NFC North: Theo Riddick

Lions Camp Report: Day 15

August, 16, 2014
Aug 16
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • The Lions ended their camp Saturday afternoon with a practice that lasted a little less than one hour with no pads at all and a lot of players in baseball caps catching passes -- including specialists Sam Martin and Don Muhlbach. Why would Lions coach Jim Caldwell bring the players out there less than 12 hours after they returned from a West Coast trip to Oakland?
    “The practice was kind of to break a sweat and often times guys find out they have an injury that they didn’t know about,” Caldwell said. “So we run them a little bit, loosen it up a little and go through our corrections and get them off the field to get them some rest tomorrow and get back at it at Monday.”
  • Once Monday hits, the Lions will go into their regular practice mode, which also means practices are also no longer fully open to reporters. He also did this Saturday practice to give players an idea of how days go with evaluation and film.
  • The biggest topic again was defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who seemed more jovial Saturday than he was at any point last week. That’s probably a good sign for him and Caldwell indicated he felt he had improved during Friday night’s game against Oakland.
  • Detroit did have a transaction Saturday, signing linebacker Shamari Benton out of Central Michigan and releasing linebacker Justin Jackson from Wake Forest. Benton had 111 tackles, including 10.5 tackles for loss, last season for the Chippewas. He also had four sacks and an interception. He apparently trained at a gym in suburban Detroit co-owned by Tony Scheffler and Ndamukong Suh. He was so new, the Lions didn't even have a jersey for him at practice Saturday.
  • Caldwell also appeared to be pleased with backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky, saying he “demonstrated that [Friday] night, but we still have two more games to go.” Orlovsky was markedly better than he was in the preseason opener, when he was outplayed by No. 3 quarterback Kellen Moore. He appeared to regain his hold on the backup spot with his performance Friday night. Part of the backup quarterback’s job, Caldwell said, is to be a collaborator with starting quarterback Matthew Stafford, quarterbacks coach Jim Bob Cooter and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi.
  • Asked three of the Lions players who attended Notre Dame (there are five in all as Alex Bullard and Joseph Fauria started at the school and transferred to Tennessee and UCLA, respectively) about the academic investigation at their alma mater. TJ Jones said he knew little about it and wanted to hear more details. Theo Riddick declined to comment, but said he would speak with Notre Dame if the school reached out. Golden Tate, who did not play under current coach Brian Kelly, declined to comment.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- He has been praised by teammates all spring long and even into the first few practices of training camp as someone who could end up with a larger role on the Detroit Lions, but Theo Riddick is having none of it.

The running back, while not exactly ignoring the increased attention his game is receiving, doesn’t appear to actually be buying into it at all.

“I haven’t really proven anything,” Riddick said. “Those are just words.”

They are, but when those words are coming from defensive players, established players on offense, and even from one of the men who will be making a decision on how much Riddick will play, there is some validity to it.

Add in what he has done on the field so far -- appearing explosive during his repetitions and trusting his first cut and going with it -- and the attention on him begins to make some sense.

As a rookie, Riddick was often anxious about what was going to happen. He was, in effect, still learning everything as he received some repetitions -- nine carries for 25 yards -- but not enough to make a real difference. Instead, he ended up as a valuable special teams contributor as both a blocker on kick returns and someone who could make plays on coverage units.

“Before coming here, there are a few guys that jump out at you on film,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “I was watching special teams and every single time on the unit he’s on, he shows up.

“He’s got intensity, he hustles, he’s got desire, toughness, all of those things, and he’s a very, very capable runner. Also, he can catch the ball out of the backfield. [Riddick is] very tough to handle in one-on-one situations, so he had a great spring and we anticipate this fall he’s going to perform equally as well, so we’re excited about that.”

That was Riddick’s goal from the outset. He wanted to be more than a special teams contributor, though, so when the new coaching staff came in there was a chance for an offensive role. New offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi likes using multiple backs out of the backfield and places an emphasis on running backs who can run precise routes and catch the ball.

In Riddick, they have someone who can slide in behind Reggie Bush to do that. Riddick won’t supplant Bush or Joique Bell in Detroit’s offensive scheme this season, but he should be able to find himself a role.

