Healthy choice: Lions want fewer exhibition games

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Glover Quin

Allen Park — The Packers appear to have lost one of their top players for the season, but the Lions aren't gloating about any increased chances to win the NFC North.

Jordy Nelson, Green Bay's star wide receiver, suffered a non-contact knee injury in Sunday's exhibition against Pittsburgh, and reports indicate he likely tore his anterior cruciate ligament, which could hold him out for the 2015 season. The 30-year old had 98 catches for 1,518 yards last year and has eclipsed 1,200 yards receiving in three of the last four seasons.

"You still got to play the games," Lions safety Glover Quin said of how the injury could affect the Lions. "The best guy on the team is Aaron Rodgers, and he's still playing. Call me when Aaron Rodgers goes down."

A few Lions players were disappointed to see one of the NFL's top wide receivers go down. As much as the Lions want to win the division for the first time since 1993, they want to take and beat the Packers' best shot.

But the Lions also discussed the bigger picture related to the latest significant injury in a meaningless game, and although Quin thinks the league should continue playing four preseason games, cornerback Darius Slay and quarterback Matthew Stafford think that number could be reduced.

"Do we need four games to get ready?" Stafford said. "Maybe not. ... There's probably a better solution out there. I'm not sure what it is."

Slay thinks two games would be enough in the preseason.

"We already play 20 (combined) with the preseason," Slay said. "It's already rough on our bodies going through camp, so I feel like two games should be enough to scout your players."

For Slay's idea, the teams would primarily use the first exhibition to scout players and consider roster decisions, then treat the second as a tune-up for the starters, which is how teams typically approach the third preseason game now.

Coach Jim Caldwell declined to share his thoughts on the preseason slate because it's something he can't control, at least not until the next wave of league meetings.

"We know what the parameters are, what the set of circumstances are (and) we've got to deal with those," Caldwell said.

Darius Slay

Stafford praised Caldwell and the coaching staff for managing the players during the exhibitions. He played just five snaps in the opener and 16 last Thursday. Thus far, the Lions have been lucky to avoid season-ending injuries, though right guard Larry Warford and defensive tackle Caraun Reid suffered high ankle sprains Thursday.

"They're doing everything they can, I guess, to try and keep us healthy, but it happens," Stafford said.

Quin was quick to point out the Packers still have wide receivers Randall Cobb, who's recent contract actually pays him more than Nelson, and Davante Adams, a second-round pick in 2014 — in addition to Rodgers and two-time 1,000-yard rusher Eddie Lacy.

Slay, though, is upset he'll miss two chances to cover Nelson this year.

"Sad, sad, sad," Slay said. "I wanted him out there because the only thing he can do is make me better. I just hope for the best for him, pray for him and hope he comes back with a speedy recovery."