ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell is preparing for Friday’s third preseason game as if it’s the regular season.
Or as close to it as any preseason game is going to get.
That includes the likelihood that superstar receiver Calvin Johnson, who underwent offseason knee surgery, will make his first appearance of the preseason after sitting out the first two games.
"We plan to get him some work this week," Caldwell said before Monday’s practice. "That’s today that I’m telling you that."
The plan could be adjusted later in the week if circumstances dictate a change, Caldwell said.
But as of now, it appears Johnson will be in the lineup when the Lions take on the Jacksonville Jaguars Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Ford Field.
Caldwell said he didn’t know whether defensive end Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah, who missed the first two weeks of practice while continuing to recover from shoulder surgery, would also make his preseason debut.
"We’re still going to bring him along according to what he can handle from a physical standpoint," Caldwell said. "He’s doing a little more in practice today and he’ll do a little more tomorrow. We’ll see what happens come game day."
The third preseason game around the NFL is typically viewed as somewhat of a dress rehearsal for the regular-season opener.
With a new coaching staff, it’s even more essential to treat the game somewhat similar to the regular season, especially with the day-to-day preparation.
"In our case, it’s extremely important because it’s all new," Caldwell said. "Typically, if you’ve been at a place a little while, guys adjust and know what to expect.
"Here in this particular case, it’s foreign to them (because of the new coaching staff). We have to give them as much as we possibly can of what it’s going to look like (throughout the week) from a meeting standpoint, time on the field, what happens in-between meetings, things of that nature and try to go into a fair amount of detail.
"Just a few weeks from now we’ll be right at it and getting ready to face the (New York) Giants. It’s pretty important that they go through it at this time."
The current plan is for the first-team offense and defense to both play into the third quarter, although some individuals, including Johnson, probably will come out earlier.
That’s considerably more playing time than the starters got in the first two games.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford, for instance, played one series in the preseason opener and just over a quarter last week.
"The typical scenario, it’s not etched in stone, is that your first units — offense and defense — will go through the half, come back out after the half because this is the first time they’ve had the opportunity to do so," Caldwell said.
"It’s not a blanket for everybody. Some of the guys may not play in the second half. But for the most part, that’s the way we plan it."