Lions coach Jim Schwartz knows that talk of losing the traditional Thanksgiving Day game is a hot-button issue in Detroit, and before an open practice at Ford Field, he brought it up in front of 15,387 fans and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Schwartz took the microphone and addressed the fans, who came despite gloomy weather and the Lions' 0-16 record last year. He noted that Goodell was in attendance.
"I just said, 'Hey, look, anytime I hear somebody around the country talk about taking that game away from Detroit, I'm going to remind the commissioner about 15,000 people standing in the rain for two hours to see a practice,' " Schwartz said. "I think that says something about our fans. I think that says something about our tradition here. That needs to be remembered, and it needs to be rewarded."
Goodell was standing a few yards away on the sideline. He had popped in for a quick visit, on his way to the Hall of Fame induction ceremony Saturday night in Canton, Ohio. Asked about the possibility the Lions could lose the Thanksgiving Day game, Goodell said: "I don't see that in the near future."
The Lions host Green Bay on Thanksgiving this year.
— Goodell said the league soon will determine the status of defensive tackle Grady Jackson. While with the Falcons last season, Jackson appealed a four-game suspension for taking a diuretic the league deems a masking agent under its steroids testing policy. The Lions knew about the situation when they signed Jackson as a free agent.
"Right now we're going through the process," Goodell said. "We should have some indication, I would say, in the next couple weeks — clearly before the season." Goodell declined to go into detail. "There's a lot of detail to it, but we're not going to be discussing it publicly until we make a decision," he said.
— Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said the Lions have about 40 blitzes installed. He said he put his players through a demanding blitz walkthrough — 140 snaps in just 20 minutes — and linebacker Cody Spencer approached him afterward.
"He goes, 'I almost just died,' " Cunningham said. "I said, 'Was it hard?' He said, 'My God, Gun, you tried to kill my brain.' "
Spencer said it was more of a "slogthrough" than a walkthrough.
"It was making me think, that's for damn sure," Spencer said. "He gets here the crack of dawn every morning, and God only knows how late he stays. He's always coming up with new stuff and things like that. He's one of those guys who wants you to know what you're doing. If you're not studying, you're going to be on his bad side."
— Cunningham used a hit by cornerback Ramzee Robinson as an example for the rest of his players. "Ramzee Robinson hit one guy under the chin, drove him to the sideline and dumped him on his back," Cunningham said. "I haven't seen that since I was coaching in the '90s, and I made a big deal about it last night. We're going to be that kind of team. We're going to be aggressive. So we've got to practice aggressive."
—TE Carson Butler was signed mainly because the Lions were thin at his position due to injuries. Butler, who was signed by Green Bay as an undrafted free agent but released when Clay Matthews III was signed, is a long shot to make the roster, though he ended the Lions' open practice at Ford Field with a touchdown catch.
Injury report: The Lions have had several players miss practice, including running back Maurice Morris, cornerback Keith Smith, linebacker Jordan Dizon, offensive lineman Lydon Murtha, safeties Louis Delmas and Daniel Bullocks, wide receivers John Standeford and Bryant Johnson and tight ends Brandon Pettigrew, Casey Fitzsimmons and Jake Nordin. Most are day to day, nursing minor training camp injuries like sore joints and muscles, according to coach Jim Schwartz. Fitzsimmons (knee, ankle), Smith (groin) and Johnson are the only ones expected to miss significant time. Johnson has wounds related to a golf cart accident.
DE Mark Anderson
Warren Wimmer Photography
Friday's practice may have been his most impressive of camp. Near the end of the day, he hammered running back Kevin Jones behind the line of scrimmage.
"I want to try to be more complete about my game," the 6-foot-4, 255-pound Anderson said, "so I've been working hard in the weight room, off the field and just trying to get a little stronger so I can be able to hold up against the run, too."
The early results are encouraging.
"Mark has had a good camp — not only (Friday), but throughout," coach Lovie Smith said. "He's getting good competition, going against a good (offensive right) tackle a lot of the time in Chris Williams. Both of them making each other better."
The competition was so spirited Friday afternoon that Anderson and Williams skirmished, causing both lines to briefly join the dispute.
"It's all love," Anderson said. "At the end of the day we're still brothers. Just a little brotherly love, just a little hand tap here and there. It's all love, though."
