Matthew Stafford proves he can stay healthy, is on pace for Lions’ records


Vikings at Lions | 1 p.m. Sunday, Fox

Chris McCosky/ The Detroit News

Allen Park— Start with a subplot.

Who had Matthew Stafford getting to Game 13 without missing a start? Outside of the coaching staff and Stafford himself, probably not too many.

Stafford, who started just 13 games in his first two seasons combined, will make his 13th straight start against the Vikings on Sunday.

“I never had any concerns of myself,” Stafford said Wednesday when asked if he felt he’d beaten the “fragile” tag. “You guys can answer that question. I am just where I expected to be — healthy and ready to go this week.”

He’s fought through an ankle injury and a fractured index finger on his throwing hand. He’s also fought through a few erratic weeks. Through it all, he’s on a pace to record the most productive season any Lions quarterback has ever had.

“We’ve never doubted his toughness or his durability or anything like that in here,” center Dominic Raiola said. “That’s never been an issue with us. We have complete faith in his ability to lead this offense and get it where we want to go.”

Stafford has thrown for 3,527 yards this season. That’s 811 yards shy of Scott Mitchell’s 1995 team record of 4,338. He needs to average just 203 yards over the last four games to eclipse the record.

He is five touchdown passes shy of Mitchell’s single-season mark of 32. He’s also in range of breaking Jon Kitna’s single-season completion percentage mark of 63.3. Stafford has completed 63 percent through 12 games.

“I don’t think about that stuff,” Stafford said. “All that matters is winning games.”

Playing for something

Which brings us around to the main plot for Sunday — can the Lions shake off all the injuries, fines, suspensions and negativity they’ve dealt with the past couple of weeks and get back to winning games?

“I think the problem for our team, if there is one, is we don’t think we are 7-5,” defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said. “I think if we start thinking that way, we are going to play that way.”

At the start of the week, Cunningham wrote two large numbers on the board inside the defensive meeting room — a seven and a five.

“I said it was about time we start acting like that team,” Cunningham said. “You lose some and you win some in the NFL, but the final result is to get to the playoffs. People need to start focusing on that in our room.

“We’re not some pushover team. We will play anybody at any time. I am not going to make excuses about injuries, but let’s line up our 11 starters against theirs and see what happens. We will get that chance again down the road and I can’t wait.”

For this week, though, Cunningham’s defense will line up without as many as six key players. All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is serving the second of his two-game suspension. His replacement, rookie Nick Fairley, isn’t likely to play because of a foot injury.

Defensive end Lawrence Jackson (thigh) already has been ruled out.

In the secondary, starting cornerback Chris Houston and starting safety Louis Delmas are expected to miss their second straight games with knee injuries.

Outside linebacker Justin Durant (hamstring) didn’t practice Thursday or Friday and he’s questionable.

“Ain’t nothing to it,” veteran defensive tackle Corey Williams said. “We have guys who will step up if other guys can’t play. Gun’s right, man. We have to realize that we do have something to play for. We’re not just trying to finish off these final games. We’ve got a reason. It’s been 11 years since this team has been in the playoffs.

“We had a good week (of practice); crisp and sharp. We just need to get that winning taste back in our mouths.”

Discipline wanted

The Lions started 5-0. They have gone 2-5 since. Yet, they still control their wild-card destiny. If they can win three of the last four, they stand a good chance of getting in. The question is, can they reclaim that “winning taste” they had earlier in the season. Or are they beyond reclamation.

“I don’t know about reclamation,” said defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch. “We still have everything in front of us — all our goals that we set out for ourselves. Essentially, our playoffs start this week. We are neck and neck with a bunch of teams, so this is a must-win if we want to keep our playoff hopes alive.”

You have to wonder, though, if they are capable of staying out of their own way. The foolishness has gone on all season.

Going back to post-whistle fouls against Gosder Cherilus and Stephen Peterman in Week 1, to coach Jim Schwartz’s on-field woofing with Cowboys’ receiver Dez Bryant to his postgame verbal shot at Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, to his handshake dustup with 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, to a tunnel scuffle before the game against Atlanta, to the team’s open mocking of Denver quarterback Tim Tebow, to Suh’s stomp on Thanksgiving Day, to the three post-whistle fouls last Sunday in New Orleans — it’s been one thing after another.

Officials may or may not be watching with a more wary eye, but opponents will certainly be looking to push their buttons and trigger the temper.

“Officials officiate what they see,” Schwartz said. “But as far as other teams pushing the issue, that’s a reality in the NFL and that’s something the last two weeks we haven’t done a good job responding to.”

Schwartz has spoken privately to the team captains and the captains have carried his message to the players. Whether the message has sunk in, the jury is still out.

“I don’t know that it’s a reflection of the leadership or the coaching,” Vanden Bosch said. “I think the mistakes are on the individual. Guys need to understand that you can’t do things because you feel you’ve been wronged (on the field) and go after guys. You have to understand that has an effect on what we’re doing as a team.

“We are an aggressive team and we have a history of not backing down. We need to understand that’s what we are — a physical, aggressive team. But we need to handle that between the whistles.”

As Schwartz said repeatedly this week — it’s down to a four-game season and the margin for error, for selfishness, for any on-field indiscretion is nil.

“We understand we can’t continue to beat ourselves anymore,” Vanden Bosch said. “We’re a good team, we just need to be a little more disciplined. If we play the way we’re capable of playing, and play smart, everything should work out for us.”