“Coming out of the backfield I’m very versatile and I think I put pressure on defenses, but at the same time I haven’t proven anything yet,” Riddick said. “I’m just excited to come out this year and hopefully play well.”

So far, he has.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – There is now one day left.

The Detroit Lions finished up the second day of their mandatory minicamp Wednesday and it was probably the most balanced day the team has had during their sessions. After the first two weeks of open practices where the defense was dominant and the last couple of practices where the offense has been better, neither group seemed to take over the practice.

That might be a good sign for the Lions that the offense is catching up to the defense even if both sides of the ball were without key contributors. Here are some thoughts, notes and observations from the day.
  • A decent amount of players missed practice Wednesday. Wide receiver TJ Jones, cornerback Chris Houston and linebacker Stephen Tulloch were not spotted at practice. Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder), guard Rob Sims, wide receiver Golden Tate (shoulder), wide receiver Kevin Ogletree, running back Mikel Leshoure and running back Joique Bell (knee) all sat out practice. Ansah, Tate and Bell were expected. Sims has missed team drills all offseason, as had Glover Quin, who only worked in individual drills Wednesday.
  • Jason Jones appears to be slowly moving back to health. He seemed more active Wednesday than he has during past open practices, including working some with the first unit. He is still coming back from a ruptured patella tendon suffered last season, but he will be a contender for the closed defensive end spot in the fall opposite Ansah on the defensive line.
  • Player of the practice: For the second straight day, it is Calvin Johnson. Any question about Johnson’s health are now gone. He was once again the best player on the field and caught everything around him. He appears to be completely over his injuries and has his timing with Matthew Stafford down once again. He beat any cornerback the Lions lined up against him during 1-on-1 periods and on one play leapt over DeAndre Levy to catch a pass that he ended up running in for a touchdown.
  • During those 1-on-1 drills between defensive backs and receivers, the receivers clearly won the day. They had at least six completions to start the drill, including Kris Durham reaching out to make a difficult catch in front of Darius Slay. Corey Fuller also beat Aaron Hester on a post route that was pretty impressive.
  • Sequence of the day: Two impressive plays in a row. First, safety James Ihedigbo jumped a route from Stafford to Brandon Pettigrew to break up the pass. It was a great break on the ball by Ihedigbo. Stafford followed it up, though, with a perfectly threaded ball to Patrick Edwards into a small window over safety Don Carey. It was the best throw Stafford made on the day.
  • Carey is starting to really emerge as the probable third safety, although this is not unexpected. He once again filled in for Quin during team drills and has been a decent presence back there. In the secondary, Jonte Green is the one player who doesn’t seem to be getting as many reps as one might think.
  • As they did Tuesday, Rodney Austin and rookie Travis Swanson both took first-team reps at guard and center. While Austin worked some at center Tuesday, Swanson was there Wednesday. In some ways, this is a test from Jim Caldwell to see if both of them can play both guard and center, something imperative for a reserve interior lineman. With Sims out, Austin has spent the majority of spring working with the first team at left guard.
  • This is getting repetitive, but Theo Riddick continues to be impressive. He seems a little faster than last season and might have improved more than anyone else on the roster from last season. He is putting himself in position to have a real role in this offense this season after being primarily a backup in 2013.
  • Written about Eric Ebron’s drops here a bit, so worth noting when he makes the type of catch the Lions drafted him for. He extended on what looked like a poorly thrown ball to stretch in front of safety Isa Abdul-Quddus to make the grab before hitting the ground. It is one of the best catches he has made in the open practice setting this spring.
  • With Tulloch not in attendance, Tahir Whitehead took a lot of the first-team snaps at linebacker next to Levy. He was pretty active there. While he is primarily a special-teams standout – he’ll end up having a roster spot because of his special-teams play – that the Lions staff inserted him there behind Tulloch would appear to indicate he is having a pretty good spring. After practice, Caldwell cited how Whitehead controls the movement of other players in that space as one of the reasons they like him behind Tulloch.
  • Really good day for Sam Martin. The second-year punter had some help with the wind, but he crushed almost all of his punts. It is tough to see yard lines because of how the Lions’ outdoor practice fields are set up, but he said after practice one of his punts went over 80 yards and had a few go at least 70 yards. He said his shortest on the day was 63 yards. Strong day for him.
He was high on the Detroit Lions' 2013 NFL draft from the start, grading the team as a B in the days following the draft.

