Chris Houston, Kevin Smith, Nick Fairley back in action for Lions

Allen Park — Slowly but surely, the wounded are walking back on to the playing field for the Lions.

Back at practice Wednesday were cornerback Chris Houston, who missed two games with a knee injury; running back Kevin Smith, who has been battling an ankle sprain; and defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who missed last Sunday with a foot injury.

Houston and Fairley went through the individual drills, but it is unknown whether they were full participants the rest of the way. Smith, who appeared to be moving well, worked on the side with a trainer during position drills.

Still not on the practice field were safety Louis Delmas, out the last two weeks with a knee injury; defensive end Lawrence Jackson, out the last four weeks with a thigh injury; outside linebacker Justin Durant, who has a hamstring injury; cornerback Eric Wright, who injured a hamstring Sunday; and cornerback Aaron Berry, who injured his shoulder last Sunday.

Lions coach Jim Schwartz reiterated Monday that none of those players were facing season-ending injuries.

“They’re all going to get back, it’s just a question of when,” he said. “It’s still too early to tell for this week.”

Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch took his normal Wednesday rest day.

Lions coach Jim Schwartz: Ndamukong Suh crash no issue

Eric Lacy/ The Detroit News

Lions coach Jim Schwartz says he isn’t worried about the car crash defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was involved in last weekend in Portland, Ore.

Schwartz told a Detroit radio station Tuesday he believes Suh is under “too much of a microscope” because of the incident.

“We just worry about him on the field,” Schwartz told 97.1 during his weekly radio appearance. “Ndamukong is a hard-working guy; he hasn’t had any kind of issues with the law, including this one. Let’s worry about him on the field and those things, get him back playing well.”

Schwartz told the station he heard Suh wasn’t injured in the crash, but said he hasn’t been allowed to contact Suh because of the player’s two-game suspension. Suh stomped on the right arm of Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith on Thanksgiving Day, was ejected, and then suspended by the NFL.

“He can’t be in our building, that’s why he’s in his hometown of Portland,” Schwartz said. “He can’t go to meetings. We can’t have contact with him. We did get word that he was uninjured, and that’s about all we really know.”

Suh served the first game of his suspension last weekend and is off the active roster for Sunday’s home game against Minnesota. He’s expected to return for the Dec. 18 game at Oakland.

Suh’s image took a hit after his ejection, and remains under scrutiny because of the crash. Schwartz, however, claims the criticism of Suh’s character isn’t more of a problem than that of any other player.

“I’m concerned about every player we have,” Schwartz said. “I think that was not something he wants on his resume, particularly after what happened on Thanksgiving. And in fairness to him, that’s really the first thing he had after the whistle, something that wasn’t part of the play.”

Russell Spielman, Suh’s marketing agent, wouldn’t speculate about his client possibly losing endorsement deals with Chrysler, Subway and Nike, or if Suh plans on speaking publicly about his off-field problems before his suspension ends Dec. 12.

“When we’re ready to speak, we’ll speak,” Spielman said

More than a fender bender

Schwartz described Suh’s accident as a “fender bender,” but a police report obtained by The Detroit News paints a slightly different picture.

The report includes interviews from two female passengers among the three passengers in Suh’s vehicle.

The women claim Suh was driving his 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle at an uncontrollable speed around 1:14 a.m. on Dec. 3 in downtown Portland before the car spun and crashed into a light pole, water fountain and tree near Dante’s night club.

Police amended the original report after the passengers reported their injuries, but no citations will be issued and no one will be charged, police said.

Suh told police he tried to drive around a parked taxi on the dry, paved street before he lost control of his vehicle.

The two women, according to the report, claim otherwise.

“There was never a taxi,” a passenger told police. “He was just going too fast and he could have killed someone at Dante’s.”

Attempts by The News to reach employees at Dante’s were unsuccessful.

Police also didn’t administer a sobriety test on Suh because they said he showed no signs of impairment. Police also said Suh was “very cooperative” after the crash and provided a valid driver’s license and proof of insurance.

Attempts by The News to reach Suh were unsuccessful.

The report also said two female passengers were hurt in the crash and required hospitalization. The second injured person was quoted as saying, “He was driving unsafe. It was just clear to me that we were going too fast.”

It also mentions one injured passenger had a “laceration to her forehead that required five stitches, a black eye, a ‘busted’ lip and a torn shoulder muscle.”

Suh, according to police, called 9-1-1 to report the crash. A Portland TV station, KGW, obtained a recording of that call.

