Lions rebuilding project weakened by injuries

The Lions are putting together a competitive team, but right now key injuries are problematic as they prepare for the Vikings.

If things fell just right for the Lions this year, if all the key players stayed healthy and produced at reasonable levels, best case scenario was probably six or seven wins. Maybe.

But, this early in the Post-Millen reconstruction, this roster isn't deep enough to withstand any key injuries.

So it is with great trepidation that the 0-2 Lions prepare to march into their house of horrors — the Metrodome in Minneapolis — without quarterback Matthew Stafford (shoulder), without receiver Nate Burleson (ankle) and possibly without starting right guard Stephen Peterman (foot), starting outside linebacker Zack Follett (concussion) and starting defensive end Cliff Avril (knee).

On top of that, two kingpins of their defensive back seven, safety Louis Delmas and middle linebacker DeAndre Levy are practicing but in a limited capacity and have since the beginning of training camp.

Not an optimal situation for a team that has lost 12 straight games at Minnesota and 21 straight on the road.

"We're not looking for excuses," coach Jim Schwartz said. "We going to try and win a football game."

Shaun Hill will start again at quarterback. Derrick Williams is expected to be activated as the third receiver, but the Lions will also use a lot of two-tight ends with Tony Scheffler in the slot like they did against the Eagles last Sunday.

If Peterman can't play, the Lions most likely will start five-year veteran Dylan Gandy at right guard. But the Lions are ruling Peterman out.

"He will be all right," center Dominic Raiola said. "If you are asking me right now, I'd say he'll be fine."

The Lions will be extra cautious with Follett, obviously. He did not pass the concussion tests on Wednesday and probably won't get back on the field until Friday at the earliest.

Avril did practice Wednesday and expects to play.

But the Lions will still be putting a lot of wounded soldiers on the field Sunday.

Stafford's return appears to be getting closer. The Lions won't say it, but it appears they are hoping he can be ready to play Oct. 10 against St. Louis at Ford Field.

"It's going good," Stafford said of his rehab. "I am just trying to keep my shoulder as strong as possible. Whenever I am ready to go I will play. It feels better."

Stafford still hasn't tried to throw with his right arm.

"They will give me a day whenever they (Lions' medical staff) feel like I am ready to throw and I will start throwing," he said. "After that, we will see. I don't know what the plan will be but it might be just to jump right back into it."

When asked about his range of motion, he coyly raised his right arm over his head and then back down while seated in front of his locker.

"See?" he said.

What he didn't do was make any kind of forward throwing motion. He couldn't even untie his shoes with his right hand.

SERIES HISTORY: 98th meeting. Vikings lead regular-season series, 65-30-2. The Lions have lost 12 straight in Minnesota and 18 of the last 20 overall. Vikings quarterback Brett Favre has owned the Lions, regardless of who's signing his paycheck. He has thrown for nearly 9,000 yards against the Lions (8,753) and is 15-2 in the last 17. He has had a 100-plus quarterback rating in the last four meetings.


  • Vikings quarterback Brett Favre has never lost to the Lions on his home field, but he's not putting any credence on that. "I never paid any attention to it, I really haven't," he said. "A lot of the guys I am playing against week in and week out have no idea I even played in the Super Bowl in 1996."

  • The Lions have yet to exhibit any kind of power running game. The only supposed power back on the roster is FB Jerome Felton and the Lions use him almost exclusively as a blocker. But if coach Jim Schwartz is worried about that, he isn't saying. "It doesn't matter how you run the football. It's a matter of do you put it in the end zone," he said. "There's a lot of different ways to skin a cat. You'd like to pick up those third-and-ones and fourth-and-ones, but if you have to get it with a quarterback sneak or with a fullback or with a tailback or with a pass, the bottom line is getting it. And we do need to do a better job of that."

  • RB Jahvid Best had five carries for no gain or loss on Sunday and picked up just two yards rushing in the second half. When asked if he was bothered by the negative yardage, he said, "The only stat that bothers me is no wins."

  • QB Shaun Hill when asked if he gets any extra juice from playing against Brett Favre: "It's not me against Brett Favre," he said. "It the Lions against the Vikings, our offense against their defense."

  • OLB Julian Peterson was benched for the final defensive series against the Eagles. He missed his gap on a 46-yard touchdown run by LeSean McCoy. Peterson was back working with the first-team defensive on Wednesday.

  • OG Dylan Gandy has apparently unseated veteran Manny Ramirez as the backup at both guard spots. With Stephen Peterman (foot) out, Gandy was working with the first team on Wednesday. Ramirez, who is not injured, has been inactive the first two games.

  • OT Gosder Cherilus has had nothing but bad luck playing against the Vikings ends Jared Allen and Ray Edwards. He hurt his knee in his rookie season and last year was utterly dominated by Edwards, to the point where Edwards said it was like playing against a college tackle. "It's a new year," said Cherilus, who has graded out as one of the most consistent linemen in the first two games.

  • CB Jonathan Hefney was released from the practice squad on Wednesday.

  • C Cody Wallace, a former San Francisco 49er, was signed to the practice squad.

  • DBs Macho Harris and Quintin Demps, both former Eagles, worked out for the Lions on Tuesday.

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