Lions focused on Eagles, family as Thanksgiving nears

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

llen Park — With back-to-back Thursday games, the Lions have a unique schedule the next couple weeks.

But coach Jim Caldwell has no interest in taking more time away from Thanksgiving than the players and coaches already have to with the annual game at Ford Field this week.

"You don't get those days back with your children, with your loved ones, your parents and those kinds of things," Caldwell said Monday. "You don't get this time back, so we like to be able to take advantage of that.

"We also know that doesn't mean we don't have to play well; we also got to play well. But we look forward to the holidays."

After a day off Monday, the Lions will have practice Tuesday and Wednesday this week before Thursday's game against the Eagles, and it's unknown if the players will have to work Friday.

But, playing on holidays is nothing new in the NFL, so most of the players and coaches understand the expectations.

"You learn to adapt," Caldwell said. "But the big thing is I think that you have to learn to compartmentalize, and that's what our guys have to do."

From Caldwell's perspective, playing with a shorter week to prepare can be beneficial. He thinks it can help the players keep their focus on the game and can prevent opponents from having extra time to create some elaborate new scheme.

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Against an Eagles team coached by the creative Chip Kelly, that could be important as Caldwell said Philadelphia's offense is "much different" than most teams. Granted, the Eagles have lost two straight, including a 45-17 home loss to the Buccaneers Sunday.

But the short week isn't good for everyone, Caldwell said.

"As an assistant coach, you never feel like you have enough time even on a regular week, and so it feels like … if you want to add something new, it's very difficult to add," he said. "As a head coach, you like it because guys can't come up with any really out of this world schemes that takes up a lot more time.

"It really makes you focus. It really does; it makes everybody focus. It makes all of the guys that are game-planning really focus and narrow it down and only get the things in that are extremely important."

If that's the case, the short week could be beneficial for Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, who will be calling plays for just the fourth time. He has talked the past few weeks about a desire to cut out plays the players don't like, so maybe he can trim even more.

And while Thanksgiving is more family-focused than most game days, many players and coaches are used to having friends and relatives at games. Caldwell welcomed some at Sunday's game against the Raiders, greeting several people from his hometown of Beloit, Wis., on the field after the victory.

Although he discussed the importance of family time, Caldwell declined to share his Thanksgiving plans after the game.

"I like to kind of keep those personal and private, but we do obviously have a chance to get together with family," he said. "That's an important time for us."