NFC North: Ford Field
Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
The blackouts have begun in Detroit. The Lions weren’t close enough to a sellout Thursday to petition the NFL for a deadline extension, and so Sunday’s game against Washington will not be televised within a 75-mile radius of Detroit.
The team had 10,000 tickets remaining as of late Wednesday. That’s too many to merit an extension; last week, the Lions got one because they had only 1,700 tickets remaining for their home opener against Minnesota. The game was eventually sold out and televised locally, but the actual turnstile count (56,269) indicated there were at least 8,000 no-shows at Ford Field.
The Lions had five of their last six home games blacked out last season, and you wonder how many games they’ll sell out this season. The annual Thanksgiving game, scheduled this year for Nov. 26 against Green Bay, has the best chance of a sellout.
Remember, if you live in the Detroit area, you can still watch the game online at NFL.com beginning at midnight Sunday.
The most well-liked playing surface in the NFC North is at Detroit's Ford Field, according to a series of voting results released Thursday by the NFL Players Association. The least favorite? Minnesota's multi-use FieldTurf.
That's the upshot from the union's annual poll of players conducted during the season. The NFLPA broke out the results into four categories: Best artificial surfaces, worst artificial surfaces, best grass fields and worst grass fields. In each case, the voting between best and worst wasn't necessarily in reverse order. I presume that discrepancy can be attributed to each stadium evoking opposing but passionate responses from different players.
(Try it sometime. Rank the NFL's starting quarterbacks from best to worst. Then -- without looking -- rank them from worst to best. I bet the lists aren't reversible.)
After agonizing for hours -- or, well, a few minutes -- I decided on the following is the easiest way to present the data:
BEST ARTIFICIAL (13 total)
WORST ARTIFICIAL (13 total)
11. Detroit (tied with Seattle)
BEST GRASS (18 total)
7. Green Bay
WORST GRASS (18 total)
5. Green Bay
A couple thoughts on these rankings:
- Detroit and Minnesota have the same FieldTurf surfaces, and they were installed in the same year (2002). But baseball's Minnesota Twins play 81 games a year in the Metrodome, which also hosts University of Minnesota football and baseball, along with high school football playoffs. The Metrodome surface gets manipulated often and is pretty flat compared to Ford Field.
- I hear fewer complaints about the grass mix at Lambeau Field than I do about the 100 percent grass surface at Soldier Field. Two years ago, Packers officials stitched some synthetic fibers into the surface for stability. In Chicago, the field is typically soft and the grass long early in the season. By the end of the season, the grass is basically dead. The voting fell accordingly, although it was surprising to see Lambeau ranked as the 7th-best but also the fifth-worst. Basically, that means there are significantly differing opinions on Lambeau Field.
Minnesota defensive end Kenechi Udeze met with members of the local media Monday and said his goal remains to re-join the team when its offseason program begins in April.
Udeze had a bone marrow transplant six months ago to assist his fight against an aggressive form of leukemia that caused him to miss the 2008 season. Udeze has an important biopsy scheduled for Tuesday, and he said: "It's been nothing but good news [so far], so let's hope for the best," Udeze said.
Udeze's weight topped out at around 320 pounds during part of the recovery process, but he is back down to around 260 pounds. The Vikings tolled his contract for 2008, which pushed the terms back to the 2009 season and allow him to remain under contract. They plan to give him every opportunity to prove he can still play the game after doctors clear him to try.
Wearing a "Cancer Sucks" T-shirt, Udeze spoke to a group of middle school students Monday and said: "Yes, I'm coming back, and I'm going to be better than I was before."
Continuing around the NFC North on kind of a busy Tuesday:
- Former NFL linebacker Kevin Greene said he is "fired up" to join Green Bay's coaching staff, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Greene, who will coach outside linebackers, added: "I played fired up as you probably know. I played with passion and desire. I have 15 years of on-field experience and my knowledge of how to play this position is second to none."
- Plenty of Bears fans would like to see Arizona receiver Anquan Boldin in Chicago next season, writes David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune. Said Boldin: "That is always flattering. But as far as thinking about next year or the future, it doesn't help me right now. My only goal is to win the Super Bowl."
- David Birkett of the Oakland Press spent Monday night at Ford Field at one of the Lions' "town hall" sessions with season-ticket holders. One asked coach Jim Schwartz why he should keep his tickets. Schwartz's response: "Don't get rid of your tickets because if you do, in a couple years you won't be able to get them back."
The St. Paul Pioneer Press is running a fan poll on its Web site this week as Minnesota prepares for its matchup Sunday at Jacksonville.
The question: "Whom would you rather have coaching the Vikings?" The choices are current coach Brad Childress and his predecessor, Mike Tice. As of Wednesday morning, Tice was leading the voting 85 percent to 15 percent.
