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NOTEBOOK: Lions thinking bigger picture, not Pro Bowl

The Detroit Lions are one of six NFL teams that did not have anyone qualify for the Pro Bowl.

They're the only team currently leading their division that can say that. The other five teams – Jets, Saints, Bears, Jaguars and 49ers – all have losing records.

Detroit could still end up with someone in Orlando on the last Sunday in January with quarterback Matthew Stafford, cornerback Darius Slay, punter Sam Martin and kicker Matt Prater all selected as alternates, but none got in on the first ballot.

"I don't really care to tell you the truth," said Stafford, who even joked that if he didn't make it in 2011, when he threw for more than 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns, he never plans on making it.

"I'm not too worried about it, just really worried about, you know, obviously this upcoming game and a really good opponent."

Stafford wasn't alone in thinking bigger picture.

"The obvious answer is it's not what we play for," said Martin, who is currently second in both punting average and net punting average. "We're playing for the Super Bowl and playoffs. All that stuff is nice, but it's not going to make me or break me."

It does, however, fit into the Detroit vs. Everybody mantra that's become a motto in this town.

"Everyone in this building knows what we have on this team," Martin said. "You don't have to be voted to the Pro Bowl to know that."

Lions head coach Jim Caldwell made the point Thursday that his players have more important things on their minds than individual accolades.

"The voting, I don't think we're going to have any sort of recount, but nevertheless, our guys are really focused on trying to win games and all the things that come beyond that are just a kind of icing on the cake if you will," he said.

"That's kind of always been their focus. What we're concerned about is how well they play for us. Our guys have been playing well together as a team."

Caldwell makes a good point. The Lions are 9-5 because all three units have played big roles in winning games, not so much on individual efforts.


Stafford was expecting rain in New York last week, and got it, which is why he wore a black glove on his right hand designed by Nike to be better at gripping the football in wet conditions.

He's wearing a glove in the first place to help him grip the ball better due to an injured right middle finger.

Playing indoors and out of the weather this week in Dallas, Stafford has switched gloves. He was wearing a white glove at practice Thursday with a little bit different grip.

"Might be a little bit different but same style," Stafford said before practice Thursday.

"That middle finger will probably be covered up for you guys, but other than that it's going to be very similar to what I wore last week."

It still appeared to be the same configuration, with the middle finger covered and the four other fingers cut out of the glove to expose his fingers.

Playing in wet conditions with the other glove last week, Stafford was 24-of-39 passing for 273 yards with no touchdowns and an interception.

"I think I'm going to continue to get more and more comfortable with it as I work on it and work through it," Stafford said of wearing a glove.

"I felt like, as far as velocity and accuracy and all that kind of stuff, I wasn't perfect, but I felt like I was playing at a high level."


Since 2015, running back Theo Riddick leads all NFL running backs with 133 receptions and is tied for first with eight receiving touchdowns. Taking a guy with that kind of production out of the lineup will have an impact, and the Lions have felt it the last two weeks.

"Theo is obviously a playmaker for us, a guy that's really tough to bring down in space not only in the run game but in the pass game," Stafford said. "A smart guy in protection, he's a really good NFL back and really special out of the backfield."

He's third on the Lions with 53 receptions in 10 games, and has caught five touchdowns, second only on the team to Anquan Boldin's seven.

He creates mismatches for opposing defenses, and he and Stafford have great chemistry on some of the option routes that linebackers have a heck of a time trying to cover Riddick on.

The Lions were without Riddick (wrist) for the open portion of practice Thursday, though he was running off to the side with a trainer, something he didn't do at all last week.

We'll see as the week moves on if Riddick is any closer to returning.


Detroit can clinch a playoff spot before even playing Monday night with an Atlanta Falcons win (at Carolina), a Tampa Bay Bucs loss (at New Orleans) and a Washington Redskins loss (at Chicago).

Even if that scenario plays out, Caldwell won't change his game plan at all Monday night in Dallas.

"We're trying to win every single game that we participate in," Caldwell said.

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