When the Vikings invade Ford Field Sunday, they will do so looking to strengthen their grip atop the NFC North with a divisional win that would drop Detroit two games behind them in the standings. At least one player will be going into Motown looking for a bit of revenge.
Vikings fullback Jerome Felton began his career in Detroit. While he technically played against the Lions once before while with the Carolina Panthers, he was injured and played sparingly in that game. This time, he's healthy and he's looking for a chance to get a little payback.
"It's a little more personal for me," Felton said. "Me knowing guys on the team and feeling a certain way about how things went down there, it's a little bit personal for me. It's a date I circled on the calendar when the schedule came out. I'm looking forward to it."
Felton still has a lot of friends on the team and several of them have reached out to let them know that they miss him. The plan when the Lions moved on from Felton was that they had the Thunder-and-Lightning backfield they wanted in speedy Jahvid Best and bruising Mickel Leshoure. But with Best sidelined with multiple concussions and Leshoure running afoul of the law and the league, former Lion Kevin Smith was brought back and has proved he can carry the load in the backfield if needed.
"I like a lot of those guys and know what they're going through," Felton said. "With Jahvid being injured, that changed what they do. Kevin is a good back and can do a lot of things. They've got some running backs, especially if they can get them all on the field at the same time."
Felton's exit wasn't due to a lack of talent or hustle, it was due to scheme. When the Lions made the coaching change that brought in Jim Schwartz and turned the offense fully over to Matthew Stafford, Felton was no longer needed. He was part of one of many cutbacks in Detroit's labor force and there simply wasn't a place for him in the new-look offense.
"They eliminated the fullback from the offense when they made the coaching change, so I didn't have a spot," Felton said. "I didn't feel like I lost my job there. It was just eliminated."
Felton said he hopes to get a lot of time lead blocking for Adrian Peterson, but admitted he hopes to have very little to do with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in the middle of the Lions defensive line.
"I hope I don't have to do any lead blocking on Suh," Felton said. "I'm hoping the offensive line will take care of that. But when it comes down to it, if I've got help out, I'll do my best with him. He's an animal and will be a handful for our guys all day."
Felton said he likely won't have any time to catch up with his friends and family when he returns to Detroit. He expects his trip to be work-related only, not reacquainting himself with the people and places of his NFL youth.
"We're going there for a business trip," Felton said. "It won't be about meeting up with long lost family and friends. It's going to be about focusing on the task at hand, getting my mind right and hopefully doing my part to help us come out of it with a win. All the friends, we'll get together afterward, but we're there for business."
Fans can often be merciless when former players return as a member of the opposition, but Felton said he believes he will get a positive reception from Lions fans … at least if Detroit beats the Vikings. But, despite wearing purple, will the fans embrace one of their own making his return to Ford Field?
"I think so," Felton said. "They have great fans. Obviously, they'll be cheering for the Lions, but the way they've treated me on Twitter, I've received a lot of love from the fans there. I think it will be all positive. That may change a little if we beat them, but I'm looking forward to going back there and playing again as a member of the Vikings."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Lions game is personal for Vikings' Felton
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