When asked, “Are you sure you don’t need an ambulance?” the station reported Suh replied, “Yes, everyone is fine.”

Yet, in the police report, a passenger said she told Suh repeatedly she was hurt and needed a doctor. She said he refused and told her she was fine.

She had her husband pick her up and take her to Oregon Health and Science University for treatment.

Messages left on the cell phone of Blaine Smith, a witness mentioned in the police report, weren’t returned.

A witness named Allan, who also called 9-1-1 to report the crash, spoke Monday to KGW.

He said the driver “floored it” when a stoplight turned green at 3rd and Burnside streets. He said it looked like the driver was trying to “show off.”

Allan also told KGW there were no cars in front of Suh’s vehicle and he did not see a taxi.

Two of the passengers told police they wanted their names to remain confidential because they feared for their safety because Suh has “lots of friends and family” in the Portland area.

Past accidents

The accident last weekend wasn’t the first such incident Suh has been involved in.

Last year, Suh was in an accident in Royal Oak (11 Mile and Campbell) with a 30-year-old Shelby Township woman.

Police said the woman was at fault because she disobeyed a traffic signal as she attempted to turn southbound on Campbell.

The woman’s Honda Civic struck Suh’s Land Rover as he headed east on 11 Mile.

Suh wasn’t injured, and alcohol wasn’t involved, but police said the woman suffered minor injuries.

According to the Associated Press report, Suh was in an accident at Nebraska.

Suh pled guilty to negligent driving and paid a $60 fine after crashing into three parked cars.

Suh, reportedly driving his mother’s SUV, said he swerved to avoid a cat. He also paid $48 in court costs.

Lions coach Jim Schwartz denies magnitude of Bears game was too much

Chris McCosky/ The Detroit News

Allen Park— Don’t try telling the Lions they’ve lost some of their swagger. Don’t try telling them they’re in a slump, even though they’ve lost three of four.

And don’t try telling them that maybe they weren’t ready to handle the responsibility of being legitimate playoff contenders.

They aren’t buying any of that.

“There is no hitch in our giddy-up,” receiver Nate Burleson said Monday. “We’re ready to get back to work. We are fired up for a big game at home Sunday against Carolina. Our focus isn’t on what’s wrong with us, it’s ‘let’s get back to doing what we do best — winning football games.'”

That apparently was the tone in position meetings Monday following a 37-13 loss in Chicago.

“I have concern because we lost the last game,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “Have we lost confidence? Absolutely not. We still have seven games to play. The important thing is to identify the reasons (for the loss), take the steps to correct those and move on past it.”

The uncharacteristic six turnovers and the poor response to them were viewed as a correctible anomaly.

“It was a little bit off personality for us,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz and the players will fight you if you suggest they were knocked off their personality by the size of the stage and magnitude of the game.

“Nah,” Schwartz said. “Everybody was thinking it was the Chicago Bears, not thinking about the wild card or controlling our destiny or anything like that. It was just the first game of the second half of the season.”

Still, the Bears have played in playoff games and the NFC Championship game. The Lions are playing meaningful games in the second half for the first time in four years, and had a chance to put the rival Bears in their rearview mirror.

Maybe the moment was too big for them.

“Not at all,” Burleson said. “You talk about being fired up. Guys were ready to rock. That locker room was electric. Guys were ready to play ball. It had nothing to do with the type of game it was. It’s more just the situation we put ourselves in with the turnovers.

“You can’t attribute anything to nervousness or guys having high anxiety. It was just one of those games.”

Rashied Davis, who played for Chicago, put it this way.

“You can’t recover from six turnovers against a team like Chicago,” the Lions receiver said. “They are like a pack of ravenous wolves. But we have to shake it off. We lost, but in the grand scheme of things, we are 6-3 and they are 6-3.”

Going forward, Schwartz said there were no additional concerns about the health of quarterback Matthew Stafford. Schwartz didn’t back off his postgame comments — it was the wind that bothered Stafford, not the fractured index finger on his throwing hand.

“He obviously had a glove on,” Schwartz said. “He had a splint on the very tip of his finger so the glove was just so he had a good grip of the ball. He threw the ball well Thursday and Friday. The issue was the wind, and it affected both quarterbacks.

Both completed about 50 percent of their passes and both are 60 percent throwers.

“The difference was, because of the turnovers and the special teams scores, one team had to throw the ball a lot and the other didn’t.”

Stafford wound up throwing 63 passes, Jay Cutler 19.

