Chicago Bears forced to quickly turn focus to Detroit Lions

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Less than 12 hours after the Chicago Bears earned their most important regular-season victory in close to a decade, coach Matt Nagy is already bracing for one of the tightest turnarounds in league history.

“I don’t think there are many coaches or players that have ever been through a Sunday night game to a day game on a Thursday, but that’s what it is,” Nagy said on Monday.

The NFL’s decision to flex Chicago’s Week 11 game against the Minnesota Vikings to Sunday night means the Bears will become the first team since the 1970 merger to play at 1 p.m. ET or earlier on three days rest immediately following a prime-time game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The Bears (7-3), fresh off their 25-20 win over the Vikings, have to now play Thursday in Detroit where kickoff is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET.

“I have not gone back and watched the tape of the Vikings game, so we’re on to Detroit,” Nagy said. “What I saw last night was what I saw. We’re moving on here to Detroit.”

Nagy told reporters that Bears players will report to Halas Hall on Monday afternoon for classroom work and possibly a light walk-through before the team holds a regular practice on Tuesday. The Bears depart for Detroit on Wednesday.

“The No. 1 thing is to make sure these guys are taken care of, see where they’re at physically and then mentally,” Nagy said. “But really we just want to send home the message of ‘here we go.’ It’s right back at it.”

“We want to work smarter, not harder.”

Adding to the scheduling quirk is the fact Chicago just faced the Lions on Nov. 11, a game the Bears won convincingly 34-22.

“We’ll just have to handle what we can handle, prepare as we prepare,” Nagy said. “They’re on a short week, too. To me, there’s no advantage or disadvantage either way.”

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Detroit Lions RB Kerryon Johnson week-to-week with sprained knee

Detroit Lions running back Kerryon Johnson sprained his left knee Sunday but doesn’t need surgery and will be week-to-week, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The rookie, who has been one of the Lions’ most dynamic players this season, injured the knee on a run where he started heading right, saw defenders and cut all the way back to the left side of the field before being tackled near the sideline for a 3-yard gain.

Johnson got up, went to the sideline and was immediately looked at by Lions staff, first on the bench and then on the medical table behind the bench before heading to the locker room for further examination.

Johnson entered Sunday’s game with 103 carries for 554 yards and two touchdowns along with 30 catches for 203 yards and a touchdown. Prior to the injury, Johnson had 15 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown along with two catches for 10 yards against the Panthers.

The Lions also have Theo Riddick, LeGarrette Blount and Zach Zenner as running back options.

ESPN’s Michael Rothstein contributed to this report.

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Detroit Lions practice in snow, leave players asking why

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — The Detroit Lions don’t play a cold-weather outdoor game for a month, but on a day in Michigan with temperatures in the mid-30s and snow falling throughout the day, the team decided to practice outside.

And it left at least one Lions player with questions as to why.

“I don’t know. I mean, I’m just out there trying to stay warm, really,” cornerback Darius Slay said. “Like you said, we got indoor games. Obviously, it doesn’t even matter.”

The 3-6 Lions play at home — in climate-controlled Ford Field — on Sunday against Carolina, then on Thanksgiving against Chicago and on Dec. 1 against the Los Angeles Rams. Then they travel to Arizona before heading to Buffalo on Dec. 16, a full month — or four games — away from where Detroit is now.

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Detroit Lions place guard T.J. Lang on IR with neck injury

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — The Detroit Lions have placed Pro Bowl right guard T.J. Lang on injured reserve after he suffered a neck injury against Minnesota on Nov. 4.

Lang missed last week’s game against Chicago with the injury and now, his season is over barring an unlikely playoff berth.

The 31-year-old signed with the Lions before the 2017 season from Green Bay as the team’s replacement for Larry Warford, who had departed for New Orleans. Detroit gave the Royal Oak, Michigan native a three-year, $28.5 million contract to come home, beating out offers from Seattle and the Packers in the process.

His first two seasons with the Lions did not go as planned. Lang was continuously injured. He started 13 games last season for the Lions, but dealt with a concussion and foot injuries. He started six games this season, but missed time with back, hip and neck injuries along with missing time due to a concussion. The concussion, suffered against Dallas, was the sixth of his career.

Lang also had surgery on his hip in 2017 before signing with the Lions.

Kenny Wiggins is likely to replace Lang in the lineup, like he has whenever Lang’s been out this season.

“We have a lot of confidence in all the guys we play,” offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said Tuesday. “I think Kenny Wiggins has done a really nice job stepping in, ready to roll. Like I said, the guys we put in out there are good football players. We have confidence in them, they’re good players.

