Confusion in Detroit

October, 9, 2008
10/09/08
5:53
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press read the tea leaves Thursday and seems convinced quarterback Dan Orlovsky will start in place of Jon Kitna (back) Sunday at Minnesota.

That would be a mildly interesting turn of events for the Lions, but I read something much more enlightening in an interview transcript with defensive coordinator Joe Barry. It turns out that veteran cornerback Brian Kelly didn't play last Sunday against Chicago because of a mistake.

As the Lions were giving up a career day to Bears quarterback Kyle Orton, Kelly stood on the sideline in full uniform. Leigh Bodden, Travis Fisher and Kevin Smith manned the cornerback and nickel positions.

Kelly hadn't been officially demoted. Apparently, he just wasn't noticed. Here's how Barry described the situation:

"[W]e wanted to get Keith Smith playing a little bit. We didn't have a plan or a game plan or a scheme that we were going to go in and say, 'Hey, Brian Kelly's not playing.' Unfortunately for Brian, it worked out that way in the sense that he didn't play a down. That was not planned out, it just kind of happened."

Kelly is expected to play against the Vikings. Barry is to be applauded for his honesty, but the admission -- and omission -- isn't a great reflection of a defense that has appeared pretty unorganized. It's also a good way to lose the attention of veteran players, and it's worth noting what Kelly told Dave Birkett of the Oakland Press:

"Obviously I was unhappy with it. I'm suited up to play. If I'm standing there with my T-shirt on and sweats and a Lions cap I know I'm not playing. But I was suited up to play and it didn't work out that way."

Kelly isn't considered a top-flight cornerback anymore, but the Lions signed him in part to set an example for how to play in the Tampa-2 defense. Regardless of the degree to which he has slipped, you don't want to give up 334 passing yards while one of your better coverage men stands on the sideline.

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