“Does it feel different (throwing with a fractured index finger)? Yeah. But it didn’t affect his actual throwing,” Schwartz said.

Players don’t look at the record and see 1-3 in November. They see 6-3. Players don’t add up won-loss records to see their three losses — to the 49ers, Falcons and Bears — are to the three toughest opponents they’ve played.

Players also rarely, if ever, admit to losing confidence.

“We think we could have beaten every team we lost to,” Burleson said. “I feel we are better than Atlanta, San Francisco and Chicago. Obviously, after losing to them I can’t say that. They’ve got the upper hand.

“But this is the same team nobody was quite sure about at the beginning of the year. A lot of people were saying we might win five games. We’ve won six and we are well above water. We are a good team and there’s not a guy or a team on our schedule that we are scared of. We are the same confident team we were at the beginning of the year.”

There is a thin line in sports between being confident and delusional. The Lions have seven weeks to prove they are not the latter.

Panthers at Lions

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

TV/radio: Fox/97.1

Records: Carolina 2-7, Detroit 6-3

Line: Lions by 7

Series: Carolina leads 4-1 (Carolina 10-0, Nov. 16, 2008)

Did you know? Detroit has a winning percentage of .200 against Carolina, worst against all teams the Lions have played.

(313) 222-1489


Lions visit Harrison in hospital; team signs backup

Chris McCosky/ The Detroit News

Allen Park— Lions coach Jim Schwartz visited with Jerome Harrison Friday morning, hours before the running back was scheduled to undergo surgery to remove a tumor from his brain.

“He was in very good spirits,” Schwartz said.

Cornerback Eric Wright, who played with Harrison in Cleveland before the two rejoined in Detroit, saw him at the hospital Thursday night and said the same thing.

“This dude got me rolling right now,” Wright wrote on his Twitter page. “Smh he gone be juusst fine.”

The Lions officially put Harrison on the non-football injured list Friday and signed former Eagles running back Eldra Buckley, who had worked out for the Lions on Thursday.

“Hopefully I can do something to help this team,” said Buckley, who is 26. “I am going to try to do everything they ask. I will try to be any kind of back they need.”

After spending two seasons on the Chargers’ practice squad, Buckley carried the ball 36 times for 111 yards in two seasons in Philadelphia.

“He’s a hard runner and he was productive on special teams in Philly,” Schwartz said. “He’s strong and quick; a young player who has some NFL experience.”

Maurice Morris will start. He and Keiland Williams will shoulder most of the load Sunday, but Schwartz said

Buckley would be active.

“We won’t run out of ballcarriers,” he said.

Jim Schwartz, Jim Harbaugh avoid punishment for postgame fracas

Chris McCosky/ The Detroit News

Allen Park— Lions coach Jim Schwartz didn’t exactly offer any apologies for the postgame dustup between him and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.

“It is unfortunate that the events after the game overshadowed the fact that it was probably one of the best football games of the day yesterday between two teams that are 5-1 in the NFC; two young and improving teams,” Schwartz said. “The game is played by players on the field. We don’t want things like that to occur but there are competitive people in this league. We need to do a better job of leaving it to the players on the field.”

Asked directly if he wanted to offer a public apology, Schwartz said only, “It’s a regrettable situation, particularly the fact that it detracted from what happened in the game.”

Harbaugh didn’t apologize, either.

“I don’t think there’s any reason for an apology,” he said Monday at his news conference. “We spoke about it after the game. At some point we’ll talk in private. Apologies always seem like excuses to me.”

Schwartz spoke to league officials Monday and gave his version of the story. Harbaugh did the same. Neither will be fined.

“Fortunately, there was no fighting and thus no basis for a fine,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said via his Twitter account. “Both coaches told Ray Anderson (executive vice president of football operations) that their postgame conduct was wrong and it will not happen again.”

Schwartz said whatever ill wind was blowing between the two has subsided.

“I have shaken hands after games 40 or 50 times that last two and a half years and never had anything come up,” he said. “Obviously, something did. It happened. It was regrettable, but there is nothing going forward between us personally or between the two teams.”

Schwartz said he didn’t think there was any bad blood between the two before the game, either. They were together for a year in Baltimore when Harbaugh was still a player.

“I was a lowly quality control coach on defense and he was the quarterback,” Schwartz said. “I haven’t exactly stayed in contact with him. There’s nothing there and there’s nothing now. It was just something that happened at the end of a game and it took away from the fact that it was a tough, hard-fought football game.”

Harbaugh delivered the same message.

