Thu Jan 21 6:55pm ET
By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer
Dan Campbell is empathic about the hard times people have had in Detroit, in their lives and as fans of the Lions
AP Photo transref:DT401, transref:DT402, transref:DT404, transref:DT403, transref:NY153
By LARRY LAGE=
AP Sports Writer=
Dan Campbell is empathic about the hard times people have had in Detroit, in their lives and as fans of the Lions.
And, the new coach of the long-suffering franchise is fired up for an opportunity to help the NFL team and people in the Motor City.
''We need to bring some hope back into this place,'' Campbell said Thursday, a day after he signed a six-year contract with the Lions and general manger Brad Holmes was formally introduced.
Despair, though, is a commonly shared emotion for followers of a franchise with 13 double-digit loss seasons since 2001 and only one playoff victory since winning the NFL title in 1957.
The 44-year-old Campbell is the latest coach to try to change the conversation about the lowly Lions.
The former New Orleans Saints tight ends and assistant head coach has 11 years of experience in the NFL as a coach and 11 as a player with the New York Giants, Dallas, Detroit and New Orleans. In 2015, he was 5-7 as interim coach of the Miami Dolphins after taking over a 1-3 team.
Campbell knows the Lions' woeful history all too well because he played for the team for three seasons, including in 2008 when he had an injury early in the league's first 0-16 season.
He's the first former player to lead the franchise since Hall of Famer and two-time NFL champion Joe Schmidt was Detroit's coach from 1967-72.
''I wanted this job - bad - because I felt like I know this community, I played here,'' Campbell said in a emotionally charged opening statement that lasted about 19 minutes at his virtual news conference. ''This place has been kicked, it's been battered, it's been bruised.
''I could give you coach-speak all day long. I could give you, `Hey, we're going to win this many games.' None of that matters and you guys don't want to hear it anyway. You've had enough of that.''
Campbell went on to say some sensational things as he described how the team will take on Detroit's identity.
''This city's been down and it found a way to get up and it has found a way to overcome adversity,'' he said. ''This team is going to be built on, we're going to kick you in the teeth. When you punch us back, we're going to smile at you. And when you knock us down, we're going to get up and on the way up, we're going to bite a kneecap off.''
The Lions hired Campbell after interviewing Arthur Smith, Robert Saleh, Marvin Lewis, Eric Bieniemy and Darrell Bevell, who closed the season as interim coach. Smith was hired by the Atlanta Falcons while the New York Jets signed Saleh.
''During our general manager interviews, we were asking each candidate to name head coaches that they would consider part of their list if they were to make a choice, '' team president Rod Wood said. ''Dan showed up on numerous lists.''
Nearly three months ago, the Lions began searching for a general manger and coach after team owner Sheila Ford Hamp fired Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia. Patricia was 13-29-1 in two-plus seasons as a first-time NFL head coach.
Even though it appeared to be clear that Campbell was the choice well before Holmes was hired, Wood insisted the new general manager was on board with the decision.
''It may have been an odd process, but I think it resulted in an outstanding result,'' Wood said.
Detroit did make Holmes one of just four Black general managers in the NFL, but the franchise followed a league-wide trend of hiring white head coaches.
Rod Graves, executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which champions diversity in the NFL, called the disparity in opportunities ''mind-boggling,'' when there are many successful Black coordinators in the NFL.
''You're looking for the best candidates or the best fit for your organization and I think everyone goes in colorblind - honestly,'' Hamp said. ''I do think the league, and I think everyone's aware, can do a better job of creating a pipeline and teaching, developing and working with diverse candidates.''
Interview with a Champ
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin is poised for a great showing against the Packers in the NFC Championship game. Godwin has 19 targets in the Buccaneers' two playoff games, a mark that leads the team. He could be in line to receive more work than usual, as Mike Evans will likely have to deal with star corner Jaire Alexander and Antonio Brown (knee) is a game-time decision. The drops have been an issue for Godwin in the postseason, but Tom Brady's trust in him hasn't wavered. He won't be as pricey as Stefon Diggs or Davante Adams, but he could provide similar production, making him a great DFS value play this week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans will likely face off with Packers' star corner Jaire Alexander in the NFC title game. This is fresh off of being held to one catch by Marshon Lattimore- though his lone reception was a touchdown. Evans and Alexander went toe-to-toe in Week 6, with Alexander following him on 76 percent of the routes, holding him to zero catches, per Pro Football Focus. Evans is talented enough to beat any corner, but this is legitimately a matchup to fear. He should be faded in DFS tournaments this weekend.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II (quadriceps) said he's "good" after returning last week from a quadriceps injury in a win over New Orleans. Jones has since gotten in two limited practice sessions and seems poised to be out there again on Sunday against Green Bay. While he's likely looking at a timeshare with Leonard Fournette, Jones has the upside to be the better valued running back this weekend in DFS. He only had 13 carries last week but ran hard against the Saints' stingy run defense- it's also worth noting that he had 20+ carries in a game three times this season, one of which was against the Packers. Jones is riskier than Fournette but could provide more bang for your buck, especially if he runs like he did last week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette has been on a roll in the playoffs. With fellow back Ronald Jones II (quadriceps) battling injury, Fournette has taken the reins of the backfield with 45 total touches in his last two games, the most for him in any two-game stretch this season. Jones seems to be getting healthier, but expect Fournette to have the slight carry edge if it turns into a timeshare. Green Bay's run defense has tightened up in the second half of the season, though it's still not a matchup to fear. Don't expect 20+ touches again, but Fournette could have himself a solid day against the Packers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady has led his team on a six-game winning streak all the way up to Aaron Rodgers' doorstep at Lambeau Field for the NFC title game. Brady is playing some of the best football of his career in those six games, a stretch that includes the playoffs, where he's thrown for 580 passing yards, four passing scores, and one rushing touchdown against two of the league's better overall defenses. Tampa Bay may try to attack the Packers with the ground game, a formula that helped lead to their Week 6 blowout win. Brady might not provide the upside that the other quarterbacks on the slate can deliver, but he's been a safe, dependable option. That should continue on Sunday against Green Bay.
Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator officially announced his retirement on Thursday after 25 seasons of coaching in the NFL. He was hired in Minnesota in 2019 to be the team's assistant head coach/offensive advisor, serving as the offensive coordinator in 2020. The 59-year-old was leaning toward retirement after the season, but he has made it official. The Vikings will have their sixth offensive coordinator in eight seasons in 2021. The team ranked fourth in yards per game (393.3) and finished 11th in points at 26.9 per game in 2020 under Kubiak. Quarterback Kirk Cousins had a career year and running back Dalvin Cook made Pro Bowls each of the last two seasons. Kubiak will retire with four Super Bowl rings to his name -- one as Denver's head coach, back-to-back titles in 1997-98 as Denver's offensive coordinator and his first Super Bowl ring in 1994 as the 49ers quarterbacks coach.
The Los Angeles Rams officially hired Raheem Morris to be their next defensive coordinator on Thursday. Morris will be replacing Brandon Staley, who was hired as the Chargers head coach last Sunday. The 44-year-old will bring 18 years of NFL coaching experience on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. He served as the interim head coach of the Falcons for their final 11 games in 2020. Morris was with Atlanta the last six seasons. He was the youngest head coach in the league in 2009 when he was hired by the Buccaneers. Morris started his NFL coaching career as a defensive quality control coach for Tampa in 2002 and was promoted to assistant defensive backs coach in 2004. He worked with head coach Sean McVay a combined four seasons with the Bucs and Washington. Morris will take over a nasty defense led by All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The Rams D will likely be the first fantasy unit off the board in 2021 drafts.
The New York Jets are hiring Jeff Ulbrich as their defensive coordinator, and he will call plays on defense for the Jets in 2021. Ulbrich started last year as the Atlanta Falcons assistant head coach and linebackers coach, and he was promoted to defensive coordinator when Raheem Morris took over as the interim head coach in October. In six seasons as the team's linebackers coach, Ulbrich mentored players like Deion Jones, De'Vondre Campbell and Foye Oluokun. He was a third-round pick of the 49ers in 2000, recording 488 career tackles, six forced fumbles, 5.5 sacks and two interceptions with San Francisco from 2000-09. Head coach Robert Saleh and Ulbrich coached together in 2011 with the Seahawks under Pete Carroll.
The Philadelphia Eagles are hiring Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni as their next head coach on Thursday, according to sources. Sirianni spent three seasons as an assistant coach with the Kansas City Chiefs, five seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers and the past three years with the Colts. The Colts went 4-12 and ranked 30th in the league in points and 31st in yards in 2017, the year before Sirianni joined Indy. In the last three years, the Colts ranked fifth, 16th and ninth in scoring under the 39-year-old and made the playoffs twice. Sirianni becomes the Eagles second-youngest head coach and the fourth straight offensive-minded head coach under owner Jeffrey Lurie. He's also the team's seventh straight head coach with no previous head-coaching experience, and one of his primary jobs will be to see if the team can salvage their relationship with quarterback Carson Wentz and turn him around after the worst season of his career.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown (knee) hasn't practiced yet this week and will be a game-time decision for the NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, according to head coach Bruce Arians. Brown is still being listed as day-to-day, but fantasy managers should consider him very questionable to suit up this weekend. Even if the 32-year-old veteran does play, he'll be a risky touchdown-dependent option and will be at risk of seeing fewer snaps in an offense with plenty of pass-catching weapons. He'll need to get in at least a limited practice on Friday to have a chance at playing. Rookie Tyler Johnson and Scotty Miller should see more opportunities behind Mike Evans and Chris Godwin if Brown is inactive against the Packers.