Vikings at Lions

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit

TV/radio: Fox/97.1

Records: Minnesota 2-10, Detroit 7-5

Line: Lions by 91/2

Series: Minnesota leads 66-32-2 (Detroit 26-23, OT, Sept. 25, 2010)

Did you know? Of their four remaining games, the Lions play two teams with winning records (Raiders and Packers).

chris.mccosky@detnews.com

(313) 222-1489

Receiver Calvin Johnson committed to Lions


Chris McCosky / The Detroit News

Allen Park— Of course Calvin Johnson is frustrated.

He’s in his fourth season with the Lions, having a Pro Bowl-level year, and yet his team has won four games the last three seasons.

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How could Johnson notbe frustrated?But, as he said Friday, he’s not making any threats or ultimatums, and he’s certainly not throwing in the towel. He just wants to win.

“All I meant was, everybody’s frustrated,” Johnson said, explaining comments he made on a local radio show Thursday. “We’ve been losing. … I’ve been here four years and haven’t had a winning season. For the most part, it’s just a lot of frustration. Everybody in here wants to win.

“We’re working toward it. There’s been a lot of progress and we’re getting closer.”

Johnson can be a free agent in two years, and he was asked during the interview if he’d consider leaving if things didn’t improve.

“Put it this way, if we turn this into a winner, I’m happy,” Johnson said. “Losing definitely (is a bummer) and you definitely don’t want to be around losing.”

When told Friday it sounded like he was issuing a challenge to the Lions, Johnson said, “I don’t know what it sounded like. The bottom line is winning.”

Coach Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan were far from taken aback by Johnson’s comments. They supported them.

“What I get from it is he’s a winner and he’s frustrated with not winning,” Linehan said. “There’s not anybody around here that doesn’t agree with him. It’s lousy and we want to be able to step up and turn this thing around.”

Said Schwartz: “We need to worry about Sunday and the last four games of this season. We don’t need to be worrying about what’s going to happen two years from now. You know, we worry about a lot of things with this team; Calvin Johnson isn’t one of them. He’s having an outstanding year, he’s a productive player and he’s a huge part of what we’re doing, not only in the game plan but also in terms of what we want to do as an organization.

“The only quote I saw was, ‘I want to win.’ And that’s everybody here.”

Johnson isn’t griping about not getting the ball.

He understands the team is on its third quarterback.

He understands he draws double coverage every week.

And, he’s still producing.

He has 62 catches (12th in the league) for 873 yards (ninth) and 12 touchdowns (second).

“The thing I’m most frustrated with Calvin is, I don’t know why he’s not leading for the Pro Bowl,” Linehan said. “What he’s been able to do with us having to adjust to playing our second quarterback and then our third quarterback, and to still be near the top in just about every statistical category is amazing to me.”

Linehan was asked if Johnson has ever complained to him about his role.

“No, never,” Linehan said. “He never complains. All Calvin does is work hard and give 100 percent every day. Calvin is a model for what you’re trying to get from a teammate and a player you want to coach.”

On two different occasions, Johnson said he had no issues with the progress the team was making or the direction it was headed in.

“There’s been a lot of progress,” he said. “There is a whole new squad in here. We’ve been close in so many games. I don’t see guys giving up. Everybody’s still fighting. That’s a positive. There are a lot of good things going on here we just haven’t turned into wins yet.”

Linehan probably summed the whole thing up best.

“You can get into discussions about what you are frustrated about, but the bottom line is, start winning some games and we won’t be talking about some of the things we’re talking about now,” he said.

Extra points

The Lions placed receiver Derrick Williams on season-ending injured reserve Friday.

Williams (high right ankle sprain) recently moved past Bryant Johnson as the team’s No. 3 receiver.

The Lions signed veteran receiver Brian Clark to replace Williams on the roster.

… Starting right tackle Gosder Cherilus (knee) missed his second straight practice Friday and is doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Packers.

Corey Hilliard will replace Cherilus.

Packers at Lions

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit

TV/radio: Fox/WXYT

Records: Packers 8-4, Lions 2-10

Series: Packers lead 89-64-7 (Packers 28-26 on Oct. 3)

Line: Packers by 61/2

chris.mccosky@detnews.com

(313) 222-1489

Redskins suspend Albert Haynesworth for remainder of season


Associated Press

Defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth was suspended without pay by the Washington Redskins on Tuesday for the last four games of the regular season, capping a saga that began last offseason.

The move, which the Redskins announced was made because of “conduct detrimental to the club,” comes after a long, difficult back-and-forth between Haynesworth, a two-time All-Pro with a $100 million contract, and first-year Washington head coach Mike Shanahan, who won two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos.

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Haynesworth skipped offseason workouts, boycotted a mandatory minicamp, needed 10 days to pass a conditioning test at training camp, did all he could to resist a change in the defensive scheme and then eventually became a part-time player.

His main gripe has been that he shouldn’t be playing nose tackle in a 3-4 defense.

The Redskins said general manager Bruce Allen told Haynesworth about the suspension Tuesday. Haynesworth was inactive for Washington’s 31-7 loss at the New York Giants on Sunday, which dropped the Redskins to 5-7.

In the team’s statement Tuesday, Shanahan is quoted as saying that Haynesworth “repeatedly refused to cooperate with our coaching staff in a variety of ways over an extended period of time.”

Shanahan also said Haynesworth “consistently indicated” to defensive coaches that he wouldn’t play in certain defensive packages and refused to follow coaches’ instructions in practice and during games.