“The thing that you feel bad about is that it detracts, takes away, from what our football players did, what their football players did, and the game itself,” said Harbaugh, the former Michigan quarterback. “When you see what is being talked about today, it’s about that last night. That was unfortunate. Like I said after the ballgame, I take responsibility for my part in that.”

Both are young, passionate and emotional coaches. Both can come off as arrogant, cocky, hot-headed. Both have a penchant for rubbing opposing players and coaches the wrong way. It was probably inevitable that they would clash.

Harbaugh, when he was at Stanford, had words with then-USC coach Pete Carroll after he went for a two-point conversion with a 34-point lead.

He once threw a punch at former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, who, as a network analyst, challenged Harbaugh’s skills as the team’s leader.

Schwartz has gotten under coaches’ and players’ skin with his demonstrative fist-pumps after games and with some of his biting postgame remarks.

Case in point — his shots at Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and receiver Dez Bryant after the Lions won Oct. 2 in Dallas.

On Sunday, Schwartz was shown mocking Harbaugh for an illegal challenge after the Lions scored.

The seeds for Harbaugh’s exuberant postgame handshake and backslap may have been sown back in March during the NFL meetings.

According to a story posted March 23 on, Schwartz told Harbaugh he would struggle mightily as a rookie coach if the lockout wiped out all offseason work — which it did.

John Harbaugh, Jim’s brother and the Ravens coach, recalled the conversation.

“We were having dinner the other night and Jim Schwartz told him basically there’s no way you’re going to be able to get it done (if the lockout lasts into the summer),” John Harbaugh said. “He told him there’s no way you’re going to be able to accomplish what you need to accomplish in two weeks if this thing lasts a while.

“Jim just kind of bit his tongue, which is what you’ve got to do in this situation. There’s nothing you can do about it.”

Except bring your team to Ford Field and spank Schwartz’s Lions.

“Protocol is not for you to retaliate, if you are Jim Schwartz, by chasing the other coach down into the tunnel and going after him,” said former coach Tony Dungy, speaking to NBC’s Bob Costas on Sunday night. “I don’t know what Jim Harbaugh said, but whatever he said, it didn’t merit that.”

Rodney Harrison, a former player, put it this way.

“Both coaches were wrong. Jim Harbaugh, first of all, smacked him on the back,” Harrison said. “Putting your hands on a grown man, you can’t do that. If you’re Jim Schwartz, what do you tell your kids?”

To which Dungy replied — “Be the bigger man … If you are Jim Schwartz, you know what, let me go in the locker room and tell our guys, ‘I hope we see these guys again.'”

The Lions players, after having a night to digest it and watch replays, still have their coach’s back.

“I saw it one time last night and I don’ think it’s that big of a deal,” receiver Nate Burleson said. “It’s one of those things that happens and we moved past it pretty fast. I don’t think anything serious is going to come from it.

“He’s passionate about the game. I will say that, and I like that about him. We’re an emotional team. We go as our head coach goes. I think how we’ve been playing is a direct reflection of Jim and that’s been pretty good for us so far.”

Schwartz said he did talk to Harbaugh briefly after the scuffle.

“Afterwards, in the tunnel, I spoke to him after everything died down,” Schwartz said. “We will talk again soon.

“Everybody is a competitor. Usually when a game is over you shake hands and move on to the next game. That’s what we are here to do.”

Falcons at Lions

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

TV/radio: Fox/97.1

Records: Atlanta 3-3, Detroit 5-1

Line: Lions by 4

Series: Detroit leads 23-10 (Atlanta 34-21, Sept. 7, 2008)

Did you know?: The Falcons are one of four teams in the NFC the Lions have a winning record against.

Ex-Wolverine Jake Long, Joe Thomas tops among NFL offensive tackles

The NFL’s best: A Detroit News series

Tim Twentyman/ The Detroit News

Fifth of a 13-part series ranking the best NFL players at each position.

Being an offensive tackle is a thankless job in the NFL.

There is little mention of stats and you never hear them discussed in any fantasy draft conversation.

Yet, offensive tackles are one of the most important pieces to a good offense.

They protect the quarterback, spearhead the running game and make the offense go.

In today’s NFL, there are two tackles who stand above the rest: Jake Long (Dolphins) and Joe Thomas (Browns).

And their similarities are astonishing:

Both learned the position in the rough-and-tumble trenches of the Big Ten: Long at Michigan and Thomas at Wisconsin.