(You have to vote to see the results. I voted once for each to maintain my perfect record of objectivity).
Unscientific as it might be, the poll suggests some fans have come around on Tice's tenure after applauding his firing in 2006. It also speaks to the backup quarterback syndrome, which dictates that fans crave whoever isn't playing quarterback, or coaching, at the time of the question.
Tice, now the Jaguars' assistant head coach/tight ends, had a 33-34 record in four seasons with the Vikings. Childress is 19-23 in Year 3. Speaking this week to the Star Tribune's Mark Craig, Tice said he was proud to have been "competitive each week" given the limitations of working for a franchise that was on the selling block for most of his time as coach.
Tice also said that his admission to scalping 12 Super Bowl tickets in 2006 has blocked his chances of getting another head coaching job.
"I'm absolutely sure the ticket thing will harm me because it harmed me last year with one particular team," Tice said. "The team came out and told my agent that they wouldn't consider me because of that. But you make your bed. You have to sleep in it."
Tice would not identify the team.
Continuing around the NFC North this morning:
- The Vikings never announced it, but according to Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune, the team has extended the contract of vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski. The agreement occurred during the spring, at about the same time vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman's contract was extended.
- Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune suggests that fans get off the back of defensive coordinator Bob Babich and jump on coach Lovie Smith: "The assumption here is that Smith, not Babich, is really running the defense."
- Could defensive tackles Marcus Harrison and Anthony Adams get more playing time? The Chicago Sun-Times delves into that question in its Two-Minute Drill.
- The Green Bay Packers are three defensive touchdowns away from tying the NFL record of 10, set by the 1998 Seattle Seahawks. Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette has the story.
- Really good read from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Lori Nickel, who profiles nickel back Tramon Williams, who went to Louisiana Tech to be a full-time student -- working odd jobs to pay his way -- before walking onto the football team.
- Detroit has three consecutive home games coming up, but as Terry Foster of the Detroit News points out, the Lions have been better on the road. Their margin of defeat this season at Ford Field has averaged 20.5 points, while they have lost by an average of 9.3 on the road.
- Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press offers six suggestions for maintaining a winless season. Among them: Continuing to "think inside the box."
We regret to report that Sunday's game between Detroit and Washington will, in fact, be blacked out locally.
Let's all have a moment of silence for the Lions' 51-game sellout streak. It was a nice run.
The team announced the blackout Thursday afternoon. With so many tickets remaining for the game -- 5,000 as of the announcement -- the Lions did not receive an extension from the NFL. As a result, the game won't be carried on local television in the Lions' viewership radius.
If you live within that radius -- roughly 75 miles from Detroit -- but have the NFL Sunday Ticket, my understanding is that you still won't be able to see the game. The blackout will be based on the zip code of your billing address.
This will be the first blackout in the seven-year history of Ford Field.
DETROIT -- While watching Sunday's affair at Ford Field, it was hard to know exactly where the Chicago Bears' dominance ends and the Detroit Lions' incompetence begins.
Nearly everything the Bears tried to do worked, and the Lions could hardly string together three consecutive positive plays in a 34-7 Bears victory. But give credit where its due: As the sun sets on Week 5, the Bears sit alone atop the NFC North.
In fact, they're the only North team with a winning record, but who's counting? Any way you look at, the Bears produced the most convincing performance of any team in the division this season.
Most interestingly, at least to me, is that the Bears used their passing game to jump on an opponent for the second consecutive week. Quarterback Kyle Orton threw for a career-high 334 yards, and even with the big lead, the Bears called more passes (35) than running plays (30) before Orton was replaced by Rex Grossman.
If you're a Detroit resident, don't be concerned. Fans have been streaming out of Ford Field since early in the third quarter. At the final gun, about seven people were still in the stands. There should be no Sunday afternoon traffic disruptions.
Be back with you in a few hours.
DETROIT -- Don't know about you, but I'm curious to see (and hear) how Lions fans react early on during the first game of the PM (Post-Millen) era.
It seems a long time ago, but it's been less than two weeks since Lions owner William Clay Ford fired president/general manager Matt Millen. That move removes the most negative wind from the sail of Lions fans, most of whom made a habit in recent years of chanting "Fire Millen" and displaying variously creative placards that sent the same message.
The reality is this is the same group of players and coaches who went 4-0 in the preseason and then opened the regular season 0-3. Millen's departure will have little to no immediate impact on the on-field product, one way or the other.
But now that the shroud has lifted, will Lions fans react with seven years' worth of pent-up glee? Or will they wait, pensively, for something good to happen first on the field?
I've been here for plenty of awfully quiet days at Ford Field. If nothing else, perhaps the Lions will get a rare home-field advantage out of it.
I'm going to go take a stroll on the concourse here in a bit and will let you know what I pick up.