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A JMMA football update: The journey is over for the Detroit Lions’ George Johnson, in a good way

George Johnson

Flashback Friday: When George was just a pup.

Every week, George Johnson provides anybody who’s paying attention just how far he’s come.

Sometimes it’s loud and in your face, other times it’s subtle. But every week for the past eight, Johnson has made at least one solo tackle. He’s consistently contributing in the NFL, which is something no other JMMA winner can claim.

George Johnson has gone from Camp Body No. 68 to rotational defensive end. He’s gone from more transactions (12) than career tackles (7) to four sacks in eight games, the second highest on the team, a mere 0.5 behind Ezekiel Ansah, who was a No. 5 overall pick in the NFL Draft. He’s gone from anonymous to JMMA winner.

I’m just not sure where he goes from here. His story seems done. He had his low period. He had his turning point in training camp and rise through the preseason. He had his rousing Lions debut, with 1.5 sacks against the Giants. He likely reached his climax. Facing one of his former teams, the Vikings, he had 1.5 sacks, six total tackles, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits.

If that’s not the pinnacle, then December 7 against his other former team, the Buccaneers, will be. I guess a big play in the playoffs or Super Bowl is possible, but a lot of things out of his control would have to go right.

Barring those latter two scenarios, we’ve reached the black screen with the white text: “Johnson played every game for the Lions in the 2014 season. He finished with XX sacks the X most on the team.”

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Golden Tate is part golden boy, part mean guy; You should love him because of it


One time, an editor sent me out to a charity basketball game to interview Von Miller. I got there and didn’t spot him. After scouring the benches, there were a couple that kind of looked like him but I wasn’t sure. Then a 6-foot-3 dude walked through the door with his pectorals bulging out of his shirt and long arms that were thicker than my head.

It’s like that with almost NFL player. You can identify them as soon as they walk through the door. They’re taller and wider than everyone around them, yet have complete control of their bodies. It’s amazing. At times I can’t stop thinking to myself, ‘Holy crap. This guy is huge.’

I’ve never stood around Golden Tate, but I can guarantee he’s an exception. He’s listed at 5-foot-10, 195 pounds. He’s not tall. Muscular, yes, but not cartoonish. Yet, the man belongs on a football field.

The dirty truth of sports is that the players don’t care as much as you do. Some don’t care at all and play just because they’re good at it. Others care but not as much. Others care in a different way. Peyton Manning wants to be the best at his position. Tom Brady wants to win.

Golden Tate wants to destroy you.

I’ve experienced half a season of Golden Tate. On his own he doesn’t seem all that spectacular. He runs some routes and catches some balls just like every other receiver. In press conference videos he’s incredibly well-spoken and gives solid answers. He seems nice. But get somebody in his face, make the game seem out of reach, challenge him in any sort of way, and a monster emerges.

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A long drive and a Detroit Lions team that burps rainbows


As teams from Michigan and Georgia played a game in London, I listened to it in a radio station in Texas.

Sunday morning I drove three hours from Houston to Dallas. I didn’t see Golden Tate use his invisibility cloak or Theo Riddick’s one-handed catch or Matt Prater’s kick cut immediately left, only to wobble back down the middle until hours later. No, it was just me, cruise control and two national radio announcers whose names I don’t remember — and I didn’t discover them until the end of the first quarter.

The Lions were already down 14-0. Midway through the second, the station cut out. The audio came through intermittently until I re-discovered civilization right around the time the Lions scored their first touchdown.

At that point the play-by-play announcer was getting really excited about anything the Falcons did while the color analyst just kind of made fun of Matt Stafford for 20 minutes.

“Another overthrow by Matthew Stafford there. He just chucked it well over Golden Tate’s head.”

“Golden Tate even turned and looked at Stafford like, ‘was that to me?’ (fake laughter). Again, Stafford has really struggled to find his open receivers all day.”

When the comeback became for real, the play-by-play guy babbled about Tate and Theo Riddick. The color guy just shut up. It was the appropriate response.

The Lions are 6-2. They are not good. These things are somehow not mutually exclusive.

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Red Wings rumor roundup: Mike Babcock’s contract demands; Some new defensemen on trade block

Every Sunday I’ll bring you a recap of all the legitimate Red Wings-related transaction and signing rumors from the previous week. I see all this stuff anyway. I figured I might as well share it with you.

• The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch says he’s hearing talk that Flyers defenseman Nick Grossman and Luke Schenn are available. A couple other notes from Garrioch: the package for Tyler Myers will have to be “massive”, the Panthers are looking for a top prospect in return for Brian Campbell and Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman has a no movement clause, and the Devils’ 21-year-old defenseman Adam Larsson might be available. Larsson is right handed.

• Regarding Campbell, SportsNet’s Nick Kypreos says the Red Wings are interested in Brian Campbell. They’re trying to move Jakub Kindl in the deal but the Panthers want a top defense prospect, either Xaveir Ouellet or Nick Jensen.

