NOTEBOOK: Playing for pride; the elephant in the room and Christmas practice

Posted Dec 24, 2013

Veteran receiver Nate Burleson says the Lions are playing for pride in Minnesota on Sunday, but also says some are playing for their jobs

Veteran receiver Nate Burleson probably summed up the mood of the Detroit Lions players the best on Tuesday when he said, "You try to laugh to keep from crying."

The Lions were eliminated from the playoffs after Sunday’s overtime loss to the New York Giants and are now left to play for pride this week in Minnesota.

Nate BurlesonWR Nate Burleson (Photo: Gavin Smith)

”It is tough,” said veteran guard Rob Sims. ”Right now you’re playing for pride. Really, that’s it. Our pride is going to have to be what shows up this week, because nothing else really matters. After that, we’ll see what happens.”

Sims kind of eluded to it, but there is more on the line than pride. Some players are playing for roster spots. Some will try to make one last impression heading into an offseason where changes could be coming.

”I’ve been in situations where teams didn’t fulfill expectations and everyone was back and gave the team another opportunity,” Burleson said. ”They kept that same team together who had so much promise.

”Then I was with teams who were blown up and it was like a complete (overhaul) of individuals. I guess you expect the worse and hope for the best in situations like this. At the end of the day, it is what it is.”

Like the Lions, the Minnesota Vikings are eliminated from the post-season contention and will be finishing out their season much the same way.

They, however, are closing out the Metrodome for the last time, so there is that extra motivation. But Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, who also played five years in the NFL, said these kinds of weeks could be tough on players, especially veterans.

”It is really tough for veteran guys who have been in the league for a while and may realize this may be their last shot and not playing for a playoff berth, it’s tough but we are working with professionals, they understand the situation and have a lot of pride about what they do,” he said. ”They come to work and worked hard the last few weeks to try and get wins. They are pros at the end of the day.”

We’ll find out what kind of fight this Lions team has left after what can only be described as a devastating loss last week.

”After that 60 minutes is up on Sunday, what is it that you’re going to put up on film?” Burleson said. ”What are you going to show the world? What are you going to show the other 31 teams? What are you going to show this organization? What are you going to show people who are still tuning in?

”It would look even worse is we went out there to Minnesota and packed it in. That’s putting salt in the wound.”


Lions head coach Jim Schwartz and Frazier have both had their coaching futures come under speculation over the last couple weeks.

Schwartz has chosen not to address the issue with his team over that span, instead trying to keep the focus on football and the task at hand.

Frazier, however, admitted to local reporters in a conference call Tuesday that he did address the issue about his future with the team during a meeting Tuesday morning.

”I thought about that a week ago, because there were some reports out there and I didn’t really talk to our guys about it, but this morning in our team meeting, I felt like I needed to address it with our players,” Frazier said.

”I want them to just concentrate on their jobs, not be worried about the coach or what’s going on with me. They need to concentrate on this game, this game plan, and not let that become a distraction. I felt like last week when I didn’t address it, it did become a distraction and I don’t want it to be.”

Frazier said his message was simple.

”To concentrate on the Detroit Lions and our game plan and prepare to have their best game of the season and not get caught up in any of the speculation or the conversation, because I know they’re going to get asked by reporters," he said. "So I just want them to concentrate on this ballgame and not get distracted by anything other than what we have to get done.”


The Vikings will be taking Christmas off, while the Lions will be practicing on Wednesday.

And Burleson doesn’t have a bit of a problem with it.

”Do we really deserve a day off?” he said. ”We get paid to play football. We have to come in and practice. We still want to win this game and coaches want to win this game.”

The Lions were eliminated from playoff contention after stumbling to a 1-5 mark over their last six games. They started 6-3.

”As long as I get to see my kids smiling in the morning and unwrap some gifts, I’m okay with showing up to work and getting something done tomorrow,” Burleson said.

”You guys know as well as we do that there’s stuff to work on. We’re not going to start to slack off. I think it’s the right decision.”

Frazier said he decided not to have practice on Christmas after talking it over with team leaders. The Vikings turned Tuesday into Wednesday and will have a normal Thursday and Friday.

”It was a good call,” Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said. ”We are practicing today to get it out of the way and get to spend Christmas with our people.

”We get a day where I don’t have to worry about waking up in the morning and coming in for practice and spend Christmas with the family.”

Lions players were out of the building by noon Tuesday and don’t have to report back to Allen Park until the afternoon on Christmas.