Now, with a season of evidence, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. had an even higher opinion of how the Lions did.

He gave them an A.

Kiper particularly praised what we have also praised in this space all season long -- general manager Martin Mayhew and senior personnel executive Brian Xanders' ability to find talent in the later rounds of the draft and also after the draft with undrafted free agents.

It was in the undrafted free agent pool, where the Lions picked up starting right tackle LaAdrian Waddle and starting tight end Joseph Fauria, that really made Detroit's rookie class even more impressive.

To read Kiper's whole evaluation, click the link here .

To give a quick recap, here's a look at Detroit's rookies and where they fit in with Detroit last year.
  • First round -- Ziggy Ansah, DE: Starter. Led rookies in sacks with eight.
  • Second round -- Darius Slay, CB: Contributor. Showed promise toward the end of the season.
  • Third round -- Larry Warford, RG: Started every game this season. Was one of the top guards in the league and perhaps the steal of the draft.
  • Fourth round -- Devin Taylor, DE: Contributor. Played more and also had more consistency toward the end of the season.
  • Fifth round -- Sam Martin, P: Starter. Was in the top 10 for punters for most of the year. Could be with the team longer than anyone else in the locker room right now.
  • Sixth round -- Corey Fuller, WR: Practice squad all year.
  • Sixth round -- Theo Riddick, HB: Mostly a special-teams player, but turned into a reliable contributor there throughout the season.
  • Seventh round -- Michael Williams, TE: On injured reserve all season.
  • Seventh round -- Brandon Hepburn, LB: Practice squad all year.
  • Undrafted -- LaAdrian Waddle, RT: Starter by midseason. Tackle of the future for Detroit.
  • Undrafted -- Joseph Fauria, TE: Contributor/starter. Became a legitimate red zone threat and should see a bigger role in 2014.
PHILADELPHIA -- In the mass of snow where players couldn’t cut and the surface was more ice rink than football field, it did not seem to matter much to Detroit Lions returner Jeremy Ross.

If anything, the slip-and-slide surface almost helped him as he had one of the best days of his career.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Ross
AP Photo/Michael PerezJeremy Ross scored and a 58-yard punt return and a 98-yard kickoff return in Detroit's loss on Sunday.
"Players start to slip just because they get too wide, cut too wide," Ross said. "I try to keep everything in tight and narrow and not overextend. Just keep my feet underneath me."

That wasn’t easy considering the playing field at Lincoln Financial Field, but Ross was able to keep his balance enough to return both a punt and a kick for touchdowns Sunday in the Lions’ 34-20 loss and in the process matched a little bit of history.

Ross became the second Detroit Lions player to return a punt and kick for touchdowns in the same game, matching Eddie Payton -- the brother of Walter Payton -- who accomplished the same feat for the Lions in 1977.

Even more impressive was Ross did it on an increasingly difficult place to run on.

"After a while the snow started hardening up," Ross said. "The snow kept clogging up at the bottom of my cleats so it felt like I had heels on at some point. It would pile up, stack real tight on the bottom of my heels so my foot would be like lifted up.

"Sometimes you have to keep patting your feet because it just packs in there and it’s hard to run, change directions, so it really gets underneath your feet."

Ross also had some help. On both returns he was assisted by some major blocking.

Wide receiver Kevin Ogletree, who like Ross was a midseason signing for the Lions after being cut by another team, blocked Brandon Boykin enough on the outside that it gave Ross the initial crease he needed.

From there, almost in slow motion, Ross weaved his way to the end zone for a 58-yard punt return touchdown, not cutting so much as just bobbing his body side-to-side as he ran.

"When you’re running, you’re real cautious of how you cut and stuff," Ross said. "You feel like you’re just trying to turn, you can’t really cut. You’re just kind of slowly working your way around."

