Controversial Days in Detroit

The Vikings are preparing to face a team full of controversy and change. We review cornerback Dre' Bly's comments and his somewhat apologetic nature on Wednesday, along with comments from Jeff Garcia and Dick Jauron on the promotion of Garcia to the starting ranks, chock full of interesting and sometimes puzzling quotes.

After two days of publicly blasting quarterback Joey Harrington - and ignoring interim coach Dick Jauron's suggestion that the Lions stick together for the final five games of the season - Pro Bowl cornerback Dre' Bly apologized.

Bly apologized to his coaches and teammates, but it was still uncertain - after he met with the media Wednesday - what he was apologizing for.

"I apologized to my teammates," Bly said. "They shouldn't have to be talking about this today. I'm not no negative guy. I'm not no guy that likes controversy, I'm a team guy, and I apologized to my teammates."

Asked if he had apologized to Harrington or for what he had said about Harrington, Bly bristled and declined to elaborate, leaving the impression he had apologized to his teammates only for creating additional controversy after the firing of coach Steve Mariucci on Monday.

In the hours immediately following Mariucci's dismissal, Bly said: "We're all at fault, but I just feel like Joey's been here four years, and being the No. 3 pick in the draft, he hasn't given us anything. He hasn't given us what the third pick in the draft should give us."

A day later, Bly didn't back off his statements. Instead, he elaborated, aiming critical remarks at the Lions organization overall.

"I don't want to be here if things are going to stay the way they are," Bly said. "I told Matt (Millen) that."

Bly also broadened his target area to include the Lions' three young wide receivers - Charles Rogers, Roy Williams and Mike Williams.

"The players have to be held accountable, as well, if they haven't developed the past three or four years," Bly said. "These are top picks, the best players at their positions. Everybody thought they could play. You can't blame Mooch or blame Matt. When you don't see progress, the players regress. It's mostly their fault."

JAURON, GARCIA DEFEND PROMOTION

The Lions apparently will make their last stand of the 2005 NFL season behind quarterback Jeff Garcia.

Dick Jauron, appointed interim coach Monday after the firing of Steve Mariucci, said he made the decision after talking it over with his offensive staff, including the Lions' newly appointed offensive coordinator, Greg Olson.

"I played against Jeff a number of times," Jauron said. "I've never known him personally. I must say he's significantly different than I thought he would be, and I don't know why because he plays a real tough, hard-nosed game, and I think he's legitimately that guy.

"He's really a football person who loves to play and compete, and he's got more experience. So that was really it.

"It wasn't anything that I don't think Joey (Harrington) can do it. Joey is disappointed that he's not getting the chance to be the one, and he's focusing and being professional about being the (number) two."

The choice of Garcia over Harrington was a surprise to most observers close to the team, who expected the Lions to move away from Mariucci's short passing game to a more downfield-oriented version of the West Coast offense.

Harrington started the first five games of the season, sat out the Cleveland and Chicago games that Garcia started in midseason and has started the past three games because of injuries to Garcia.

Although Harrington had not been particularly effective early in the season, Garcia also has struggled in three appearances.

With virtually no time to adjust the offense before Sunday's game against Minnesota, however, Jauron apparently felt his best chance of winning that game - and the four games remaining on the schedule after that - was with West Coast veteran Garcia in the quarterback role.

It is uncertain whether Jauron took into account the feeling of some players - particularly cornerback Dre' Bly - who had been critical of Harrington.

Garcia, who missed the first five games of the season recovering from a broken left leg, has completed 59 of 93 pass attempts with one touchdown and two interceptions in two starts plus a relief appearance in the Thanksgiving Day game against Atlanta.

He threw an interception that was returned for the winning overtime touchdown by the Chicago Bears, he was intercepted once by the Falcons and another interception - on a throw referred to by local writers as "the moon ball" because of its peculiar high arc - was called back by a penalty.

As usual, however, Garcia felt he was deserving of the coach's confidence.

"I think it's people outside of this locker room that seem to be surprised by the way things are done or the way decisions are made, but everybody within this locker room supports the decision.

"Unfortunately for the health issues throughout the season, I think we would be in a different situation or a different position right now, but we can't base anything upon that and we just have to take what's left of the season, salvage what we have, and I'm the guy right now.

"I'm going to go out there and I'm going to play hard, and I'm going to play mentally tough, and go out there and try to make the best possible decisions and put the team in the best possible position to win."

NOTES

  • The Lions' first day of practice under Jauron came complete with a number of changes.

    Most notable for those covering the team was the fact that the practices will no longer be open to the media, as they had been for all except one day - last Tuesday - under former coach Steve Mariucci.

    But Jauron also made changes in the practice routine, although he said some of the changes were made primarily for the sake of change.

    "I told the team it wasn't because I think it's better or worse," Jauron said. "It's because it's different, and I think anything that's different right now maybe will take their minds off all the issues that have gotten to this point and give them a feeling that we just need to refocus. We've got a five-game schedule, and we'd like to focus on that."

  • Jauron's decision to make Garcia the No. 1 quarterback going into the final five games of the season leaves in doubt Harrington's future with the team.

    The Lions took Harrington with the No. 3 pick in the 2002 NFL draft, hoping he would develop into a franchise quarterback and take them to the playoffs and a Super Bowl.

    In his four years with the Lions, however, the one thing that has become obvious is that Harrington is a bad fit in the West Coast offense. Former coach Steve Mariucci was never sold on Harrington and insisted the Lions sign Garcia.

    With Mariucci gone and Garcia still the No. 1 quarterback, Harrington admitted he has concerns about his future in the Lions organization.

    "That's always been a thought of mine since the day they sat me down," Harrington said. "And I feel like I've had to fight to prove myself, that if they want me to stay here that I can stay.

    "Anytime you have a job taken away from you, you have to fight to earn it back. You have to fight to earn back the right to play again and the right to be here. That's what I feel I've been doing all season."

    Some observers feel Harrington has a chance to succeed in the NFL if he can escape the West Coast offense and get into a more conventional downfield passing game. It appears unlikely he will get that opportunity in the five remaining games with the Lions.

  • LB Earl Holmes, who missed the last two games with a sprained knee, practiced Wednesday and is expected to play Sunday in the Lions' game Sunday against Minnesota. Holmes was the Lions' leading run-stopping linebacker before suffering the injury Nov. 13 game against Arizona.

  • RB Kevin Jones, perhaps the biggest individual disappointment in the Lions' 2005 season of disappointments, has a quadriceps injury and his availability for the game Sunday is in doubt. Jones, who rushed for 1,133 yards last year as a rookie, has only 523 yards in 11 games this year but seldom got a chance to get into a rhythm, averaging barely 14 carries a game under former coach Steve Mariucci.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 3 - Coaches Lions president Matt Millen has fired in five-plus years since taking the job in January 2000. He fired Gary Moeller at the end of the 2002 season, Marty Mornhinweg two years later and Steve Mariucci this week.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's no continuity with the football team, from any position - quarterback, the wide receivers were injured, running backs getting injured and then coming back. So there's no continuity nowhere from the coaches to the players. I think the only thing we got going is the trainers; they've been pretty consistent." - Wide receiver Roy Williams on the woes that have led to the Lions' 4-7 record.


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