "I'm always trying to tell the truth."

Why did Orlovsky say Wednesday he would miss some throws because of the thumb?

"Because I was anticipating waking up and it being pretty sore," Orlovsky said. "I woke up today and it felt pretty well. We did some more treatment today. Going out and practicing today, I didn't brace it or tape it up today compared to yesterday. I didn't have any effects from it. I didn't think about it or anything. It felt good."

The situation seems another indictment of the coaches' confidence in Drew Stanton, a second-round pick last year who has missed a lot of practice time because of injuries and has appeared in only two games, with no starts.

Marinelli said reporters shouldn't read much into it, however.

"We've got a lot of confidence in him, and he's going to be a heck of a player," Marinelli said. "Any time you get banged-up like that and miss practice time, it's hard."

Stanton was asked if he would like a fresh start somewhere else.

"I like being here," Stanton said. "I love being in the city of Detroit, and I want to be here for a long time. When I showed up two years ago, I said that I wanted to be part of the solution, and I'm still determined to do that."

Stanton was asked if he needed to go elsewhere to jump-start his career.

"I don't know," Stanton said. "It's really hard to say. Like I said, I'm going to try to make the most of my opportunities when they come. I'd like to think they drafted me in the second round for a reason."

SERIES HISTORY: 40th regular-season meeting. Colts lead, 19-18-2. Peyton Manning carved up the Lions on Thanksgiving 2004, throwing six touchdown passes in only three quarters in a 41-9 Indianapolis victory. Detroit is 2-3 vs. Colts since they left Baltimore. This is the Lions' first trip to Lucas Oil Stadium.

Notebook:

  • Daunte Culpepper, who suffered a bad knee injury in 2005, no longer has the legs he had when he was at the top of his game with Minnesota. Veteran Vikings observers made note if it Sunday, when the Lions lost to Culpepper's old team at Ford Field, and Colts coach Tony Dungy saw it on film. "Yeah, he doesn't have the same mobility," Dungy said. "You see him in the open field on some of the scrambles where it used to be you're holding onto your hat because he could go all the way. You don't see that type of athleticism. But I think the accuracy and arm strength and delivery of the ball is all pretty similar."
  • Dungy also clearly saw Culpepper hasn't had a full grasp of the playbook. He came out of retirement, signed with the Lions on Nov. 4 and started his first of five straight games Nov. 9. "Yeah, they did much more earlier in the year, I think, with formations and different things that they're doing, and you can see that they've probably had very specific packages for him," Dungy said. "But it's grown every week and every week they've done a little bit more with him." Asked if that made Culpepper easier to defend, Dungy said: "I think it was for some of those teams earlier on when he first started playing. But they're going back to where they were, so we're going to prepare for everything."
  • Why has Marinelli struggled so badly as a head coach when he learned directly from Dungy in Tampa Bay? "I'm not sure, because I know they do a lot of things the exact same way we do," Dungy said. "He's a guy that I would want to play for. When I talk to players there in Detroit, I think they enjoy playing for him. They work hard. They're pretty fundamentally sound and pretty detail-oriented. So it's just kind of a mystery why it hasn't gone better, for sure." Does Marinelli lack enough talented players? "I'm sure that's part of it," said Dungy, who inherited quarterback Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. "Obviously we've had the same quarterback for 11 years now, the same system and pretty much the same assistant coaches for seven years. So that continuity is a part of it. But why they were 6-2 at the beginning of last year and really looked like they had it going in the right direction and doing things the same way and it hasn't panned out as well, it's hard to put a finger on that."
  • Though Marinelli is always upbeat, he loves football and history. How does Dungy think he's handling being 0-13? "I know if anybody can handle it, Rod Marinelli's the guy who can," Dungy said. "I know it bothers him. He has no sense of anything other than success, and he wants to succeed there very badly, and he believes in his players. So he's going to just continue to coach and do things the way he believes in them and try to get it going. But I know it's difficult. When we were together, we lost our first five in Tampa and that seemed like a lifetime. So I can't really imagine what 13 is like."
  • The Lions released cornerback Brian Kelly on Tuesday. Did they miscalculate how much Kelly had left when they signed him as a free agent in the off-season? "That's hard to say," coach Rod Marinelli said. "He had a great preseason. I give Brian all the credit. You know how I feel about him. Was that a tough deal for me? Yeah." In 11 games with the Lions, including 10 starts, Kelly had no interceptions and only one pass break-up. On Sunday against Minnesota, he was active but didn't play for the second time this season. He had sunk to third or fourth on the depth chart, and the fourth cornerback must contribute on special teams. "At this point in his career, I didn't think he could do that," Marinelli said. "He's still got some of the skills, but I just felt being where he's at in terms of that third or fourth guy, I needed to then bring a young guy in." The Lions signed Dexter Wynn, a six-year NFL vet who played the Tampa Two at Colorado State and can help in the return game.
  • Middle linebacker Buster Davis was one of the Lions' final cuts before the season. Now he will start against them Sunday for the Colts. He is coming off his first NFL start, replacing Gary Brackett (leg). Asked if he had his way if he would have kept Davis and moved rookie Jordon Dizon to the strong side, Marinelli said: "Those are tough calls at the end. But we knew he was a very physical player, and he's playing well. He's done a nice job for them."
  • BY THE NUMBERS: 6 - Touchdown passes Peyton Manning threw against the Lions the last time he faced them in a regular-season game, in 2004, and he played only three quarters.
  • QUOTE TO NOTE: "Execution is killing us." - Lions RB Kevin Smith, speaking figuratively.