His kick return was a little bit easier in some ways. Ross caught the ball at the 2-yard line and had almost a perfect hole form for him -- again, due to blocking. Theo Riddick was his lead blocker and sealed off a guy on the right side, as did new signee Julian Stanford. On the left side, Israel Idonije appeared to seal off his man, giving Ross the hole.

From there, all Ross needed to do was make a diving Alex Henery miss -- he did -- and keep his balance heading into the end zone.

In all, Ross had 243 return yards, more yards than the entirety of the Lions offense, and now has three touchdowns -- two on special teams and one receiving -- in the past two weeks.

"It’s definitely, it’s special," Ross said. "It’s special to do something like that."
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Practice ended Thursday, and while most of the Detroit Lions players went through a hallway to the locker room, the wide receivers assembled in the indoor practice facility.

There, receivers took turns catching passes after having what appeared to be a screen blocking their vision at first. The screen would then be pulled down by an assistant and the ball would already be on its way.

The receiver, obviously, would have to catch it. Considering some of Detroit's issues there this season, this is an important drill to be working on.

[+] EnlargeReggie Bush
AP Photo/David RichardReggie Bush is averaging nearly 10 yards per catch on his 45 receptions, but his eight dropped passes are part of an ongoing issue for the Lions.
Detroit’s drop numbers are interesting. The Lions have more drops, 37, than any other team in the league. But they also have the second-most passing attempts in the NFL, with 500.

Where it evens out -- and where Detroit’s drop struggles become more evident throughout the season -- is in drop percentage. The Lions are tied with the Rams for the league’s worst drop rate at 7.6 percent of Matthew Stafford's passes.

And it hasn’t gotten better for the Lions in the second half of the season. Detroit has 14 drops in the past four games at a drop rate of nine percent, both numbers that are worst in the NFL.

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan explained away the drops as a function of Detroit’s passing offense.

“We throw the ball a lot, so some teams don’t throw the ball as much, so they aren’t going to have as many when it comes to the amount of throws,” Linehan said. “I think guys really worked hard at catching it. I thought the last game they caught it really well.

“Great catches that weren’t routine. I don’t think that’s necessarily indicative of us versus anybody else.”

Except Detroit was credited with four drops in that game according to ESPN Stats and Information -- one each to Kris Durham, Joique Bell, Brandon Pettigrew and Calvin Johnson.

The drops, though, haven’t been quarantined to one game or one player. Ten of the 14 Lions players who have caught passes this season have also dropped at least one pass.

The four Detroit players who haven’t been credited with a drop by ESPN Stats and Information are tight ends Joseph Fauria and Dorin Dickerson, and wide receivers Kevin Ogletree and Patrick Edwards, who is now on the practice squad.

The most guilty Lion of dropping passes? Running back Reggie Bush, who has eight drops this season and is dropping passes at a rate of 12.3 percent -- second-highest in the NFL among qualifying players behind Pittsburgh’s Le'Veon Bell (13.3 percent).

Combine Bush’s drops with his fumble issues -- he’s been big on working on ball security this week -- and bad hands would be a potential concern for the Lions’ starting running back.

Detroit coach Jim Schwartz, though, is not concerned. He noted Bush’s drops earlier in the season as a reason for his high percentage.

“That’ll get your numbers up,” Schwartz said. “He also made an over-the-shoulder catch last week, too.”

This isn’t to say Bush isn’t a talented player -- he is a gifted runner and receiver -- but he has also dropped passes on screens and in the flat that could have been large gains if he held on to the ball.

After Bush is Johnson with seven drops (5.3 percent), Durham with four (5.8 percent), Bell with four (8.9 percent) and Pettigrew with four (7.0 percent). Beyond them are players who are either no longer on the Lions, on injured reserve or have limited roles.

Tight end Tony Scheffler, who was cut in October, had three drops. Ryan Broyles, who is now on injured reserve, has two along with Nate Burleson, who missed seven games, and Jeremy Ross, who has played in six games and been targeted nine times.

Running back Theo Riddick, who plays sparingly, has one drop.

Of all the players listed, Johnson’s drops might be the most understandable. His seven drops are one off a career-worst set last season, but he has been targeted 131 times, more than any other receiver in the league.

