LIONS INSIDER

NOTEBOOK: Lions place TE Brandon Pettigrew on IR; Christmas practice report; Megatron and more

Posted Dec 25, 2013

The Lions ended tight end Brandon Pettigrew‘s season because of an ankle injury — Pettigrew is an unrestricted free agent this offseason

The Detroit Lions were without five starters and a few key reserves as they began on-field preparations for Sunday's game in Minnesota this afternoon.

The Lions practiced without starters: receiver Calvin Johnson (knee/ankle), tight end Brandon Pettigrew (ankle), tackle LaAdrian Waddle (ankle), safety Louis Delmas (knee), cornerback Bill Bentley (concussion) and linebacker DeAndre Levy (foot).

Running back Joique Bell (knee), safety John Wendling (ankle) and tight end Dorin Dickerson (concussion) didn't take part in practice, either.

Johnson was limited to just 48 snaps (56 percent) in last week's loss to the New York Giants. Head coach Jim Schwartz said Monday, however, that if Johnson was healthy enough to play in Minnesota, he would, despite the fact the Lions have nothing more than pride to play for.

The Lions did get some good news on Christmas as cornerbacks Rashean Mathis and Darius Slay returned to practice. Slay was limited and Mathis practice in full.

Mathis sat out the Giants game with an illness, Slay hasn't practiced or played since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Dec. 6.

Defensive end Israel Idonije was also limited at practice with a neck injury.

Schwartz said both Bentley and Dickerson are going through the concussion protocol and Bentley was a little further along.

PETTIGREW TO IR

The Lions ended Pettigrew's season, officially, by placing him on injured reserve.

The team did not announce a subsequent roster move, but they do have tight end Matt Veldman currently on the practice squad.

Pettigrew, one of the best all-around tight ends in the NFL, had a good season with 41 catches for 416 yards with a couple scores after a rough start. He's also one of the best blocking tight ends in the league.

Pettigrew is an unrestricted free agent next year. He'll be an important roster decision general manager Martin Mayhew will have to make this offseason.

REGULAR WEEK

The Lions might not be playing for much more than pride this week, but Schwartz said his agenda is no different than any other week, and that's to put the best team on the field that gives them a chance to win.

Schwartz said he isn't interested in getting more of a look at young players or anything like that.

"I think that goes in the preseason games," Schwartz said. "We respect every one of our 16 games way too much than to have any agenda than putting our best team on the field.

"If we have injury situations, we'll take those as we come, but we're not going to experiment just to experiment."

DECIDING ON JOHNSON

One of those injury situations is Johnson, who's been banged up most of the year.

Schwartz was asked if the team had to take a more cautious approach with him because of what he means to the organization.

"Again, we'll see where he is," Schwartz said. "If it's a matter of pushing through soreness or things like that, that's a little different situation than something that could get aggravated or get worse.

"He didn't play very much last week but when he went into the game he affected the game. He affected coverage and he was still useful in the plan.

"He needs to be able to affect the game and he needs to be healthy enough to do it and we won't really know until Sunday if we're at that point with him."

STILL ABOUT AP

The Vikings will start Matt Cassel at quarterback on Sunday and that'll be a different look than what the Lions saw Week 1 when they beat the Vikings and quarterback Christian Ponder.

The Vikings are 4-4 in games Cassel has played this year. In the six games he's started he has a 62 percent completion percentage with eight touchdowns, six interceptions and a passer rating of 85.2.

Still, as the Lions see it, the key to winning in Minnesota come Sunday is still about stopping MVP running back Adrian Peterson.

"The key to that challenge is their running game and No. 28 in the backfield," Schwartz said. "And that's no disrespect to any quarterback that goes out there, but you have one of the best running backs in arguably the history of the NFL that you have to contend with."

Schwartz did mention, however, how much Cassel and veteran receiver Greg Jennings have built a rapport over the last few weeks.

"I think the only thing with Cassel at quarterback is Jennings has sort of accelerated his production," Schwartz said.