By Ashley Dunkak
DETROIT (CBS DETROIT) – Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz knows one guest he will not be having for Thanksgiving dinner this Thursday.
After an interview with Karsch and Anderson on 97.1 The Ticket in which Schwartz largely downplayed the abrasive comments of Green Bay Packers guard Josh Sitton, the coach apparently could not resist a little parting shot at the player who called Schwartz and the Lions ‘scumbags’ with a collective identity predicated on taking cheap shots.
“I guess we don’t have to worry about setting an extra place for Josh Sitton,” Schwartz said with a laugh.
Sitton’s bashing of the Lions took place Tuesday night when and began when a radio host on WSSP 1250 in Wisconsin said he expected that the Lions defensive line, specifically defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, would be willing to take a penalty or fine in order to knock quarterback Aaron Rodgers out of the game if Rogers – who has been out with an injury – did start. Sitton heartily agreed and quickly got on a roll.
“Absolutely,” Sitton said. “I don’t think there’s any question about that. They go after quarterbacks. Their entire defense takes cheap shots all the time. That’s what they do. That’s who they are.
“They’re a bunch of dirtbags or scumbags,” Sitton continued. “That’s how they play and that’s how they’re coached. That starts with their frickin’ coach, starts with the head coach, Schwartz, he’s a d— too, I wouldn’t want to play for him. It starts with him and their d-coordinator and the d-line coach. They’re all just scumbags and so are the d-line.”
Predictably, Schwartz declined to respond much, pointing to Thursday’s game as the place to settle all contention.
“I’ve been around too long to take that bait,” Schwartz said. “The game’s going to be played by players on the field, and it’s going to be played with actions, not with words. I think we just, those comments just stand on their own. We just let them be and we’re not going to take the bait on stuff like that.”
In no specific terms, though, Schwartz did not appreciate Sitton specifically calling out him, defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham and defensive line coach Kris Kocurek along with the usual trash talk against players.
“I think it’s unfortunate for our game,” Schwartz said. “I think there’s less emphasis on the game that’s on the field and things like this get more attention. I don’t think that’s necessarily good for our game. I think that it’s the play on the field that’s going to determine who wins and loses, not what’s said in the run-up before the game, but that gets a lot of interest now. I think we just need to stay focused on our jobs.”
With Sitton’s pointed words out there, though, Schwartz said the coaches remind the players not to get caught reacting to opponents trying to lure them into getting personal fouls for extracurricular activity.
“We talk about that a lot,” Schwartz said. “I think we’ve seen some incidents of that, particularly a couple years ago where we fell victim to that. 2011 season I thought we fell victim to that a couple times on the field. I don’t have the exact stats, but the Green Bay Packers have about the same number of personal fouls as we do. It just is what it is.”
Certainly, there is enough at stake for both teams that what Sitton said, in the big picture, should be the least of anyone’s concerns. The Lions sit at 6-5 on the season, losers of two straight but still in first place in the NFC North with five games to go.
“The teams that get hot at the end of the year put themselves in good position,” Schwartz said. “The Giants, I think each year that they won their Super Bowl they were counted out, and they just kept on playing. We have five games left, and when you put it all in perspective, it doesn’t matter what we did in OTAs, it doesn’t matter what we did in training camp, it doesn’t matter what we did in Week 4 or any other week right now.
“If you told us at the beginning of the season we’d be first place in Thanksgiving we’d have five games to play, an opportunity to go win our division, I think we’d relish that opportunity,” Schwartz added, “and we’re going to.”
Whether or not the Lions need to neutralize Rodgers to win first place is still unknown. Though Rodgers has been out with an injury, he might still play Sunday, and Detroit knows he is a handful.
“He’s a great quarterback, he’s got great mobility, he can make every throw on the field, he can extend plays,” Schwartz said. “I don’t know that it’s a coincidence the play that he got hurt on, he had extended a couple plays against Chicago. One of the things that I guess caused him to get hurt, you could say, is the fact that that’s the way he makes an awful lot of plays. He scrambles around and makes plays down the field, he’s not afraid to run the ball, he takes hits. That’s a big part of his game. We respect his arm, but we also have a lot of respect for his ability to scramble.”
“Unless they declare him as out,” Schwartz added, “we’ll still be ready for Rogers at any point being in the game.”