The Lions were praising Kevin Williams' abilities this week and don't believe for a second that he will be limited in his return Sunday.
The Lions' offense will have two significant issues to deal with Sunday at Minnesota. One is the return of Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams
, back after a two-game suspension, and the other is trying to stay patient against the Vikings two-deep coverage.
"This is Lions-Vikings, there aren't going to be any tricks," said left guard Rob Sims
, who will be matched against Williams most of the game. "It ain't about anybody trying to get something over on somebody. It's just line up and play."
The Lions offensive linemen got a good chuckle reading some of the comments coming out of Minnesota this week – specifically worries that Williams, because he's been unable to train with the team, won't be ready to compete at his normal high level.
"Yeah, all that stuff about him being out of shape and him saying he hasn't been working out – nice try," said center Dominic Raiola
. "That's a smokescreen. We're getting ready for the All-Pro Kevin Williams."
The All-Pro Kevin Williams has been one of the most disruptive defensive linemen since he came into the league in 2003. He has 49.5 sacks, 50 pass deflections, four interceptions and six forced fumbles – this from a three-technique interior lineman.
"He's a dynamic player," Sims said. "This will be my fourth or fifth time playing him and there are no tricks to it. You play him straight up. He's unbelievable with his hands. He's quick and big; he causes a lot of problems for you."
As Raiola put it, "He hits quarterbacks, he sacks quarterbacks, he knocks ball down, he runs screens down, he stuffs the run - when you talk about a complete player, you talk about Kevin Williams."
The Vikings traditionally are tough to run against. They also like to play two-deep coverage and refuse to allow teams to throw over the top. The Lions are a team that likes to stretch you vertically. QB Matthew Stafford
has a gunslinger's mentality; he's fearless throwing the deep ball.
Something's got to give. The Lions are going to have to find a balance between what they love to do on offense and what the Vikings will allow them to do.
"Part of it is being patient," Raiola said. "You can't force anything against them. But a lot of it, too, is making a play. You have to go up and make something happen. You have to break a tackle and get some yards after the catch. That's going to be big. It's patience for sure, but it's going out and making plays, too."
The Lions feel like they have a diverse enough arsenal to handle whatever the Vikings throw at them.
"The benefit of us having so many weapons is that we don't have to force the issue," WR Nate Burleson
said. "We don't desperately have to seek out CJ (Calvin Johnson
) every play. We can take what they give us underneath – let the running back check down, the tight ends hit the flat and find zones. And then hopefully that will attract them to us and open up the back end later in the game."
SERIES HISTORY: 100th regular-season meeting. Vikings lead the series, 66-31-2. The Lions haven't won in Minnesota since 1997. They are 12-36-1 at Minnesota. The last time they won there, Scott Mitchell threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Herman Moore with 0.02 left. The Vikings won 13 straight games from 1968-1974 and were 20-3 in the last 23 meetings dating to 1999. That said, the Lions did win the last meeting – 20-13 at Ford Field last season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "When teams leave Calvin (Johnson) out there one-on-one, that's disrespectful to me. That's what happens – you get dunked on. We got an aggressive coaching staff. We're going to stay fangs out." – C Dominic Raiola on the Lions' step-on-your-throat mentality
Message sent, message received. Head coach Jim Schwartz benched starting RT Gosder Cherilus last week in favor of Corey Hilliard. Cherilus had incurred Schwartz's wrath the previous week in Tampa for taking an ill-timed personal foul penalty. It allowed the Bucs to mount one last potential game-tying drive. But after the one-week stint in the doghouse, Cherilus was back at his usual starting right tackle spot during position drills Wednesday.
The Lions have some issues on their coverage units. Their top two gunners, Rashied Davis (hamstring) and Maurice Stovall (hand) are injured. For that reason, Schwartz had Jason Hanson boot every ball out of the end zone. It's possible both will be out again this week.
TE Brandon Pettigrew (shoulder) missed practice for the second straight day. Coach Jim Schwartz continues to call it "in-season bumps and bruises" and Pettigrew is expected to play Sunday.
WR Calvin Johnson (ankle) returned to practice, though he was limited. He, too, is expected to play.
WR Maurice Stovall (hand), a key special teams player, is still limited. He has not been working with the special teams unit in practice, thus, he's likely to be inactive again Sunday.
WR Rashied Davis, also a key special teams contributor, is bothered by a hamstring injury. As a result of the injuries to Davis and Stovall, SS John Wendling has been playing three different position on the kickoff coverage team.
QB Matthew Stafford, on ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike Show Thursday morning, was asked if, because of his history with shoulder injuries, he felt defensive players ever purposely targeted his shoulder during games. "I don't know if I notice it," Stafford said. "I am sure some guys are trying to do it but my offensive line is doing a great job. We haven't given up a sack and I've barely gotten hit. I'm sure some guys are going after it. It's just part of the game."
PK Jason Hanson is the only player left from the 1997 team that won in Minnesota. The Lions have lost 13 straight there since. "Something else starts to happen," he said. "The team starts to think they can beat you. We are 2-0 and they are 0-2 and I guarantee you they feel like this is a game they can get because they've beaten us up there so often. That kind of thing starts to snowball on you, so we have to do something about it."
RB Keiland Williams played in the final two series against the Chiefs last week, but from the sound of it, he might not be ready for a bigger role. Coach Jim Schwartz said there were still some things he needed to "iron out" in the Lions' system.
RB Maurice Morris did not play a down last week after fumbling twice in Tampa. The broken right hand that kept out all preseason is healed, but the coaches are worried that it is not strong enough.
DT Ndamukong Suh rushed the passer 23 times last week and wound up with one sack and one hit.
WR Calvin Johnson is at the top of the NFL charts in touchdown receptions (4). He has more receiving touchdowns (33) since 2008 than any other player.