Despite the drops from his pass-catchers, Stafford is having a good season. He has still completed 59.2 percent of his passes (296 of 500), thrown for 27 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and 3,825 yards.

But as the weather gets colder and situations become more intense for the Lions as they make a playoff push and a potential appearance in the postseason, how Detroit’s pass-catchers handle what Stafford throws at them will be paramount for any future Lions success.

Rookie Report: Detroit Lions Week 13

November, 29, 2013
Each week, we'll take a look at how the Detroit Lions' rookies fared in the most recent game, along with trends and stats for the rest of the season.

As a complete class, Detroit's rookies might have played their best collective game Thursday during the Lions' 40-10 thrashing of Green Bay.

They accounted for four sacks. They kept Matthew Stafford upright and one of them even had a breakout game. There's a chance this might be the best overall rookie class in the NFL this season and for that, Martin Mayhew and the Lions scouts deserve a lot of praise.

Here's a look at how they fared Thursday.

[+] EnlargeEzekiel Ansah
Tim Fuller/USA TODAY SportsLions rookie Ezekiel Ansah got to Packers quarterback Matt Flynn twice in Thursday's game, and he now has seven sacks on the season.
DE Ziggy Ansah (first round, BYU): This might have been the best game of Ansah's young career with Detroit. Due to the Lions' defense having so few plays -- only 43 all day -- Ansah saw only 28 snaps (65 percent of the plays), his lowest percentage since Week 3 in a game he wasn't injured. Ansah had three tackles -- two of them sacks -- in those 28 plays and generally caused havoc the rest of the game. For all Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley do, when Ansah is in the game and healthy, he makes a difference because between him, Willie Young and Devin Taylor, opponents have to be concerned about all four members of the defensive line rushing the quarterback effectively.

Ansah's snap percentages after the opener, when he was recovering from injury:
Arizona -- 70 percent; Washington -- 62 percent; Chicago -- 68 percent; at Green Bay -- 72 percent; Cleveland -- 75 percent; Cincinnati – 70 percent; Dallas -- 21 percent; at Chicago -- DNP/injured; Pittsburgh -- DNP/injured; Tampa Bay -- 77 percent; Green Bay -- 65 percent.

CB Darius Slay (second round, Mississippi State): Easily the best game of Slay's rookie season. He was on the field for every play on defense and started at corner for the first time since Week 2 because of Chris Houston's injury. Slay defended three passes and made two tackles, but Pro Football Focus graded him out at plus-2.9, including plus-2.6 in coverage -- the first positive ratings he has received all season. He had been saying for a few weeks things were slowing down for him on defense and it showed Thursday. Pro Football Focus had him with six targeted passes and only three receptions caught on him -- and one was really late with Detroit up 30 points.

RG Larry Warford (third round, Kentucky): Another week, another positive grade for Warford by Pro Football Focus, making it the fourth straight week that has happened. He allowed pressure one of the times quarterback Matthew Stafford was hurried, but that's about it. He was one of two players, along with Rob Sims, to play all 81 offensive snaps for Detroit.

DE Devin Taylor (fourth round, South Carolina): Taylor played only 15 snaps Thursday, but was extremely effective in them. He had three tackles, two sacks and forced a fumble. He has combined with Ansah to be a strong rookie combination alongside Willie Young at defensive end. A marked change from last week, when Taylor was largely ineffective.

P Sam Martin (fifth round, Appalachian State): Not the best day for Martin. His only punt was a good one -- 33 yards but was fair caught at the 5-yard line. Kickoffs were his bugaboo Thursday. He had three touchbacks, but in trying to put the ball in the corner against Micah Hyde, he also sent two kickoffs out of bounds, resulting in penalties and good field position for Green Bay.

RB Theo Riddick (sixth round, Notre Dame): He had four offensive snaps Thursday and had one reception, on a wide receiver screen, for 5 yards. As usual, most of his work came on special teams, where he had 16 snaps.

TE Joseph Fauria (undrafted, UCLA): Not much from Fauria on Thanksgiving. He played his typical share of snaps these days -- between 23 and 27 percent -- but was only targeted once by Stafford and did not record a reception. The target did come in the red zone, though.

