All posts by Michael Whitaker

Always at the front lines of Detroit Sports.

Robert Saleh says he’s not paying attention to coaching chatter

Once the initial surprise wore off when news broke that the Detroit Lions decided to part ways with maligned head coach Matt Patricia, speculation immediately began to abound as to who his ultimate replacement would be.

Naturally, one of the first names that came to mind of both fans and media alike is San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

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A Dearborn, Mich. native, Saleh grew up a Lions fan and played college ball in the state. He later attended Northern Michigan and coached at Michigan State, Central Michigan and Georgia.

Addtiionally, a bipartisan group of 36 Michigan House legislators released an open letter to the Detroit Lions Principal Owner Sheila Ford Hamp requesting she consider Saleh to officially succeed Patricia.

However, Saleh maintains that he’s not distracted with his name popping up in such rumors, and is instead focused on the immediate task at hand for his team.

“To be completely honest, I didn’t see anything or hear anything until coming off the practice field,” Saleh said. “So I don’t know what to make of it or anything like that. So it’s just whatever, I guess, you know.”

“This league is so week to week and the most important week right now is Monday Night Football against Buffalo and we’ve got a team that’s in the middle of the playoff hunt, so it’s really a non-issue for me,” Saleh said. “I don’t talk about it. I don’t really even see it. I don’t have social media, I don’t look into the news. So it’s probably more for family and friends to enjoy and get a kick out of than it is for me. We’re completely locked into Buffalo.”

Lions fans, do you see a homecoming in the near future of Saleh?

– – Quotes via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk Link – –

WR Marvin Hall to be waived by Lions

The Detroit Lions have made the first big roster move following the dismissals of head coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn last weekend.

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According to NFL Network reporter Mike Garafalo, the Lions are planning to part ways with veteran wide receiver Marvin Hall. The decision will allow younger players on the team to demonstrate their abilities.

So far in 2020, Hall has recorded 17 receptions for 290 total yards and two touchdowns. Hall was originally signed to the Lions practice squad in 2019, and then soon promoted to the active roster.

As noted by Garafalo, Hall recently had a career game, hauling in four receptions for 113 receiving yards.

Latest NFL COVID-19 protocols could mean no games in California

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Santa Clara County, Calif. officials introduced a temporary ban on all high school, collegiate, and professional sports. The San Francisco 49ers will play their next two scheduled home games in Glendale, Ariz.

And now, we could potentially see the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers follow suit in playing their home games in alternate locations.

On the heels of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest round of COVID-19 safety protocols, sources told Yahoo News that the NFL is in contact with the Rams and Chargers regarding moving their practice and home game sites to neighboring states.

“[NFL] operations may not be able to continue [in California] soon and considering where we’re at in the schedule, dramatic changes like the 49ers’ relocation of operations could encompass the remainder of the season,” one source said. “That could be the case for all of the teams [in California]. The situation is being monitored and how it will impact the rest of the season is a little fluid right now. But the best thing everyone can do is just prepare for any eventuality.”

The NFL has seen a rise in the number of positive COVID-19 cases, which forced the rescheduling of the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers matchup twice. The League also halted all team activities earlier in the week.

– – Quotes via Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports Link – –

Wolverines spurned by 4-star safety Isaac Thompson

The Michigan Wolverines, currently mired in a disastrous strech of play, just received yet another bit of negative news.

Four-star 2022 four-star safety Isaac Thompson officially announced his committment to Missouri, spurning the Wolverines who had been a finalist to land his services.

He had also been contemplating Arkansas, Florida and Texas. This means that Michigan has just a single verbal committ (four-star linebacker Branden Jenning) since the start of October.

“I chose Mizzou because I really just wanted to stay close to home,” Thompson said. “I don’t think I can get any better than playing SEC ball just an hour away from home with the whole state supporting me.”

Thompson, who visited Ann Arbor in mid-November, is the No. 157 overall prospect and No. 11 safety in the class, per 247Sports’ Composite ranking.

– – Quotes via Ryan Zuke of MLive Link – –

Danny Amendola, Reggie Ragland react to Matt Patricia’s dismissal

The Detroit Lions pulled the trigger on a franchise altering pair of moves on Saturday, presenting maligned head coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn with their walking papers.

They went through their first week of practice under interm head coach Darrell Bevell as they prepare for their divisional tilt with the Chicago Bears on Sunday, but haven’t forgotten the connections they had with Patricia.

Linebacker Reggie Ragland admitted to feeling down about the personnel change, and was sure to reach out to Patricia after the move was made official.

For wide receiver Danny Amendola, he’s focused solely on the things that he can control.