Both were high draft picks: Long No. 1 in 2008 and Thomas No. 3 in 2007.

Both are perennial Pro Bowlers.

Both are big, strong, athletic, versatile and nasty.

There are 10-12 legitimate Pro Bowl-caliber tackles in the game today, and it’s no coincidence the league is currently enjoying some of its best offensive numbers.

A record 11,283 points were scored in 2010 with games averaging 44.07 points, the highest average in 45 seasons.

The league set a record with 1,270 touchdowns.

Twenty-two quarterbacks threw for at least 3,000 yards.

Those numbers aren’t possible without a lot of talented players up front.

The Lions, too, benefited from good play from both of their tackles in 2010.

Jeff Backus cemented his status as one of the top 12 tackles in the game. Lions coach Jim Schwartz called his play “Pro Bowl worthy,” although Backus didn’t get the nod.

Backus has started every game (160) since he was drafted in 2001.

From the left side, he holds the mark for the most consecutive starts among active interior (offense and defense) linemen.

On the right side, third-year tackle Gosder Cherilus worked to improve his technique after the 2009 season, and showed improvement last year. His play cemented his status as the team’s starting right tackle, assuming offseason microfracture surgery doesn’t derail those plans.

Top 10 offensive tackles

 1. Jake Long, Miami: There are no weaknesses in his game. He’s 6 foot, 7 inches and 317 pounds with long arms and quick feet. That’s pretty much the definition of a Pro Bowl tackle. He was the third tackle drafted No. 1 overall and has started every game at left tackle since.

  2. Joe Thomas, Cleveland: Thomas is an inch shorter than Long, but just as much the athlete — he played tight end, kicker and punter in high school. He’s a four-time Pro Bowler, three-time all-pro and played every offensive snap as a rookie. He’s started every game (64) the past four seasons.

 3. Ryan Clady, Broncos: Clady was in the same draft class as Long (No. 12), and has blossomed into a terrific player. He finished third behind Matt Ryan and Chris Johnson for offensive rookie of the year honors, and set the NFL record for consecutive games to start a career without allowing a sack (20).

 4. Jordan Gross, Panthers: He was one of the few bright spots on a one-win team in 2010. He began his career in 2003 as a right tackle and switched to the left side in 2004. Gross recovered nicely from a broken ankle in 2009 to earn another Pro Bowl nod in 2010.

 5. D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Jets: Ferguson, a black belt in karate, is one of the best athletes at the position. He’s terrific one-on-one in pass protection and is a beast in the running game. He’s been a Pro Bowler the last two seasons.

 6. Michael Roos, Titans: Roos has been a stalwart for the Titans, starting every game of his career dating to 2005. Roos is as tough as they come and one of the reasons the Titans have one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL.

 7. Matt Light, Patriots: The Patriots allowed the fourth-fewest sacks (25) and the third-fewest quarterback hits (52) in 2010. Like a good wine, Light has gotten better with age. He earned his third Pro Bowl appearance in 2010 after starting all 16 games.

 8. Jared Gaither, Ravens: No one on this list has persevered more than Gaither. Bad grades at Maryland forced him into the supplemental draft in 2007. He then had to take over for eventual Hall-of-Famer Jonathon Ogden. At 6-9 and 340, Gaither is the biggest tackle in the league.

 9. Marcus McNeill, Chargers: A contract dispute forced him to miss the first five games of last season. But when healthy and motivated, McNeill is one of the best. He helped the Chargers become the No. 1 offense last year.

 10. Donald Penn, Buccaneers: He went from undrafted rookie free agent out of Utah State in 2006 to the starting left tackle on one of the league’s rising young offenses. Penn earned his first Pro Bowl selection in 2010.


June 22 Quarterbacks

June 23 Running backs

June 24 Receivers

June 25 Tight ends

Today Offensive tackles

Tuesday Guards

Wednesday Centers

Thursday Safeties

Friday Cornerbacks

Saturday Outside linebackers

Monday, July 4 Inside linebackers

Tuesday, July 5 Defensive ends

Wednesday, July 6 Def. tackles

Calvin Johnson is NFL’s prime catch

The NFL’s best: A Detroit News series

Tim Twentyman/ The Detroit News

Third of 13-part series ranking the best NFL players at each position.

When Lions coach Jim Schwartz was the defensive coordinator with the Titans in 2008, he had a short week to prepare for a Thanksgiving Day matchup with the Lions.