A brief look at Fauria's tracking:
Week 1 -- three targets, three catches, one touchdown, 14 percent of snaps (11 plays).
Week 2 -- no targets, no catches, 10 percent of snaps (six plays).
Week 3 -- three targets, one catch, one touchdown, 18 percent of snaps (12 plays).
Week 4 -- no targets, no catches, 20 percent of snaps (13 plays)
Week 5 -- no targets, no catches, 13 percent of snaps (9 plays)
Week 6 -- three targets, three catches, three touchdowns, 31 percent of snaps (23 plays)
Week 7 – four targets, one catch, 40 percent of snaps (31 plays)
Week 8 -- no targets, no catches, 19 percent of snaps (15 plays)
Week 10 -- two targets, one catch, 23 percent of snaps (14 plays)
Week 11 -- two targets, one catch, 27 percent of snaps (20 plays)
Week 12 -- one target, one catch, one touchdown, 12 percent of snaps (9 plays)
Week 13 -- one target, no catches, 23 percent of snaps (19 plays)

OT LaAdrian Waddle (undrafted, Texas Tech): Officially the starting right tackle on the depth chart these days, Waddle had a strong day. He registered a 4.2 overall rating from Pro Football Focus and only allowed one quarterback hurry (it was also a quarterback hit), his best performance in that area since Week 9 against Chicago.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The timing seemed odd for Theo Riddick. He had barely been used on offense this season, a sixth-round pick relegated mostly to special teams his rookie season.

Yet with his team trailing and needing big plays to try and come back against Pittsburgh on Sunday, Detroit went not with running back Reggie Bush -- the guy they signed specifically for his big-play capability -- but Riddick, who has barely played in that situation.
“It was just a couple plays,” Schwartz said Monday. “We didn’t have Joique (Bell) at that time, he had gone out of the game and Reggie had been taking a lot of reps and wanted to take a little bit of that load off of him, wasn’t more than anything there.

“Riddick has a role. We have personnel packages for him. We never really, really since the preseason, he’s really never got involved once the games come around and that’s something we’re looking to do because he’s a good player and he can make some plays for us.”

But to use him there was a bit interesting. Bush’s workload wasn’t anything different than in prior weeks. Bush had 42 snaps Sunday (58 percent of the plays), the fourth-lowest full game snap count for Bush this season. In back-to-back-to-back weeks in October, he played 50 snaps against Cleveland, 55 against Cincinnati and then a season-high 64 against Dallas.

The past two weeks, though, his snaps have diminished. He played 39 against Chicago and then 42 on Sunday. His 12 carries were also the fewest he’s had in a full, healthy game this season.

Also, Bush said he was healthy enough to play at the end and Bush said he felt he wasn’t on the field for the final plays of the game because he fumbled in the first half, not because of rest.

“Probably because I fumbled the ball. Turned the ball over, you know, that’s what happens,” Bush said. “I’ve been in this league long enough to know that. So there’s nobody to blame but myself.”

Bush said it is up to the coaches whether he would be on the field in late, critical situations like the one Sunday against Pittsburgh.

On Monday, Schwartz said Bush wasn’t being punished when he sat at the end of the game.

“That was early in the game,” Schwartz said. “We weren’t all of a sudden going to pull him out late in a game on that one. Theo’s got some good ability in the pass game. He didn’t show it in this one, he dropped the ball that was thrown to him and he looked funny out there with a clean uniform on when everybody else was out there.

“But that had nothing to do with that. That being said, we do need to do a better job protecting the ball.”

Ball security has been an issue for Bush this season. He has now lost fumbles in two of the past three games and almost lost a third fumble, but the Lions were able to run a quick play before Pittsburgh could challenge the call.

Bush had an overall rough game Sunday, gaining a season-low 54 total yards -- including 31 yards rushing (a season-low for him in a full game) and 23 yards receiving.

“Yeah, just, rough day,” Bush said. “Just got to find a way to bounce back. Be better and find a way to get a win next week.