“We’re always going to have relationships throughout this league and throughout our careers, and it’s no different here,” he said during today’s media Zoom session. “Business is business and I can’t control a lot of that, so I focus on what I can do, and what I can control.”

The Lions and Bears will get underway from Soldier Field in Chicago at 1:00 PM EST.

Tarik Skubal leapfrogs Casey Mize in latest prospect rankings

It’s certainly not a surprise to anyone in the Motor City to see 2020 1st overall Draft Selection Spencer Torkelson solidly in 1st place in the latest edition of Baseball America’s Top Ten Prospect rankings.

However, one notable switch took place.

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Pitcher Tarik Skubal leapfrogged fellow pitching prospect Casey Mize after both made professional appearances for the Tigers in the 60-game shortened 2020 campaign. Skubal recorded 37 strikeouts with a 5.36 ERA, while Mize finished with 26 strikeouts and a 6.99 ERA.

Here is the full list:

1. 1B/3B Spencer Torkelson (1)

2. LHP Tarik Skubal (4)

3. RHP Casey Mize (2)

4. RHP Matt Manning (3)

5. OF Riley Greene (5)

6. 3B Isaac Paredes (7)

7. C Dillon Dingler (6)

8. OF Daz Cameron (10)

9. OF Daniel Cabrera (9)

10. RHP Alex Faedo (8)

Darrell Bevell has the respect of Bears coach Matt Nagy

The Detroit Lions are gearing up for their first game since the franchise-altering facelift that took place last weekend, as maligned head coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn were shown the door by team principal owner Sheila Ford Hamp.

They’ll be going up against their divisional rival Chicago Bears, who currently sit at 5-6 on the season.

Bears head coach Matt Nagy, a fan of interim head coach Darrell Bevell, knows that the Lions will come prepared at Soldier Field on Sunday.

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“I know Darrell Bevell, I have a lot of respect for him,” Nagy said. “I know that he’ll have those guys ready.

As far as adjustments that the team is making with the new faces in charge of the scheme, the Bears know they must be prepared.

“That’s always a factor in a situation like that, but at the end of the day you can’t overwhelm yourself with that factor, or what that may be,” Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson said. “You know, it may be something, but you can’t try to really prepare around the unknown.

“We know what their DNA is. We know what they like to play. For us, we just have to be prepared to adjust to whatever change or whatever that difference might be.”

Is quarterback Mitchell Trubisky expecting the Lions to continue their traditional man-to-man style of defense this time around? Even with the coaching change, he knows it’s a possibility.

“I think you have to expect that because that’s who they are and that’s what they’ve done for the last 11 weeks,” Trubisky said. “But you gotta expect the unexpected with the new coach being in there. They might throw some different looks at us so for us it’s just worrying about what we’re doing on the offensive side of the ball, being in the right place at the right time, executing our plays, trying to take another step forward from last week, and obviously my focus is ball security and taking care of the football.

“But yeah, you gotta expect the unexpected but that’s who they’ve been the last 11 weeks so to change during a week, we’ll see, but you gotta be ready for it.”

– – Quotes via Gene Chamberlain of SI Link – –

Schedule released for 1st half of 2020-21 Season

Fans of the Detroit Pistons will soon be able to get a look at the new-look Detroit Pistons, albeit only on television.

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The first half of the upcoming schedule has officially been released by the team, and they won’t have to wait long to say hello to one of the former faces of the franchise. They’ll officially start the new season on Wednesday, Dec. 23 at the Minnesota Timberwolves at 8 p.m.

Detroit opens the home portion of their schedule December 26 against the Cleveland Cavaliers and former center Andre Drummond, who returns to the Motor City for the first time since his trade last season.

The full first-half Schedule:


Former Wings F Thomas Vanek says NHL ‘Isn’t that tough anymore’

Former Detroit Red Wings forward Thomas Vanek is a veteran of 14 seasons in the National Hockey League, and he’s seen just about everything over the course of the 1,029 career games he appeared in.

And to that end, he apparently wants to make one thing clear – the NHL isn’t as tough as it once was.

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Vanek offered a rather frank assessment of the League’s toughness, or rather lack thereof during a recent appearance on “The Instigators” podcast.

“The last four-to-five years, besides (Zdeno) Chara, the league isn’t that tough anymore. I think we can all agree on that,” Vanek explained. “I think early on when we all played together and you got the (Chris) Pronger’s, the (Derian) Hatcher’s, that was tough.”

“Standing in front of the net, there were no penalties back then. The ref would say, ‘Hey, loosen up Pronger’ and Pronger would look at the ref and was like ‘Don’t ever talk to me again.'”

