Notes: Lombardi focused on Lions, not facing grandfather’s old team
ALLEN PARK, Mich. — The Lombardi name will always be associated with the Green Bay Packers, but there’s one family member who’s not thinking in those terms, at least not this week.
Joe Lombardi, grandson of the legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi, has other things to worry about entering his third game as the Detroit Lions’ offensive coordinator.
Such as: How to score enough to keep pace with the Packers’ high-powered offense run by quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Sunday afternoon at Ford Field in Detroit.
"It’s funny, I really didn’t even think about it," Lombardi said of facing his grandfather’s old team. "You get so caught up in the details of what you’re doing that those big-picture things don’t really enter your mind."
That was apparently never truer than when Lombardi was quarterbacks coach in New Orleans and the Saints received the Lombardi Trophy for winning the Super Bowl.
"I didn’t really think about it until after the game," Lombardi said. "They started to hand around the trophy.
"’Hey, Joe.’ ‘Oh, yeah, I forgot about that.’
"You’ve so focused in on what you’re doing."
Lions coach Jim Caldwell also has some Green Bay connections. Caldwell grew up in Beloit, Wis., a town in which a street borders Wisconsin and Illinois.
He was a big fan of Bears running back Gale Sayers, but some of his family members were avid Packers backers.
"I don’t think there was anybody in the region that didn’t run the Green Bay sweep, didn’t know every single player on the team," Caldwell said. "Everybody took such great pride in it.
"There are a few of my relatives that I’ve certainly got to question when they come to our game. ‘Who you gonna be rooting for?’"
And what if they’re rooting for the Packers?
"They’re not getting any tickets," Caldwell said.
ANOTHER DB INJURY
After losing nickel defensive backs Bill Bentley (knee) and Nevin Lawson (foot) to season-ending surgeries in the first two weeks, the Lions are now turning to Cassius Vaughn to play in the slot.
Vaughn, however, missed Thursday’s practice after being limited the day before because of an ankle injury.
His status for Sunday’s game will be clearer Friday when the official injury report for the game is released.
Vaughn, in his fifth season in the NFL, played for two years in both Denver and Indianapolis before signing as a free agent with Detroit during the offseason.
Asked about Vaughn’s recent move from outside corner to the nickel, Austin said before practice, "He’s played it at some other places. Cassius is a good professional.
"It’s just getting reps in there, seeing it because it works differently when you’re inside than when you’re outside."
Now he’s not getting those reps.
If necessary, the Lions also could use safety Don Carey at the nickel, where he played at times last season. Carey returned to practice this week after missing the first two games with a hamstring injury,
Danny Gorrer, signed earlier in the week to replace Lawson’s roster spot, also might have to contribute immediately.
"We didn’t sign him to stand by me," Austin said.
Outside linebacker DeAndre Levy’s breakout season last year wasn’t rewarded with a Pro Bowl invite, but respect for him continues to spread.
Even Green Bay star quarterback Aaron Rodgers made a point to mention this week that Levy is a Pro Bowl candidate.
To which Levy’s teammate, middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch, said: "If he keeps playing the way he’s playing now, if they rob him of the Pro Bowl, I might go to the NFL office myself and figure out what’s going on. He deserves it, man."
Levy tends to get overlooked because he doesn’t rack up a lot of sacks like other players at his position, but he’s made 17 tackles and one interception in the Lions’ first two games.
His six interceptions last season were tied for second-most in the league.
"He’s all business," Tulloch said. "Levy’s a guy that’s going to take care of his body, study film and correct his mistakes. He’s never going to make the same mistakes twice.
"I don’t think there’s any other linebacker in the NFL that can cover better than DeAndre Levy. He’s a great man-to-man cover guy. He’s very good in zone coverage. He can run."
FAIRLEY HARD HIT
Carolina’s Mike Tolbert paid the ultimate compliment to the Lions’ Nick Fairley for a hit delivered on a goal-line play in Sunday’s game.
"Give him credit, that is the hardest I’ve ever been hit in my life," Tolbert told reporters. "He knocked the air out of me and fell on me. That’s when it all went bad."
Tolbert is a 5-foot-9, 245-pound All-Pro fullback, Fairley a 6-4, 308-pound defensive tackle.
Fairley got demoted to second-team during the preseason for his poor conditioning and work ethic, but he has earned his way out of the doghouse.
"I thought Nick did a great job," defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. "He played well. He played through some pain (right biceps) last week. He had to come out a few times, but he really was disruptive. He did some good things in there.
"I’m really proud of where he is. We’ve just got to keep him going."
MORE INJURY UPDATES
— Defensive end Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah missed practice again because of a knee injury.
As for whether the Lions are concerned about the string of injuries since Ansah entered the league a year ago, Caldwell said, "Not at this stage."
— Others missing practice included defensive end George Johnson (groin), offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle (calf) and linebacker Travis Lewis (quad).
Waddle did some running on the side for a trainer, an indication that he could be getting close to returning after missing the last game and most of the opener.