“Championship teams don’t stack losses. You know, they stack wins. So, obviously, this one stings and we know we should have come out with the win (Sunday) but we didn’t execute and turn the ball over, starting with myself. So we have to find a way to get better and be better.”

RB Joique Bell active for Lions

October, 20, 2013
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- He spent about 15 to 20 minutes working out on the sideline, going through ladders and other drills testing out his injured ribs. At the end of it, it was determined running back Joique Bell would be active Sunday against Cincinnati.

How much Bell plays could be dependent on how much pain he is in with contact. Watch for Mikel Leshoure to potentially see some carries in his place behind starter Reggie Bush.

Detroit's inactives are as expected: receiver Nate Burleson; quarterback Kellen Moore; running back Theo Riddick; cornerback Jonte Green; offensive linemen Leroy Harris and Jason Fox and tight end Tony Scheffler.

One other interesting note is receiver/returner Jeremy Ross, who was signed off the practice squad Saturday, is active. It'll be interesting to see how much work the former Green Bay Packer gets today.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- White gauze and tape covered the left ribs of Detroit Lions running back Joique Bell on Friday afternoon as he spoke to the media.

Well, kind of spoke to the media.

Instead of answering questions about his availability on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals as well as his overall health verbally, he grabbed a sheet of paper, flipped it over and grabbed a permanent marker.

Then, as the media asked questions, he would write responses down, varying from "Good" to "Ask Coach" to "Nothing" to "A lot!!!" to "Yea" to "Nope" and would point to one of his written answers after a question.

Officially, Bell is questionable with his rib injury for Sunday's game against Cincinnati and wide receiver Calvin Johnson is probable.

It was Bell -- in silent form -- and was a fairly funny way to handle not really answering questions about his status. For the record, when asked how he was feeling, he wrote then pointed to "good." When asked how much pain he was in, he pointed to "A lot!!!"

When asked if he could clear up the confusion in those answers, he pointed to "nope."

He also indicated he wore no extra padding, by pointing to "nothing" when asked what he wore in practice.

A locker over, running back Theo Riddick, who practiced for the first time Friday after suffering a concussion against Green Bay, said he had not had a concussion before. Like Bell, Riddick is questionable for Sunday.

He declined to answer how the past two weeks have been but that "everything is going well, man." Riddick also said it is up to the coaches whether or not he'll play Sunday.

Right tackle Jason Fox is doubtful for Sunday. Johnson, who has practiced but been limited every day, is officially listed as probable.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Lions receiver Calvin Johnson reported for his third straight day of practice and running back Theo Riddick practiced for the first time since suffering a concussion against Green Bay almost two weeks ago.

Oh, and while he wasn't actually practicing, receiver Nate Burleson caught footballs with his right hand only while wearing a blue protective sleeve on his left wrist and forearm.

The only Lions not at practice Friday were right tackle Jason Fox, tight end Tony Scheffler and safety Louis Delmas, but Delmas did walk out toward the end of practice. He wasn't going to practice but he was there.

As far as those missing practice, this is a typical rest day for Delmas, but Fox and Scheffler haven't been seen all week.

Lions remain fairly healthy

October, 17, 2013
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- No surprises for the second straight day on the Detroit Lions' injury report.

Wide receiver Calvin Johnson (knee), safety Louis Delmas (knee), cornerback Rashean Mathis (groin) and running back Joique Bell (ribs) all were limited in practice Thursday.

All four have practiced the past two days. Johnson, Delmas and Mathis appear to be good bets to play Sunday against Cincinnati. Bell could be more of a question mark as a rib injury could make it difficult for him to carry the ball.

Wide receiver Nate Burleson (forearm), right tackle Jason Fox (knee), running back Theo Riddick (concussion), tight end Tony Scheffler (tight end) and linebacker Ashlee Palmer (ankle) all missed practice. Palmer typically misses Thursday practices.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- For the first time since last month, Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson participated in a Tuesday practice.

Johnson also looked fine going through basic individual drills.

He wasn't the only major player there. Running back Joique Bell, who injured a rib in the fourth quarter Sunday, was at practice and didn't appear to have any extra protective padding on his chest.

