| The Detroit News
Nothing has been normal about this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. That’s equally true about the NFL season. As cases have trended upward around the country, they’ve also picked up around the league, forcing multiple teams to close their facilities, adjust their practice schedules, and in some instances, postpone games.
Prior to this week, the Detroit Lions had dodged the problems other teams had been facing, but that ended when they had to place a player on the COVID reserve list three consecutive days starting Tuesday. To make matters worse, that group included starting quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Fortunately for the Lions, this wasn’t an outbreak, but rather three unrelated issues. And based on reports from Stafford’s wife Kelly, he merely was in close contact with someone who contracted the virus, as opposed to contracting it himself. That means there’s still a good chance he’s cleared to play against Minnesota on Sunday.
Still, it’s been enough to keep Stafford in isolation, out of the facility, putting backup Chase Daniel in charge of the offense for the practice week ahead of Sunday’s divisional matchup.
“Definitely a weird week,” Daniel said. “There is no doubt about it. But, for me, I’m relishing the role of being the starter. That’s what I’m going into this game as, and I prepared all this week. I thought we had a really good week of practice, really good communication. We love the game plan, but yeah, I would say by far in 12 years, it’s no doubt the craziest week I’ve ever been apart of.”
During a short video conference with reporters on Friday, Daniel hit on theme of mental preparation repeatedly. He has to prepare like he’s going to play every week because he never knows when his number will be called. Even though Stafford has yet to miss a snap this year, every player is one bad hit away from an injury.
But reading between the lines, even though Daniel is preparing like he’s going to start, he doesn’t expect that he will.
“I’m so used to running the scout team my entire career, except for the times that I’ve started,” Daniel said. “To get a full week of practice in this offense, which is awesome, there’s so many things to it, and it’s different watching than rather going out and running it.
“I feel really good about our week in practice,” Daniel continued. “I thought we were really sharp Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. We came out there today, and I think one ball hit the ground in red-zone work today. It was a good day for us out there. It’s been fun. I think that this will only help me down the road if I ever have to play.”
Down the road sure doesn’t sound like this Sunday. But Daniel also claimed he didn’t know when he would find out for sure.
“It might be tomorrow, it might be before the game, I’m just going into the game like I’m starting,” Daniel said. “I’ve done my normal routine, right? Because that’s been my normal routine for 12 years. I haven’t done anything more. I haven’t done anything less. I trust the routine. I’ve perfected it over 12 years, so I feel like I’m in a really good spot right now.”
A day after Lions defensive end Everson Griffen called out Mike Zimmer for his lukewarm praise ahead of Sunday’s game, the Vikings coach responded to his former player’s comments.
“I did (see Griffen’s comments). I don’t know,” Zimmer told local reporters. “I wasn’t trying to be derogatory. I think I made him a captain my first or second year here. He’s always been a terrific leader for us, always done everything we tried to ask him to do.
“I thought we had a good relationship. I don’t feel like I was being derogatory at all. I think Everson understands how I feel about him. I thought he did, anyway.”
On Thursday, Griffen expressed annoyance that Zimmer called him a “good player” in an interview ahead of the defensive end’s return to Minnesota after playing 10 seasons for the franchise.
“Coach Zimmer wasn’t just a good coach, he was a great coach to me,” Griffen said. “So for him to call me a good player, that kind of hurt my feelings. So on Sunday, I’m really looking forward to playing the Vikings and showing them that I am a great player.”
In 10 seasons with the Vikings, Griffen played in 154 games, recording 74.5 sacks and earning four Pro Bowl selections.