Lions Knock on Woody for OL Change

The Lions' depth on the offensive line will be severely tested Sunday as they move an interior lineman out to play tackle. The noise in the Metrodome could be a factor in the success of that move.

The last time Damien Woody played right tackle, he was at Patrick Henry High in Ashland, Va. But he's going to start there for the Lions on Sunday at Minnesota.

Woody has played center and guard in the NFL. He says it won't be a big deal to be a little farther from the quarterback, even though he will be playing at the Metrodome, one of the loudest stadiums in the league.

"To me, the biggest obstacle is the noise," Woody said. "But even when I was at guard, I couldn't hear in Minnesota. So I'll be at tackle and I can't hear."

The Lions have had problems at right tackle all season, and they came to a head recently.

In two games early this season, the Lions benched George Foster. They replaced him in the starting lineup with Jonathan Scott on Nov. 4 against Denver. But Scott suffered a broken thumb in that game and had surgery. Foster went back in and continued to struggle.

The Lions benched Foster again Nov. 18 against the New York Giants. But Scott was still out, so they replaced Foster with Blaine Saipaia, who is a versatile backup but is listed as a guard. Saipaia struggled against Michael Strahan, the NFL's active sacks leader.

Scott came back on Thanksgiving Day against Green Bay. He started but suffered a hamstring injury. The Lions left Foster out of uniform, so for the second time in five days, Saipaia was pressed into service against one of the NFL's top pass rushers. This time he was dominated by Aaron Kampman.

"With everything that started happening, in my mind, I'm like, ‘I can go out there and try it,'" Woody said. "‘Everybody else has been out there. Why can't I give it a try?' It just came to where Coach was like, ‘Hey, Damien, if something happens, prepare to go in there.'"

The Lions didn't put Woody at right tackle against the Packers. Coach Rod Marinelli said he would have wanted Woody to have a full week of practice. But now Scott is on injured reserve.

"It just came to a point where this week they're like, ‘Well, we're starting you at right tackle,'" Woody said. "I just look at it as a challenge. Go out there, compete and see what happens."

Woody lost the starting right guard job to Stephen Peterman after he suffered a rib injury earlier this season. He failed to win back the job, despite rotating in at times.

But he lost a lot of weight in the offseason and is considered an athletic lineman. He said he didn't need to relearn plays, he just had to adjust to being on an island more often and playing against smaller, quicker opponents.

Asked if he could have made this switch last year, Woody said: "No. I've got good feet, but I had some extra baggage. I feel great. Plus, I've got fresh legs. Other guys are dragging a little bit. I'm a little more fresh. It's a good situation. I'm excited."

NOTES

  • QB Jon Kitna did not practice Monday because of a sore knee, stemming from a hit he took on Thanksgiving Day against Green Bay. But asked if Kitna would be ready to practice Wednesday, coach Rod Marinelli said he thought he would be fine.

  • RB Kevin Jones had 20 carries for 93 yards against Green Bay, his second-best numbers of the season, despite playing his second game in five days on his sore left foot. He appeared to have no problems in practice Monday.

  • TE Sean McHugh is averaging 17.3 yards per catch, but he has caught only one pass in the past three games.

  • WR Roy Williams, who led the NFC in receiving yards last season with 1,310, is on pace for 1,092 yards this year. He has had only three games with more than 100 yards. He has had seven with 53 or less.

  • WR Calvin Johnson caught seven passes against Green Bay, three more than in any other game this season, but struggled in the first half when he had opportunities to catch even more.

  • DT Cory Redding has no sacks this season, after posting eight sacks in the Lions' last 11 games last season and being designated their franchise player.

  • DE Kalimba Edwards is healthy, but he didn't start against Green Bay. Dewayne White switched to right end, and Jared DeVries started at left end.

  • DT Shaun Cody was inactive while healthy for the first time in his career against Green Bay. He has struggled, while Langston Moore has gotten the job done.

  • OL Barry Stokes signed with the Lions after starting 11 games for them last season and getting cut Sept. 1.

  • WR Devale Ellis, on the physically-unable-to-perform list with a knee injury, is expected to be placed on injured reserve.


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