Cornerback Rashean Mathis, who injured his groin Sunday, was also out there practicing. So was running back Montell Owens, who is now allowed to practice after being placed on injured reserve/designated to return before the season.

Running back Theo Riddick was also at practice, but with a winter beanie on his head instead of a helmet, he was not actually practicing. Other Lions not practicing were tight end Tony Scheffler (concussion), right tackle Jason Fox (knee), safety Louis Delmas (knee) and wide receiver Nate Burleson (forearm).

One other note -- the Lions brought wide receiver Patrick Edwards back to their practice squad and released running back Shaun Chapas. For the time being, Detroit now has three receivers on its practice squad.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Calvin Johnson's knee was sore late Sunday afternoon after the Detroit Lions beat the Cleveland Browns, 31-17, and that should really be no surprise.

He had played 51 percent of the Lions' snaps on Sunday (38 of 74), and that was as much by design of plays as it was having Johnson’s knee hold up enough.

“We had just planned on using him in certain situations,” coach Jim Schwartz said Monday. “There’s some things that we thought he could still do and some things that we didn’t want to put him in that situation.

“So it was just going really by play call. But in the second half, he was feeling OK and he played a little bit more.”

[+] EnlargeCalvin Johnson
Ken Blaze/USA TODAY SportsStar Lions WR Calvin Johnson tried to make an impact during his limited playing time on Sunday.
Schwartz said it is too early to determine if Johnson’s limited playing time Sunday had any effect on his health, but he was sore after the game.

“But he’s been sore after practice and stuff like that,” Schwartz said. “It’s too soon to really know if it was any worse or any better than it’s been. But I said it was encouraging he was able to get on the field for us. Even though he didn’t make a lot of plays, he made a couple of big first-down catches for us and he affected the game.

“I think they interfered with him on the one play in the red zone because he was in position to make a potential touchdown catch. Also affected the coverage and helped open up other guys.”

The biggest beneficiary was tight end Joseph Fauria, who had three touchdown catches. Johnson was on the field for those plays, forcing teams to make difficult decisions.

Do they double Johnson, the best receiver in the game? Or do they double the 6-foot-7 tight end with a proclivity for touchdowns? Or do they double both and play lighter against the run?

These are the decisions Detroit is hoping opponents have to make. So Fauria seeing more attention close to the end zone may not actually happen.

“I think that would depend,” Schwartz said. “If he starts to get more attention, somebody’s got to get less and generally that’s Calvin for us. So not many defenses want to do that.

“I think the dynamic between the two of those guys, a lot’s been made of the dynamic between Reggie and Calvin, but I think there is, in the red zone in particular, there’s another dynamic there that can force defenses to be spread thin a little bit.”

Fauria’s opportunity is coming, in part, due to the third concussion in four seasons to tight end Tony Scheffler.

Schwartz said Monday neither Scheffler nor rookie running back Theo Riddick, who also suffered a concussion, made the trip to Cleveland. And Schwartz wouldn’t speculate on the possibility of putting Scheffler on injured reserve. Schwartz also said any potential signing of a tight end would not be relative to Scheffler’s status.

“Him and Riddick are still being evaluated,” Schwartz said. “They didn’t make the trip but we’ve done that with a lot of guys that have been concussed. Travel is one of the things that can potentially set guys back, the pressurized environment on a plane and stadiums and stuff like that.

“So both of those guys didn’t travel with us this week. They are still being evaluated.”

Schwartz said they were still waiting on tests evaluating injuries to running back Joique Bell (ribs) and cornerback Rashean Mathis (groin), but he didn’t believe either one would be a long-term injury.
CLEVELAND -- Ending the biggest suspense in Detroit this week, wide receiver Calvin Johnson is active and will play Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.

He was the largest question among the Lions players, but he took part in warmups, including receiver drills, and looked fine making his cuts and moving through ladders. He got an extensive stretch before the end of workouts, but he'll be giving it a shot Sunday.

Detroit's inactives are wide receiver Nate Burleson, quarterback Kellen Moore, cornerback Jonte Green, running back Theo Riddick, guard Leroy Harris, tackle Jason Fox and tight end Tony Scheffler.

Running back Mikel Leshoure is active for the second time this season.