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Of course, fans of the Red Wings are all too familiar with the bruising Pronger, who had plenty of run-ins with the team during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Fellow defenseman (and one-time Red Wing) Derian Hatcher was also known for his physical presence, while 6’9 Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara continues to intimidate opponents.

However, the NHL has seen a reduction in so-called “goon” players, who offered little in terms of offense and made their living with their fists while protecting their squad’s star players with physicality.

“I don’t know if it was really dirty (in the past), that’s the way it was – if you go in front of the net, you’re taking a punishment,” Vanek said. “Now the game has changed. You’ve got a lot of smaller defensemen who are more mobile. They cross-check a little bit, but those guys are nonexistent really anymore.”

Vanek, while not officially retired, currently coaches an under-14 single-A team in Stillwater, Minnesota. During his career, he tallied 373 goals and 789 total points.

– – Quotes via Brandon Maron of TheScore.com Link – –

NFL insider Adam Schefter thinks Matthew Stafford trade is possible

The Detroit Lions made two major personnel moves on Saturday afternoon, moving on from head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn following several underwhelming performances.

Principle team owner Sheila Ford Hamp then proceeded to stay mum on the future of quarterback Matthew Stafford in Detroit, saying that decision would be up to the new team coaching staff.

Well, since I’m not the coach, I’m probably not the right person to ask that question to,” Hamp said. “We’ll see what the new coach has to say.”

Stafford, whom the Lions selected first overall in the 2009 NFL Draft, has two years remaining on the five-year contract he agreed to in 2017.

Notable figures including the likes of former Lions QB Dan Orlovsky have suggested that it would be best for both parties to move on from one another.

Additionally, ESPN’s Adam Schefter suggested that he wouldn’t be surprised if such a move was made during an interview on “Schlerth & Evans” on Denver’s 104.3 The Fan:

If such a move was ultimately made, $19 million of Stafford’s $33 million salary would be counted as dead money against the salary cap.

– – Quotes via Dave Birkett of The Detroit Free Press Link – –

MHSAA tells Gov. Whitmer, ‘Let’s have our kids playing’

An executive order from Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer put a moratorium on all high school sports in the state through December 8, as well as indoor dining. As a result, football, volleyball, and girls swimming and diving were all put on pause.

And now, the MHSAA is issuing a plea to Whitmer – let us finish.

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“What we’ve heard from at least a half-dozen different county health department officials over and over is the virus was not being spread during the school day,” said MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl. “It was not being spread at practice and it wasn’t being spread at games, whether that be teammate to teammate, much less opponent to opponent.

“And we’ve heard that from several different states, too.”

Earlier in the week, MHSAA officials met virtually with the health department and government officials, laying out their case as to why they believe activities should resume.

“We were able to point out two dozen different non-school facilities that were just continuing on like nothing’s happening right now in terms of restrictions,” Uyl said. “We wanted to impress on them that kids are going to go find activity and if you’re going to shut us out, it doesn’t mean that kids aren’t playing.

“Let’s have our kids playing and let’s have them be able to do it in the safest environment possible.”

With the expiration of the initial order expiring next Wednesday, the MHSAA, which is in regular contact with health officials across the state, is earnestly hoping that winter sports teams, including boys and girls basketball, will be allowed to resume.

“We don’t know what data numbers they’re looking at,” said Uyl, “but the statistics compiled all fall show that not only can we play, we can play safely and we’re hoping for that chance come next Wednesday.”

There are three weeks remaining in the 11-player football playoffs, as well as two weeks remaining in the 8-player playoffs.

– – Quotes via Mick McCabe of The Detroit Free Press Link – –

The top 5 moves of former general manager Bob Quinn

The Detroit Lions officially pulled the trigger on two major personnel moves on Saturday afternoon, issuing pink slips to coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn.

Patricia’s tenure in the Motor City ended nearly three years after it began, while Quinn had arrived nearly five years ago.

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And while Quinn’s decisions as GM were largely maligned, he wasn’t without a few successes on the job. Let’s take a look back at his best moves during his time in Detroit.

Acquiring Damon “Snacks” Harrison

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Spending only a 5th round draft selection, the addition of the veteran defensive tackle from the New York Giants instantly provided a boost to Detroit’s defense. After his acquisition, Detroit only surrendered 925 rushing yards, good for 4th in the NFL.

Signing Marvin Jones Jr.