• Kypreos also reported that Maple Leafs GM Brendan Shanahan contacted the Red Wings regarding Mike Babcock. Detroit did not give Toronto permission to speak to the coach. TSN’s Darren Dreger says the Red Wings’ offer to Mike Babcock mirrors the extension that Ken Holland signed in the summer: four years at slightly under $3 million a year. Babcock wants at least five years and better than $3 million.

• The Jeff Petry sweepstakes might’ve slowed down. SportsNet’s Elliotte Freidman had an executive say the Oilers “are making (fewer) trade calls than you would think.”

Dreger says the Red Wings like but don’t love Tyler Myers. The Sabres still want Dylan Larkin, and the Red Wings are saying the asking price has to come down. MLive’s Ansar Khan says he doesn’t think the Red Wings will trade Larkin in a package for Myers.

• The injured Anthony Mantha has relocated to Grand Rapids. He’s getting closer..,




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Enjoy the Red Wings’ comeback, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves



Everybody saw Danny DeKeyser stop a shot on an empty net with his leg, Justin Abdelkader stop another with the little patch of cloth on his pants that hangs below his junk, Niklas Kronwall glide around with his arms open and a stupid look on his face after scoring off Evgeni Malkin’s skate, Henrik Zetterberg’s get his stick on the and Justin Abdelkader’s score the winner goal. Everybody saw the Red Wings’ two goals in three minutes. If they haven’t, they soon will. The internet is a wonderful thing.

What it all means, though, nobody knows.

A hockey game has an almost infinite number of different combinations of actions performed by the players. Jumble those and start firing off outputs 82 times a year stuff happens. It did Thursday night, and right now in the immediate aftermath, when the buzzing in your chest is still there, it feels important.

But the Red Wings are seven games into a season. They’d been OK before Thursday night. This won’t be the spark the struck the turnaround.

Instead, the game might’ve hidden the truth. The Red Wings have played six one-goal games. They’re 3-3 in those game. They’ve had four games go to overtime. They’re 2-2 in those games. Take that, remember this improbable comeback and  Jimmy Howard putting da team on his back in the second Boston game, and Detroit probably shouldn’t be 4-1-2 right now.

At a certain point it’ll have a stretch of bad luck. It’ll lose a couple in a row, maybe drop three or four straight one-goal games. The media will ask Mike Babcock what’s happened to his team. He’ll scowl and give a whole load of non-answers because no one likes to hear, ‘Our luck turned sour.’

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The Stephen Weiss conundrum and what it means for the Red Wings


He’s scored 20 goals in a season four times. He’s notched more than 60 points twice. Yet he’s resigned to press box purgatory, watching guys eight and 10 years younger fill his spot.

Before Saturday, Stephen Weiss hadn’t played in an NHL game since December 10th. The past two years, he’s missed 66 percent of the games his team has played in. Most of that is due to injury, but Weiss is only 31. All accounts say he’s finally healthy and has plenty of energy.

There just isn’t a spot for him. Andrej Nestrasil and Tomas Jurco snagged the only open forward spots the Red Wings had in the preseason, leaving Weiss to literally watch the season go by. He can’t play because there’s no room. He’s can’t be waived because he has a no movement clause. Weiss could void the clause, would you opt to give up millions of dollars?

His cap hit is $4.9 million. That’s a bigger than Johan Franzen and Niklas Kronwall. It’s more than Brendan Smith, Danny DeKeyser and Gustav Nyquist combined. And he’s on the books for the next four years. He’s untradeable.

So what do you do?

Weiss needs to play to relearn the speed of the game and regain the form he had for all those years in Florida. The Red Wings don’t have the room to let him play his way into shape and they can’t lend him to the AHL to let Weiss get a 3/4 simulation.

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I want to believe: finding the meaning in the Lions’ inexplicable win over the Saints


Jim Caldwell stepped to the podium as he does every week. He knew he had to talk first, that he needed an opening statement, a couple of words to summarize the game.

He couldn’t find any.

“Alright. Games in this league are…”

Caldwell shook his head.

“…are, uh, are crazy.”

When it was 23-10 I was sitting with a friend who had grown up a Lions fan but had moved out of state. He still paid attention, but became apathetic to actually watching the games.

“At a certain point they have to show me something,” he told me.

This game was not that. New Orleans isn’t good. Detroit was worse for most of the game. Stafford did what he’s always done. He was inconsistent but did a couple things that weren’t that good but were close enough to make you want to believe. In a game that should’ve had him hit the NOS the second quarter, he had to find a way to pull a win out of his ear hole in the final minutes. He did the same thing against Cleveland his rookie year and against the Cowboys in 2013. Those two seasons ended with 2-14 and 7-9 records. This one game means nothing.

Unless, of course, we’re just pawns in a cruel game being played some high power, one that gets pleasure from ironic word play. (THE SAINTS). 

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