Coach talks about community services performed by different team members. Josh Katzenstein
Allen Park — Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin planned to speak to his family on FaceTime on Christmas.
For many Lions players and coaches, the holiday is just another day as the demanding NFL schedule requires them to work when others can relax.
Some teams try to work around Christmas, shifting practice schedules to give people the day off. But with the Lions' recent Monday night game giving them a short week of preparation, Christmas was a work day this year, as it was last year under coach Jim Caldwell.
"It's just another day," Austin said. "I think when you get in this profession, a lot of holidays you're working and have things to do, so you don't really kind of enjoy them. It ends up being another work day. So that's why I'm not a big — just never got into the spirit."
Although Austin might be different, the demanding work schedule hasn't impacted the holiday spirit of many players. Linebacker Stephen Tulloch, wide receivers Lance Moore and Golden Tate, punter Sam Martin and safety James Ihedigbo are among the players who have organized events around Metro Detroit to help families and children in need.
The Lions had shorter practices than usual this week, particularly on Wednesday and Thursday, so the players had time to spend with their family, if those relatives were in town.
"We always play this time of year," Caldwell said. "It's not going to be any different for you, but I do think, for you, it's a time when family's important. You have a home game, and there will certainly be a lot of families around coming to see their loved ones play this game and we should be able to enjoy that.
"But we also have work to do, so when we're working, we're working. And when we're off, they have a chance to spend a little family time during this joyous season."
Safety Glover Quin said his children woke him overnight on Christmas, and he had to put them back to sleep around 4:45 a.m. before waking up again around 6 a.m. to go to team headquarters in Allen Park.
For Quin, though, having practice Friday was beneficial as he participated after sitting out Wednesday and Thursday. Practicing is a key step in the NFL's concussion protocol, so he has glad to have the chance to practice Friday.
Caldwell said coaches have to talk to younger players about the challenges of being busy during the holidays, but practicing was nothing new for rookie cornerback Quandre Diggs, who played in late December bowl games at Texas the last four years.
"It's no different for me," said Diggs, adding his parents visited him for the previous game against the Saints.
Lions cornerback Darius Slay planned to have dinner at Rashean Mathis' house, but he was going to have to talk to his sons on the phone or FaceTime. While it's tough to be away from family, players said their relatives understand they're working.
Running back George Winn, though, grew up in Southfield, and his immediate family lives in West Bloomfield. So, all of his family was in town for the holiday, and he invited a few teammates.
"I know how it is, so I'm very appreciative to be home at this time of year," he said.
In discussing some of the players' charity work around the holidays, Caldwell shared another way players help the community throughout the season.
"We have kind of a policy on Fridays or Saturdays that if they bump into someone that's having a tough time in life, and they think that them being able to come to practice and be around the guys would help, they can do so," Caldwell said. "And every Saturday we have two or three people that come that guys maybe met at McDonald's or somewhere else (and) just figured that they needed a little lift in life. That's been common around here in the two years that I've been here.
"The big reason is because what we try and do is try to make (the players) understand, the platform that we're on is not a typical platform and we were not given this opportunity for ourselves. It's that our obligation is to make certain that we affect other people, things are going to impact them significantly in their lives. And so that's what I believe in, and I think that's what the organization believes in. But we try to carry it even an extra step, so we open those opportunities up to people that we think they might benefit from them."
49ers at Lions
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit
Line: Lions by 10
Records: 49ers 4-10, Lions 5-9
Series: 49ers lead 36-26-1