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The Lions were in need of a wideout threat after the retirement of Calvin Johnson, and were able to pry Jones away from the Cincinnati Bengals. Since arriving in the Motor City, Jones has been one of the most consistent weapons at QB Matthew Stafford’s disposal. He was also ranked the NFL’s 4th best pass catcher for the 2019 season.

Trading the 85th overall pick to the New England Patriots in exchange for the 96th overall and 124th overall picks

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Thanks to this move, the Lions used the 96th selection they received from the Patriots to select young wide receiver Kenny Golladay out of Northern Illinois. Golladay showed signs of promise during his rookie season, and it wasn’t long before he emerged as the team leader in receptions. He enjoyed a breakout season in 2019, earning a Pro-Bowl selection and led the NFL with 11 receiving touchdowns.

Drafting Frank Ragnow

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After being drafted by the Lions in 2018 out of Arkansas, Ragnow was soon moved from guard to center, and the move paid immediate dividends. He was also recently ranked the 7th best center in the NFL.

Drafting Taylor Decker

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Left tackle Taylor Decker has been among the League’s best at his position since being drafted out of Ohio State in 2016. Currently, he’s ranked eighth amongst all tackles in the NFL at 83.5, and is making a strong case to become the first Detroit Lions offensive lineman to be named to the Pro Bowl since Kevin Glover.

Detroit Tigers tender contract offers to nine players

The Detroit Tigers have nine arbitration eligible players on their roster, and they’ve decided to tender contract offers to each of them.

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Had the Tigers non-tendered these players, they would have become free agents.

The players offered contracts:

– Matthew Boyd
– Jeimer Candelario
– Jose Cisnero
– Buck Farmer
– Michael Fulmer
– Niko Goodrum
– Joe Jimenez
– JaCoby Jones
– Daniel Norris

Financial details will be worked out at a later time, as the salaries have yet to be locked in. According to a model from MLBTradeRumors.com, the Tigers will be shelling out approx. $20.1 million to keep the nine players.

AD Warde Manuel issues fiery response to Kirk Herbstreit

ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit ruffled more than a few feathers on Tuesday when he suggested that the University of Michigan could use the COVID-19 pandemic as a means of avoiding a matchup with the powerful rival Ohio State Buckeyes.

He later issued an apology for his comments.

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It wasn’t long before Michigan Athletic Director Warde Manuel responded to Herbstreit’s comments, and needless to say, he was not happy with what the analyst had to say.

During an appearance this afternoon on MGoBlue TV, Manuel issued an impassioned rebuttal to Herbstreit as well as anyone who believes that Michigan would use the pandemic as an excuse to duck an opponent.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” Manuel said. “I have to pause because of my words. I was angered, infuriated by the insinuation that Michigan would do anything other than play a football game. We’ve been playing this game since 1879. 1879. We’re the winningest program for a reason because we play whoever is in front of us. The only way we want to keep anybody from moving on is to beat them on the fields of play.

To insinuate that, to say something other than that is a statement by a fool. It is something that is—I can’t tell you how embarrassed I am for the Big Ten conference to have one of their representatives who played this game. To say that about any team in this conference and to say it about college football and the student-athletes around this country who are trying to play games during a pandemic is ridiculous and sad.”

Due to COVID-19 concerns, the Wolverines announced the cancellation of their scheduled game against Maryland this weekend. Their next game against Ohio State remains on for now.

Jamie Collins reacts to “tough” firing of Matt Patricia

The Detroit Lions pulled the trigger on a franchise altering pair of moves on Saturday, presenting maligned head coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn with their walking papers.

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“Unfortunately, we haven’t won enough over the last three seasons,” team owner Sheila Ford-Hamp said in her statement following the announcement of the decision.

For linebacker Jamie Collins, the news came as a surprise and a disappointment.

“I felt it. .. I had him quite a while,” he said. “It’s tough, man. Anybody gets fired, gets out of this building, it’s tough on all of us.”

Collins signed with Detroit this past March after having played for Patricia with the New England Patriots, so it’s naturally understandable for him to be taking the change in personnel a bit harder than other players.

But regardless, he and the team know they have to move on.

“It’s already hard as it is but, just situations like that, man, we got to use it to the best of our ability to motivate us,” he said.

– – Quotes via Michael Rothstein Link – –

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman pushes back on “inaccurate” reports

While the starting date for the 2020-21 National Hockey League season has yet to be made official thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, a further complication has arisen stemming from the League asking the players to re-open the six-year CBA agreement that was signed in July.

Due to the likelihood of fans not attending games next season, the NHL is looking for millions in additional concessions in the form of salary deferment.

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However, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is pushing back against reports of attempted renegotiation, which he calls “inaccurate”:

Will we see next season ultimately be played?