T.J.’s a really good football player, there’s no doubt about that. But I like our guys, I think they’re out there competing, working really hard to do everything the best they can.”

It’s also possible Lang has played his final down with the Lions. He has no guaranteed money left on his contract and a cap hit of $11,666,668 million for 2019. The Lions would also owe him a $500,000 roster bonus if he’s on the team the fifth day of the new league year in March.

The Lions signed rookie cornerback Mike Ford to replace Lang on the 53-man roster. Ford will likely replace Lenzy Pipkins, who was waived by Detroit on Monday.

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Detroit Lions, Penn State Nittany Lions trailblazer Wally Triplett dies at 92

Wally Triplett, one of the first African-American men to be drafted and play for an NFL team as well as the first African-American starter at Penn State, died Thursday at age 92.

Triplett was taken in the 19th round of the 1949 draft by the Detroit Lions as a running back and returner — one of three African-American players to be taken in that year’s NFL draft. Of those three, he was the first to appear in a game.

In a 2015 story on, Triplett described what it’s like watching the NFL draft now after becoming one of the first African-American players to be drafted almost 70 years ago.

“When I look at this thing they call the [NFL] draft now, I laugh at it with tears because to be drafted now means you’re automatically in a group with people that are going to get paid for doing nothing,” Triplett told MLive in 2015. “You’re going to get paid before [you] play, and so you get some degree of assurance right away as opposed to, when we were drafted, you were just put on a list.

“If you make it, you make it. If you don’t, you don’t.”

The 5-foot-11, 173-pound Triplett spent two years with the Lions and two years with the Chicago Cardinals, appearing in 24 games with 70 rushes for 321 yards and one touchdown along with catching 17 passes for 175 yards. He started nine games in his career, all for the Lions.

He also had 34 career punt returns for 401 yards and a touchdown and 18 kick returns for 664 yards and a touchdown.

On Oct. 29, 1950, Triplett set a then-NFL record with 294 yards on four kick returns, including a 97-yard touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams. The record stood for 44 years before being broken in 1994 and remains the third-highest mark in league history.

He averaged 73.5 yards per return that day — still an NFL record.

“Wally is one of the true trailblazers in American sports history,” the Lions said in a statement released Thursday announcing his death. “He resides among the great men who helped reshape the game as they faced the challenges of segregation and discrimination. His contributions date back to his days at Penn State as the Nittany Lions’ first African-American starter and varsity letter-winner, highlighted by his appearance in the first integrated Cotton Bowl.”

While at Penn State, he was part of the team that helped bring the “WE ARE,” chant to the university as part of how they overcame racial discrimination. He was one of two African-American players to play for Penn State in the Cotton Bowl against SMU in 1948.

In a 2009 story in the Centre Daily Times, Triplett recalled SMU wanting to meet with Penn State about not playing Triplett and Dennie Hoggard. One of their teammates, guard Steve Suhey, said they wouldn’t even take the meeting.

“We are Penn State,” Triplett remembered Suhey saying, according to the Centre Daily Times. “There will be no meetings.”

Triplett was inducted into the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame earlier this year. In his time at Penn State he had a career punt-return average of 16.5 yards and has the fourth-longest punt return in school history, at 85 yards.

His two years with the Lions and two years with the Cardinals bracketed two years of service in the Korean War with the 594th Field Artillery Battalion.

Triplett was born in La Mott, Pennsylvania on April 18, 1926 and played football, basketball and baseball at Cheltenham High School. He is survived by three children, six grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

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Ezekiel Ansah active for Detroit Lions for first time since Week 1

MINNEAPOLIS — Detroit Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah is active against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday for the first time since Week 1, when he injured his shoulder.

The former Pro Bowler had signed a one-year franchise-tag contract this offseason and has been expected to be a major part of a revamped defense under first-year head coach Matt Patricia. But Ansah, 29, who has battled injuries throughout his career, has been largely unavailable.

During his games away, he has often practiced during the week only to be ruled out either Friday or Saturday. He has been limited to just 19 snaps, accumulating four tackles and a sack.

This injury has been frustrating for him.

“I wouldn’t wish that upon nobody,” Ansah said last month, prior to Detroit’s game against Miami. “I’m just happy that I’ve been better over the weeks, and I’m just looking forward to keep improving.”

The Lions have been coy on Ansah’s exact injury — not surprising considering the team’s policy on discussing injuries since general manager Bob Quinn took over in January 2016.

On Friday, Patricia seemed more optimistic about Ansah than he had in weeks.

