Twentyman: Lions make a couple tough choices in trimming roster to 53

Posted Aug 31, 2013

Cornerback Chris Greenwood and receiver Matt Willis among 22 Lions cuts

This is the part of the job that coaches and general managers hate.

Today, Jim Schwartz and Martin Mayhew had to tell 22 players they no longer have a job.

"They're always tough," Schwartz said this week about looming cuts.

"Guys have worked very hard and have put their whole heart and soul into trying to find a niche and contribute. It's always difficult to say goodbye to those guys. I think if those guys all keep in mind the fact that they're working to improve as football players and they do a good job at that then they'll be in a better position when camp is over. But it's always a very difficult time."

It's necessary, though, and became the reality for some now former Lions players on Saturday.

The Lions trimmed their roster from 75 players to 53 with a couple mild surprises.

Cornerback Chris Greenwood, a fifth-round pick out of Albion in 2012, was among the cuts. Injuries never allowed the Lions to get a true evaluation of the super athletic cornerback.

Physically, he's everything the Lions like in a cornerback at 6-foot-1, 193 pounds with good speed (4.34 at his pro day). Unfortunately, he missed all of last season with an abdominal injury and the first two weeks of training camp this season because of a hamstring injury.

The Lions had just two preseason games to evaluate Greenwood and he did not play well in Buffalo, Thursday, getting beat by wide receiver Marcus Easley for a 79-yard score.

The Lions have already expressed to Greenwood that they wish for him to be on their eight-man practice squad if he clears waivers on Sunday.

Staying at cornerback, the team also released veteran Ron Bartell. He became expendable with the emergence of rookie Darius Slay and the signing of veteran Rashean Mathis, who can play cornerback, safety and the nickel cornerback spot.

Bartell started one game for the Lions last year and entered training camp as the starter opposite Chris Houston.

Receiver Matt Willis was also cut, despite a very strong preseason. He was the team's second-leading receiver over the preseason with nine catches for 129 yards and a touchdown, but in the end, it was Micheal Spurlock's ability to return and cover kicks that earned him a spot on the roster over Willis.

The Lions kept six receivers on the initial 53-man roster – Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Ryan Broyles, Patrick Edwards, Spurlock and Kris Durham.

Spurlock making the roster made running back/returner Steven Miller expendable.

Miller, an undrafted free agent out of Appalachian State, is a good candidate for the practice squad. He showed this preseason that he has a burst and can handle kicks. He's a player the team would like to develop for the future.

Safeties Tyrell Johnson and Amari Spievey were also released.

Spievey, a former third-round pick of the Lions in 2010, was a 26-game starter in three seasons. He appeared in five games in 2012, but was placed on injured reserve after suffering a concussion.

Johnson was getting a lot of reps with the second team, but the Lions instead went with the combination of Glover Quin, Louis Delmas, Don Carey and Mathis. John Wendling, listed as a safety, is one of the team's special teams aces.

The Lions had some tough decisions to make along their offensive line and ultimately decided to release Jake Scott, Rodney Austin, Darren Keyton and Kevin Haslem.

Scott played quite a bit with the first-team offense this preseason, but the versatility Dylan Gandy and Leroy Harris provide in being able to also play both guard and center, made Scott expendable.

The team also placed rookie tight end Michael Williams on season-ending injured reserve. Williams broke a bone in his hand vs. New England the third week of the preseason. Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler and Joseph Fauria will enter the season as the three tight ends.

The team kept running back Montell Owens, but it's expected he'll be placed on short-term injured reserve on Tuesday, the first day the team can do so. That will open a roster spot early this week.

Owens, who injured his knee in a non-contact play vs. New England, would be eligible to come off IR in six weeks.

That would leave the Lions with running backs Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Mikel Leshoure and Theo Riddick for the regular season opener vs. Minnesota.

Here's a complete list of today's cuts:

Receivers (2):

Corey Fuller, Matt Willis

Running backs (2):

Steven Miller and Shaun Chapas

Cornerbacks (2):

Ron Bartell and Chris Greenwood

Safeties (3):

Amari Spievey, Tyrell Johnson and Martavious Neloms (waived injured)

Linebackers (3):

Chris White, Jon Morgan (waived injured) and Brandon Hepburn

Offensive linemen (4):

Jake Scott, Darren Keyton, Kevin Haslam and Rodney Austin

Defensive linemen (4):

Jimmy Saddler-McQueen, Ogemdi Nwagbuo, Andre Fluellen and Xavier Proctor

Punter (1):

Blake Clingan

NOTE: Tight end Michael Williams placed on injured reserve.