Player Notes:

  • CB Leigh Bodden (groin) did not practice Thursday after going through a limited practice Wednesday. The Lions did not provide an update on his status for Sunday.
  • WR Shaun McDonald (ankle) did not practice Thursday after going through a limited practice Wednesday. The Lions did not provide an update on his status for Sunday.
  • DT Chuck Darby (calf) did not practice Wednesday and Thursday. He is expected to play Sunday, however. He has been nursing a nagging calf injury for weeks.
  • DT Cory Redding (knee) did not practice Wednesday and Thursday but is expected to play Sunday.
  • CB Keith Smith (groin) was limited Wednesday and Thursday. He is expected to play.
  • RB Kevin Smith (ankle) was limited Wednesday and Thursday. He is expected to play.
  • DE Dewayne White (calf) was limited Wednesday and Thursday. He is expected to play. He will move from the right side back to the left, opposite rookie Cliff Avril. The Lions hope that will give them a better pass rush, and they hope White's veteran savvy will help them sniff out the draw plays and traps the Colts use so effectively.

    Game Plan: It's all about time of possession for the Lions. They must run the ball, convert third downs and even convert fourth-and-shorts to stay on the field, chew up the clock and score points, because they don't want Peyton Manning and the potent Colts offense to have a chance to pound their weak defense. If the Lions fall behind, things could snowball badly. On defense, the Lions are unlikely to get to Manning much, but they must do what they can to disrupt his timing and find a way to force some turnovers. They must be mistake-free.

    MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Lions RB Kevin Smith vs. Colts run defense -- To have any chance, Smith must have a big game. The Lions have uncertainty at quarterback because of injuries, so whoever plays is unlikely to lead them to victory, and they need Smith to chew up the clock to keep Peyton Manning off the field.

    The Colts have stopped the run better lately, and their middle linebacker, Buster Davis, knows Smith and the Lions well. He was one of the Lions' last cuts and likely wants to show them what they're missing.

    Colts QB Peyton Manning vs. Lions pass defense: Manning threw six touchdown passes in only three quarters of work the last time he faced the Lions, on Thanksgiving 2004. He could have another career day. The Lions have allowed much lesser quarterbacks to have career days this season.

    INJURY IMPACT: If Dan Orlovsky plays, it will be with a broken thumb that kept him out of the past five games - and a lot of rust from his absence. If Drew Stanton plays, he should be clear-headed - the effects of a recent concussion gone - but he's still very inexperienced.


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