Former Baltimore Ravens defensive line coach Joe Cullen is joining the Jacksonville Jaguars and new head coach Urban Meyer as the team's defensive coordinator, according to sources. Cullen becomes the third defensive assistant to leave the Ravens Defense since the 2020 season ended, joining Mike Macdonald and Jesse Minter. He had spent the last five seasons with the Ravens and will return to the Jaguars after serving as a defensive line coach from 2010-12 with them. It will be Cullen's first job as a defensive coordinator in the NFL after being a D coordinator at Richmond and Indiana. Jacksonville's defense ranked 31st in sacks (18) and 29th in fumble recoveries (five) while allowing the second-most points (492), ninth-most passing yards per game (270.1) and third-most rushing yards per game (153.3) in 2020.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are planning to sign former first-round quarterback Dwayne Haskins on Thursday, according to sources. Haskins is meeting with Steelers coaches right now and a deal should be hammered out if all goes well. He was cut by the Washington Football Team in late December after just 13 starts in less than two years. Haskins also visited the Carolina Panthers. Ben Roethlisberger's future is in doubt after a rough second half of the season, and the Steelers didn't upgrade their quarterback room of Mason Rudolph and Joshua Dobbs last year. Despite struggling in his first two years, Haskins has a strong arm, but poor mechanics and struggles to read defenses have led to inconsistent play so far. A change of scenery and proper coaching could turn things around for Haskins, but he'll still be off the fantasy radar in redraft leagues in 2021.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Le'Veon Bell (knee) was added to the injury report and did not practice on Thursday. Linebacker Willie Gay (ankle) also missed his second straight practice this week. Mid-week additions are usually not a good sign, but the Chiefs might just be giving the veteran Bell a little extra rest ahead of the AFC Championship tilt against the Bills on Sunday. Bell's practice status on Friday will be telling. The 28-year-old just hasn't looked like his old self in KC while mainly splitting touches with rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but Bell hasn't really taken advantage of CEH's injury late in the season. He carried the ball just two times for six yards in the Divisional Round against the Browns and has just nine carries for 36 yards in two games with Edwards-Helaire sidelined. It's looking like the rookie will return against Buffalo, too, which makes Bell one to avoid in fantasy lineups.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (concussion) is practicing again on Thursday with a helmet. Rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle, hip), wide receiver Sammy Watkins (calf) and cornerbacks Bashaud Breeland (concussion, shoulder) and Rashad Fenton (foot) are also practicing. Mahomes might be limited again on Thursday, but he appears to be making good progress in the league's concussion protocol after clearing some steps initially on Monday. While he's not officially out of the protocol, the 25-year-old is expected to suit up in the AFC Championship against the Bills on Sunday after leaving the Divisional Round with a concussion. Mahomes will be a bit more risky at a high DFS price this weekend, but he did throw for 225 yards and two touchdowns against Buffalo earlier this year and could easily go off if he's past his concussion issues from a week ago.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown (knee) was not seen Thursday, Jan. 21, in the portion of practice open to the media. Afterward, head coach Bruce Arians said he expects Brown's status for the NFC Championship Game on Sunday to come down to a game-time decision, adding that Brown doesn't necessarily need to practice this week in order to play.
Fantasy Spin: Brown was limited to 40 percent of the offensive snaps and one 10-yard reception on three targets in the divisional-round win over the Saints, but his status is obviously very much in question this week. Even if he does play, it's tough to imagine Brown seeing a ton of snaps or having a big impact.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins (calf) is participating in practice Thursday, Jan. 21.
Fantasy Spin: Watkins, who was limited in practice Wednesday, hasn't played since Week 16, and upping his participation level Thursday or Friday will go a long way toward doing so.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (concussion, toe) is participating in practice with a helmet Thursday, Jan. 21.
Fantasy Spin: Another necessary step as Mahomes navigates the concussion protocol this week. There will be a forthcoming update regarding his level of participation Thursday.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown (knee) was out of practice Thursday, Jan. 21.
Fantasy Spin: He's still expected to play in the NFC Championship game, and he'll be a WR2 option in playoff leagues.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are retaining defensive coordinator Keith Butler for at least one more season, according to a source. The 64-year-old has been with the team since 2003 and in his role as the defensive coordinator since 2015. Pittsburgh's defense was a top-five unit in 2020, finishing first in total QBR (55.9) and sacks (56). However, they began to fall apart in the final month of the season. They allowed 111.4 rushing yards per game and 4.31 yards per carry after being the best run defense in the first half of the year. They ranked third in the NFL in passing yards per game (194.4) and yards per attempt (5.91). Losing linebackers Devin Bush and Bud Dupree to injuries during the season was a big reason why Pittsburgh's defense wasn't as strong to close out the year. Despite the disappointing finish, this unit should be a top target for fantasy managers late in drafts in 2021.
Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said on Wednesday that he's "not apologizing" for quarterback Lamar Jackson's style of play or the team's run-first approach on offense. Baltimore scored just three points in the Divisional Round loss to the Bills, and offensive coordinator Greg Roman received criticism for what looked like a simplistic passing attack. The Ravens finished last in the NFL in passing for the first time since 2003. Harbaugh points out that they finished seventh in scoring in 2020, averaging 29.3 points per game. While Baltimore doesn't air the football out like other teams, they've also led the league in rushing each of the last two years, and Jackson has been a big part of that. Despite his limitations as a passer, Jackson remains a high-end QB1 for fantasy managers entering the 2021 season. Running back J.K. Dobbins will only see his stock rise as well in one of the NFL's most run-heavy offenses heading into his second season.