— The day before training camp practices began, coach Lovie Smith addressed the health of DT Tommie Harris, who has been plagued by bothersome knee injuries the past two seasons. It seemed Harris would be fine.
"Tommie wasn't 100 percent during some of the off-season work. He is now," Smith said a week ago. "Our plan is for Tommie to get right into the mix just like the rest of our players. He's ready to go, and he's healthy right now."
Based on his inactivity in every practice so far, Harris doesn't look healthy. He is rarely on the field in 11-on-11 drills or in individual drills that involve contact. He has taken fewer practice reps than any of the first- and second-team defensive linemen.
"Tommie is working the amount that we would like him to right now," Smith said. "We know what he can do. He's had some injuries in the past. He's getting great individual work. Yeah, we've limited some of his team reps. We've done that at other positions, too. But there are no problems with Tommie. He is just going on the routine that I want him to go on."
That rising tide is sure to lift Cutler's financial boat if he continues to play at a Pro Bowl level. But he's got two more seasons left on his original six-year, $48 million rookie contract of 2006, so he's not interested in even talking about an extension just yet.
"There's going to be a time and a place for that," he said. "This year I still have to go out and play and prove myself on the field and then, maybe after this season, maybe after the next season, we'll sit down and talk and see what we can do."
Injury report: CB Charles Tillman (back) will be out at least another two weeks. ... LB Hunter Hillenmeyer (calf), S's Danieal Manning (hamstring) and Dahna Deleston and CB Zack Bowman (hamstring) dressed for Saturday's practice but were limited to light jogging. ... DT Tommie Harris (soreness, knee) did less than that, continuing a trend that began at the start of camp.
Prolonged contract negotiations meant that the Vikings had to wait until the third day of training camp to get their initial look at first-round wide receiver Percy Harvin.
The wait appears to have been worth it.
Using what coach Brad Childress refers to as a high football acumen, Harvin has appeared to be a quick learner when it comes to executing a series of plays that have been designed for him.
Harvin, a multi-talented and explosive player from Florida, is often used out of the slot but also can play other receiver positions or line up at running back and has caused the Vikings to design their own version of the Wildcat in which he lines up as the quarterback.
That gives the Vikings' offense a far different look than the more conservative system that fans have often griped about since Childress became coach in 2006. Harvin also has been practicing punt and kickoff returns and almost certainly will be used in the latter role.
In his first week of practice with the Vikings, Harvin used his blazing speed to make a handful of nice catches on deep passes. That is especially important because his presence is going to mean defensive coordinator will not be able to put eight men in the box on a consistent basis to stop Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson, the NFL's leading rusher in 2008.
If opponents focus on Peterson, Harvin or Bernard Berrian will be left in an advantageous situation. In other words, coordinators are essentially going to be put in the position of picking their own poison.
— Steve LaCroix, the Vikings' vice president of sales and marketing and chief marketing officer, said a week into training camp that the Vikings were averaging 4,200 fans per day in Mankato as opposed to 2,700 a year ago.
— The Vikings wore full pads only twice in the first nine days of training camp. The weather in Mankato has remained relatively cool making this camp nearly ideal for players. Coach Brad Childress also gave nine of his oldest veterans the day off last Saturday. That was before the Vikings' first off day of camp.
—The five-year contract that WR Percy Harvin signed is worth $14.28 million and includes $8.5 million in guarantees. The 22nd pick in the draft last April, Harvin got more guaranteed money than center Alex Mack, who was selected a spot in front of Harvin by Cleveland. Mack's guarantees total $8.3 million.
— RB Adrian Peterson tried to pull a fast one on coach Brad Childress and the Vikings coaching staff during a recent practice when he ran into the huddle with the second-team offense during a third-and-short drill. Childress quickly realized it when the offense broke the huddle and blew his whistle. Peterson was replaced by running back Albert Young.
—Phil Loadholt appears a lock to win the right tackle job and has been taking the majority of the reps with the first team. Ryan Cook, who started at right tackle most of last season, is getting work at center, guard and tackle.
Injury report: QB Tarvaris Jackson returned three days after suffering a Grade I sprain of the MCL in his left knee. ... DE Brian Robison was sidelined for four days because of a hamstring injury and is slowly working his way back on the field. ... RB Kahlil Bell has been out for much of camp because of an ankle injury.