The Lions hadn’t won a game all season but that didn’t stop Schwartz from staying up late worrying about a solid defensive game plan. He told reporters shortly after taking the Lions head coaching position that it was Lions receiver Calvin Johnson that he was so worried about.

At 6-foot-5, 236 pounds, and boasting 4.3 speed, Johnson is one of the toughest matchups for defensive backs in all of football. As Schwartz can attest, he gives defensive coordinators headaches trying to figure a way to slow him down.

“He’s a young player, but he also has some experience now,” Schwartz said. “He’s learned how to persevere through a lot of things in the NFL, he’s learned how to persevere through double teams; he’s learned how to be successful even when he’s being double teamed. He’s taken a really big jump this year as an inside receiver. Inside breaking routes from the slot, I mean those are run after the catch, those things have been really big for him this year. It’s been difficult for him, but his production wouldn’t reflect how difficult it’s been on him.”

Before the Lions added a few weapons to pair with Johnson, it wasn’t uncommon for him to be double and even triple teamed.

Johnson broke through in 2010, earning his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro nods after compiling 1,120 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The fact that Johnson was productive without franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford for 12 games is even more impressive. Johnson played with three different quarterbacks 2010, having to adjust week-to-week with three very different throwing styles.

“I don’t know how many wide receivers are making the Pro Bowl with three different quarterbacks,” Schwartz said.

The scary thing about Johnson is that he feels he hasn’t even reached his potential yet.

“I’m close, but I haven’t gotten there exactly where I want to be,” he said late last season.

Johnson is one of a number of truly gifted receivers in the NFL today.

Right now, there’s probably the biggest collection of Hall-of-Fame caliber receivers playing in the NFL than there’s even been.

Top 10 receivers

1. Calvin Johnson, Lions: He’s the hardest receiver to match up against since Randy Moss was in his prime. Simply put, he’s a freak. There’s a reason they call him “Megatron.” Take a poll of defensive backs around the league and ask them who the hardest receiver in the NFL to cover is and Johnson’s name will likely come up more than anyone else.

2. Andre Johnson, Texans: If anything, he’s consistent. Johnson has averaged nearly 100 yards per game over his last 54 games. He managed 1,216 yards and eight touchdowns in 13 games in 2010 and that was with the league’s leading rusher (Adrian Foster) as a teammate.

3. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals: No one probably did more with less than Fitzgerald. The quarterback play was abysmal for the Cardinals all season, yet he managed 90 catches for 1,137 yards and six touchdowns. It’s his fourth-straight season with at least 1,000 receiving yards and over that stretch he missed just one game.

4. Roddy White, Falcons: White led the league with 115 receptions, a single-season Falcons record, marking the fourth-straight season he’s recorded at least 1,100 receiving yards. White led the NFL with 73 of his catches resulting in a first down.

5. Reggie Wayne, Colts: With an AFC-best 111 receptions, Wayne became the seventh player in NFL history with three or more 100-catch seasons.Last season was his seventh-straight 1,000 yard season. Even more impressive is the fact that he hasn’t missed a game since 2002, a streak of 129-straight regular season starts.

6. Greg Jennings, Packers: Jennings was clutch for the Packers all season, especially when tight end Jermichael Finley was lost to a knee injury. Jennings had 1,265 yards and 12 touchdowns and posted 100-yard-plus games in playoff wins against the Falcons and Bears on way to Super Bowl title.

7. Mike Wallace, Steelers: The fastest receiver in the NFL stormed onto the scene in 2010 with 1,257 yards and 10 touchdowns. There was some debate as to whether he could flourish as a team’s No. 1 option, but those questions have been put to bed for good. Wallace averaged 21.0 yards per catch, and by the end of the season, he demanded safety help over the top.

8. DeSean Jackson, Eagles: Jackson is lightning in a bottle, whether it’s running the go route for quarterback Michael Vick or returning punts. One of the fastest players in the game, Jackson averaged 22.5 yards per-catch last season, the most of any receiver with more than 10 catches.

9. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs: Bowe paced the NFL with 15 touchdown catches in 2010, the most in a season in Chiefs history. There have been questions about his work ethic, but there’s no question that when he’s healthy, and motivated, he’s a fantasy football player’s dream.

10. Hakeem Nicks, Giants: Nicks missed three games in 2010 but still had 79 catches for 1,052 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first season as the team’s No. 1 option. In only his second season in the league, Nicks has become the go-to guy for Giants quarterback Eli Manning.