“He’s right in the mix right now with all of it. It’s been good for him to be out there every single day,” Patricia said.

“You want to go out and see him be able to produce in practice and function to a level where a) he can protect himself and b) he can do what you need him to do and then be able to come in the next day and still feel like he’s moving in the right direction with that. So it is day-by-day for us right now but it’s certainly been good for the last couple of weeks to be able to see a little bit of consistency with that kind of preparation.”

Now, for the first time in more than a month, Ansah has been consistent enough from a health perspective to play.

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Stefon Diggs of Minnesota Vikings not expected to play vs. Detroit Lions

Minnesota Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs, listed as questionable with a rib injury, is not expected to play Sunday against the visiting Detroit Lions, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Minnesota has its bye week upcoming, so Diggs will have two weeks to rest his injured ribs.

On Saturday, the Vikings elevated wide receiver Chad Beebe off the practice squad and onto the active roster.

For the past two months, Beebe’s work on the scout team has drawn praise from many within the organization. The 5-foot-10 slot receiver gives Minnesota a different look among its group of pass-catchers.

A source also told Schefter that Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, questionable with a lingering hamstring injury, is expected to see the field but be on a pitch count of about 20 or so plays.

Minnesota (4-3-1) has had the same thought before, only to see Cook struggle pregame and deactivate him.

For the Lions, cornerback Darius Slay is expected to play, a source told Schefter.

Detroit (3-4) is also optimistic that defensive end Ziggy Ansah, who has not played since the first quarter of Week 1 because of a shoulder injury, will play against Minnesota, a source said. The Lions just want to test him pregame first.

Information from ESPN’s Courtney Cronin was used in this report.

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Dalvin Cook and Stefon Diggs are questionable for the Minnesota Vikings game against the Detroit Lions

EAGAN, Minn. — Dalvin Cook and Stefon Diggs are listed as questionable for the Minnesota Vikings‘ Week 9 game against the Detroit Lions.

The wide receiver said he sustained an injury to his ribs in the second quarter of the New Orleans Saints game after catching a 19-yard screen pass and hitting the ground after he was tackled. Diggs did not practice on Wednesday and Thursday and appeared to return in limited capacity on Friday.

Cook returned to practice in limited capacity this week after shutting down football activity entirely in the days leading into the Vikings game against the Saints. The running back is recovering from the hamstring injury he sustained in Week 2 and said he won’t know how his body will respond until he gets in a game.

“I’ve been practicing all week,” Cook said Thursday. “I’m in a comfortable spot. I just got to keep stacking the days up. One thing about injuries — you can’t ever replicate a game in practice. Tweaking and turning your body and getting tackled. We don’t tackle in practice. So you’ll never know.”

Xavier Rhodes, Andrew Sendejo and Riley Reiff are also listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. Tom Compton, Anthony Barr and Roc Thomas are out.

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Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia calls Golden Tate trade decision ‘difficult,’ but ‘best logical decision’

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia said trading receiver Golden Tate was a “difficult” decision but one the franchise believed was the “best logical decision” to make.

Tate, the team’s leading receiver in catches (44) and yards (517) this season, was dealt to Philadelphia for a 2019 third-round pick. The 30-year-old receiver is in the final year of his contract.

“For us, it’s again the holistic picture of taking a look at what’s best for us to do as a team and in those situations. They are not easy decisions, and they are certainly difficult decisions,” Patricia said. “Again, for us, it’s not about one player. It’s about a team. It’s about everybody. We have a lot of guys that are really good on this team that can produce, and honestly, for me, we have confidence in everybody on this team right now, that everybody can go out and do their job.

“I think we’ve seen through the course of multiple different examples of years in the NFL where these things happen and people move on and they keep going and they keep winning. So, is it difficult to win in this league? One hundred percent it is. Every single week is hard, so we’re just going to have to work harder and keep going.”

Patricia said he spoke to his players about the deal and stressed to them that they have to start preparing for the Vikings on Sunday and that he believes in the players Detroit has on its offense even without Tate.

“The biggest point for me to make sure everybody understands is that this also shows a lot of confidence in the people that are in that room,” Patricia said. “There’s great players in that room and there’s a lot of them and there’s a lot of guys that have opportunities to go out there and make plays and go out there and play at a high level, and we’re all good with that from that standpoint.”

The first-year Lions coach said Detroit would replace Tate with a multitude of players depending on the situation and the game. Likely candidates include receivers TJ Jones and Brandon Powell, tight end Michael Roberts and running back Theo Riddick.

