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Lions shuffle coaching staff ahead of Saturday's game

The Detroit Lions will have their third head coach this season when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ford Field Saturday.

Wide receivers coach Robert Prince will assume head coaching duties Saturday after Darrell Bevell, who was named interim coach after Matt Patricia was let go last month, has been deemed a high-risk close contact to a confirmed COVID-19 positive case.

Prince is a former college offensive coordinator at Boise State. He joined Jim Caldwell's staff in 2014 and was retained by Patricia in 2018. He's in his seventh season as Lions receivers coach and 13th NFL season overall.

Prince's coaching career has taken him from Humboldt State to the Japanese X League and then to the NFL.

Along with Bevell, defensive coordinator Cory Undlin, defensive line coach Bo Davis, defensive backs coach Steven Gregory and linebackers coach Ty McKenzie also won't be available to coach Saturday.

While Prince will assume head coaching duties, quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan will call offensive plays. Head coach assistant/research and analysis coach Evan Rothstein will be the defensive play caller.

"Evan has been here for nine years, he's like our second-longest tenured guy," Bevell said Thursday. "As the head coach assistant, he has worked really on the offensive side, defensive side and with the special teams, but the last couple years with coach Patricia, he'd worked basically on the defensive side of the ball. He is our most knowledgeable in terms of defense. He has the most experience and will be able to get that done at a high level for us."

Unlike Undlin, Rothstein will be calling the defensive plays up in the coaching box and not on the sideline.

"He'll do a great job," Bevell said of Rothstein.

Ryan has never called offensive plays before, but Bevell said he's been preparing Detroit's quarterbacks coach for that role all year.

"I've been prepping Sean for this for a little while," Bevell said. "Sean and I work hand-in-hand with the day-to-day operations, and I think the communications with the quarterback is super important in this. That's the guy that speaks to (Matthew Stafford) every day, so he already hears that voice and that kind of familiarity with that.

"I think Robert Prince would do a great job in there as well and that's why he's going to be making the decisions on game day and not calling the plays so that he's in that head coach role where going for it and those type things, no-huddle this situation and 'Are we going to go for it on fourth down? Are we going to do any fakes?' Those kinds of decisions will come down to Robert."

View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Wednesday Dec. 23, 2020.

Bevell and all the coaches currently isolating will still be part of the game prep remotely up until Saturday.

Bevell said the Lions did petition the NFL to move the game to Sunday, when all the coaches would be eligible to return, but the league said no.

"I know that we did push to have things that could help us," Bevell said. "It's between the league and the club on that. I am disappointed, I know if the game was on Sunday I would be there because the time frame (for quarantining) would be up, and really all these coaches would be able to be there, so I think that's the most disappointing part, but we have to go with what they're telling us."

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