Wednesday: Quarterbacks

Thursday : Running backs

Friday : Receivers

Saturday : Tight ends

Monday : Offensive tackles

Tuesday : Guards

Wednesday, June 29: Centers

Thursday, June 30 : Safeties

Friday, July 1 : Cornerbacks

Saturday, July 2 : Outside linebackers

Monday, July 4 : Inside linebackers

Tuesday, July 5 : Defensive ends

Wednesday, July 6 : Defensive tackles

John Niyo: Lions might strike lightning with Titus Young

John Niyo

Allen Park — Moments after the Lions drafted Boise State receiver Titus Young in the second round of the NFL draft Friday night, general manager Martin Mayhew called him “a stick of dynamite.”

Not long after, somebody decided to light the fuse on a guy who’s about to become a fan favorite in Detroit, whether Lions fans realize it or not.

He’s been called a poor man’s DeSean Jackson by at least one prominent draft analyst, as the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock compared him to Philadelphia’s dynamic Pro Bowl playmaker leading up to the draft. And not to be outdone, Lions coach Jim Schwartz even referred to him as “DeSean” by accident after responding to a question about that comparison Friday night.

But while that’s a heck of a compliment — and the Lions have been practically penniless when it comes to a No. 3 receiver the last couple of years — Young passionately and playfully took issue with it.


“I’ve never been another man’s nothing,” he said, laughing. “I’ve always known that I’ve been Titus Young from Day One. My mother named me Titus Demetrius Young. She didn’t name me nothing else. I know who I am and I know people compare you to people. But God made me to be me. He made me to be Titus Demetrius Young. You can compare me all you want to, but I’m no man’s poor man.”

And right there, man, I can tell you this: We in the local media were starting to realize we probably struck it rich with this pick.

Whether or not the Lions did, none of us can say for sure, obviously.

I actually liked the pick — more so than the trade up to snag Mikel Leshoure, though I didn’t have a huge problem with that, either — because it adds talent and addresses a glaring need. (And in case you didn’t notice, Bryant Johnson and Derrick Williams combined for a whopping 21 catches last season.)

Sure, there’s more glaring needs at linebacker and cornerback. But the best of the corners were off the market before the Lions picked Friday night. And if you hadn’t noticed by now, this draft class of linebackers is more than mildly underwhelming. (A linebacker from Michigan (!), Jonas Mouton, was a second-round pick.)

Just call him T.D.

Young, meanwhile, is anything but underwhelming. The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder plays a little like Jackson, maybe, and in addition to his return ability, he could thrive in that role Schwartz envisions for him helping Nate Burleson help Calvin Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew, and vice versa. (Where will he play? “Where Calvin’s not,” Schwartz joked.) But he also smiles and laughs eerily like Desmond Howard — Young laughs a lot, too — and he talks a bit like Chad Ochocinco, which isn’t all bad.

But sorry for the interruption, Titus. Please continue that thought.

“Actually, my initials my whole life have been T.D. Young,” said Young, the youngest of five children — and the only boy — growing up in Los Angeles, where his parents, Richard and Teresa Young, are pastors. “So it’s been Titus Demetrius Young — Touchdown Young. So I just feel like football has been me ever since I was born. And now I can go play some more football in Dee-troit.”

He cackled as he put the emphasis on that last part, and he did so often Friday, enjoying this moment for all it’s worth. He even let out a little banshee cry at one point, as he talked about leaving behind the dominant program they’ve built on the Smurf Turf in Boise and joining the Lions, who haven’t made the playoffs since 1999.

“The green turf is gonna be a little bit of an adjustment for me,” Young said, “but I know the blue uniforms will keep me at home.”

And fittingly, at least the way Young sees it, Hall of Famer Barry Sanders was the one on the stage Friday in New York announcing his selection for the Lions.

“I know Barry Sanders,” said Young, who had his off-field struggles early at Boise State but rebounded well playing for a no-nonsense coaching staff. “I know a lot about him. He went to Detroit and he wanted to win. His whole thing was about winning. And unfortunately he wasn’t able to win as much as I believe that when I come in we’re going to be able to win.”

All of which brings him back to where he started in a 10-minute conversation that had everyone in stitches, even after he got choked with emotion and broke down in tears a couple of times.

Family ties

It turns out Young has family ties to Detroit, where his maternal grandfather lived. He hasn’t visited since his grandfather passed away in 1998, but he says he’s coming home.