“You never want to see somebody go, whether it’s one day or four-and-a-half years, you build a rapport with the people around you,” Jones said. “So any time someone leaves, it’s a shock. It’s something you go through. You want to comfort them but also give ’em space to adapt to their new team and all of htat. I think everyone is just supporting him but we all know the task at hand here.”

The decision to deal Tate, though, appeared to come down to short-term gains versus long-term goals in the team’s evaluation of whether to keep Tate.

“it’s important for us, when we evaluate everything that we do as a franchise, I think there’s certain value that we can get at times during the season that will help us long term and obviously have faith and confidence in the people that are on this team right now,” Patricia said. “So we put all that into play and we’re trying to make the best decision we can in that moment, and it’s hard, very difficult when you’re in that ‘one game at a time’ mindset and that’s really where we are, from the standpoint of it’s week to week for us and that’s good, but there’s also a big picture here that is good for those to keep an eye on as we move forward.

“That’s something we always have to consider when we make all these decisions, whether it’s during the season, during the offseason, free agency, draft, whatever it is, those are difficult decisions no matter when they come up.”

Detroit signed linebacker Kelvin Sheppard to take Tate’s vacant space on the roster. He’s the fourth former Giants front-seven player to be brought in by Detroit this year, joining linebacker Devon Kennard, nose tackle Damon Harrison and defensive end Romeo Okwara.

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Detroit Lions commit to win-now mode with trade for Damon Harrison – Detroit Lions Blog

DETROIT — One of the biggest criticisms of Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn during the past two offseasons was his inability to adequately address the team’s issues along the defensive line. The Lions struggled to get to the quarterback. Stopping the run was an adventure.

And Quinn did little to improve it. Until Wednesday.

In trading a fifth-round pick to the Giants for Damon “Snacks” Harrison, Quinn not only shored up Detroit’s defensive line with one of the best run-stoppers in the league, he also proved that the Lions believe they have a window to win. Now.

Harrison, who turns 30 in November, is a dominating presence in the middle of Detroit’s defense. At 355 pounds, he’s the big, space-eating nose tackle the Lions just haven’t had. They hoped Sylvester Williams could be that player, but he hasn’t reached the level of Harrison, a 2016 first-team All-Pro who can force double teams to take place in the middle. It could give Detroit a presence reminiscent of what head coach Matt Patricia had in New England, when his best defenses had the massive Vince Wilfork in the middle of the line, controlling what went on up front. He lacked that player in Detroit, but not anymore.

It’s almost a better version of what the Lions had in Haloti Ngata, who missed half of last season due to injury before leaving for Philadelphia in the offseason. And when the Lions failed to really replace Ngata, that left a massive hole. In trading for Harrison, Detroit has filled it.

They’ve done it for now, with an option for more later. Harrison is under contract until 2020, with cap hits of $7 million in 2019 and $9.25 million in 2020. The Lions can afford that because they had significant cap room heading into the next two seasons. But with none of the money guaranteed, they are locked into nothing after this season. That means they can turn Harrison into a half-year rental or the centerpiece of their defensive line for the foreseeable future, paired with young players like Da’Shawn Hand and his former-and-once-again teammates, Romeo Okwara and Devon Kennard.

Having Harrison in the middle should also improve Detroit’s pass rush, even if he is not a significant pass-rusher himself. The attention that he will command in the middle will keep offenses from being able to focus too much on Kennard, Eli Harold, Okwara and, when he returns, Ezekiel Ansah. So that could give those players more one-on-one matchups that could lead to quarterback pressure.

This move also did something else. It showed that the Lions, at 3-3, clearly believe they have a team that can win — and win this year. That shouldn’t be shocking considering Detroit fired Jim Caldwell last year after back-to-back 9-7 seasons, with Quinn saying at the time he felt his team was better than its record.

He hired his friend Patricia to make Detroit better. After a rough start, the Lions have shown some promise over the past month, winning three of their past four games. But the defensive line was still Detroit’s biggest problem. And one Quinn needed to address if the Lions had any realistic hope of winning the NFC North this year.

The Lions had to. Being No. 30 in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (139.3) and last in yards per rush allowed (5.32) was going to be a problem, especially as the weather got colder and the Lions hit a string of talented teams in the last two months of the season. It was clearly going to be one of the issues that held them back, as they had allowed 89 yards rushing or more to every opponent this season (and 105 yards or more in four of six games).

That wasn’t going to cut it the rest of the way, and the easiest way to fix it was to find someone to send them the run-stopper they couldn’t find anywhere else.

The Giants did — and Detroit just became a team to be a little more concerned about in the NFC North.

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