“My roots are actually in Detroit,” Young said, when asked to explain the tears. “It’s just the emotion of I’m actually gonna be back in a family town. That’s my home now. I’m gonna take care of Detroit, and I know they’ll take care of me. And all this emotion is really just all the hard work and all this waiting and all this patience and having faith in the Lord and …”

And then he broke down again, just before he managed to crack another joke about his father being from Texas. (“So he’s probably a little upset I ain’t in Dallas,” Young laughed.)

“But the whole thing is just about winning,” he added. “I feel like we’re all gonna be winners in Detroit. Not just me — the community, the kids in Detroit, they’re gonna know that the Lions are here to stay. We ain’t just no anybody; we’re coming to play.”

Lions might appeal draft penalties from tampering charges

Chris McCosky / The Detroit News

Indianapolis — Lions coach Jim Schwartz, addressing the media at the NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday, indicated the Lions might appeal the league’s ruling on tampering charges filed against them by the Kansas City Chiefs.

“I think that too much has been said about something that should be confidential,” Schwartz said. “I am disappointed so much has come out.


“We have received that notification and I believe firmly in our case and that they reached the wrong conclusion. We still have some options we can pursue.”

The Lions have until Monday to file an appeal.

After a six-month investigation, the league ordered the Lions to forfeit their seventh-round pick in the 2011 draft and switch fifth-round picks with the Chiefs — losing the ninth pick and gaining the 23rd.

The tampering incident involved, at least partly, some comments made by defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham in reference to then-Chiefs safety Jarrad Page. Commissioner Roger Goodell ruled that the Lions made “impermissible contact with a player (or his agent).”

“An appeal is one of our options,” Schwartz said. “But, again, I will leave it at that. Too much has been said about this already.”

Schwartz was also loathe to discuss the rehab of quarterback Matthew Stafford’s surgically-repaired throwing shoulder. Schwartz was asked if he was worried that a potential lockout might interrupt the rehab process.

“Our rehab schedule is the way it has been with all of our players and hopefully we will continue on that track,” he said. “You are talking about ‘if.’ We’re not counting on ifs. We are going ahead the way we did it in the past. I feel optimistic he’ll have a good rehab.”

Tim Twentyman: Lions look forward to seeing a healthy Jahvid Best

Tim Twentyman

Allen Park— Lions fans still wonder how this season would have been different with a healthy Matthew Stafford under center.

But I’m curious how the season would have been different with a healthy Jahvid Best.

“We saw early in the year and in preseason what Jahvid Best is and what he will be,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “But we didn’t see that for most of the remaining part of the season except for glimpses over the last (three or four) games.”

Two separate turf toe injuries started hampering Best in Week 3, and he was never the same.


Best scored the Lions’ first five touchdowns to start the season, the first NFL player to accomplish the feat since Dutch of the Decatur Staleys in 1920.

Best rushed for 78 yards with two touchdowns and caught nine passes for 154 yards with one score in Week 2 against the Eagles, becoming the first rookie in NFL history with at least 75 rushing yards, 150 receiving yards and three touchdowns in a game. His 154 receiving yards are the most by a rookie running back in the Super Bowl era.

Explosiveness gone

Then, it all stopped. The touchdowns stopped. There weren’t any more big plays. There wasn’t much of a Lions run game.

After the injuries, Best failed to rush for more than 59 yards in his next eight games.

“The biggest thing (turf toe) does is it just changes your style of play,” Best said. “I didn’t feel like I could cut or explode the way I could.”

Even without Stafford, the Lions ranked among the top half in the NFL in passing, averaging 238.1 yards per game. Shaun Hill, and to an extent Drew Stanton, held down the fort in Stafford’s stead.

But without a healthy Best, and an injured Kevin Smith, the run game ranked 23rd, averaging 100.8 yards per game.

One-dimensional offense

The Lions became one-dimensional and thus easier to defend. A healthy Best could have provided some big-play capabilities in the run game and would have helped the offense control the ball, which would have helped keep an improved defense off the field more.

Best battled through the painful injury and managed 1,042 total yards from scrimmage to become the sixth rookie in team history with 1,000 yards from scrimmage. He also had 52 receptions, the second-most in team history by a rookie (WR Roy Williams, 54 in 2004).

But he wasn’t the explosive player he was at Cal, and certainly not the player that got Schwartz so excited after the Lions moved back into the first round to draft him last year.

People around here are unquestionably eager to get their franchise quarterback back on the field and healthy next season. But they should be as equally excited to get one of their fastest players and one of their most explosive weapons back healthy, too.

“I definitely felt like I showed a little bit of myself this year but I think you’ll see a lot more next year,” Best said.