Lions Jim Caldwell, Ameer Abdullah discuss Charlottesville race issues

Caldwell thinks the world can learn from the diversity in sports

ALLEN PARK >> Ameer Abdullah had a few things to get off his mind about the racial issues surrounding Charlottesville, Va.

The Lions running back knew it was OK to speak out because coach Jim Caldwell has addressed the situation with players.

“What’s most disheartening is people still try to make excuses for certain behaviors. People in position of influence as well, still making excuses for specifically what happened in Virginia,’’ Abdullah said after Wednesday’s practice. “To me that’s the most disheartening thing. We know what the issue is, it’s been laid out before us. We just need more people on board who won’t make excuses, but will make change.’’

He was asked if he was specifically talking about President Donald Trump.

“Him and his followers,’’ Abdullah replied.

He is well aware that not everyone will agree with him. That’s OK.

“Not everyone is going to root for you, that’s something my dad taught me when I was young, everyone’s not going to like you. If somebody’s not going to like my stance on a situation, especially when it comes to racial issues, then I don’t really want that guy root for me anyway.

“That’s something my dad kind of taught me, not everyone’s going to like you but stand for something or you’re going to fall for anything,’’ he added.

Abdullah  feels he has a responsibility to speak out and credits Cleveland’s Lebron James with opening doors for other athletes to voice their opinions on hot-button topics.

“He’s been very vocal about a lot of instances in society, it helps someone like myself come out and feel more comfortable — not necessarily my opinions but what’s right and what’s wrong,’’ Abdullah said.

Caldwell used the example of trips he and his wife have taken with their two oldest grandsons the past two summers. A year ago they took them to Washington, D.C., around the Fourth of July.

We watched the fireworks, all the monuments. We went to the White House and it was great to just see how the people reacting during that time that the greatness of our country. And our two young guys were just I think extremely excited about it,’’ Caldwell said.

This summer they took them to the Civil Rights trail in Atlanta. He specifically mentioned one exhibit at the Civil Rights Museum.

“It had a lunch counter that was, it emulated the lunch counters of sit-ins and so while they were sitting there, and they had to put the headsets on, and (hear) all of the yelling, the screaming, name calling, etc. Trey put his hands on (the counter) and he took them off after about a couple minutes or so and he looked back at me and he said, ‘Papa Coach,’ he said. ‘That’s scary.’

They brought the kids, who are 7 and 10, because they thought it would be an educational experience. Caldwell, 62, grew up in the 1960s so it was nothing startling for him.

“I said, you know what it’s probably good for him just to get a sense of it. Not realizing that within his lifetime, he’s going to see some of the same things on television again. And that’s disappointing,’’ Caldwell said.

He thinks the Lions players — and all athletes — can make a difference.

“I think the world can take a lot from what we do in sports. It’s a highly diverse community. Guys get along. They’re from all walks of life. But there’s no place in this game for bigotry and hatred,’’ Caldwell said. “And I think that’s same way as society but it’s there. And it’s something that I think we all have to speak out against and not tolerate.”

The coach addressed the subject of protests like sitting during the National Anthem with the same thing he said a year ago when the spotlight was on Colin Kaepernick.

“My thing is, a lot of people talk about protest and those kinds of issues. They can do something about it in our communities. They go out and they work within their foundations, they can have an impact without necessarily what you’d consider to be a protest so you guys can talk about guys sitting down on the sideline and all that. What does that really do?

“And I think our guys are a little bit more concerned about action. But they’re men too. I mean they have their own opinions. I expressed to them, ‘Look at the world. Have your own comments.’ They’re not robots. And they do have feelings. Some of them have grown up in some of those communities where they have all kinds of issues,’’ Caldwell said.

“And I don’t think they should have to be quiet. And I think our guys when you ask them questions about it, Like Ameer (Abdullah) and some of those guys, they’ll speak freely about it and tell you what they think.”

UPDATED Lions notes: Kerry Hyder placed on IR; Copeland could be out for season; more on A’Shawn Robinson and Valoaga

Copeland suffers torn pectoral muscle

ALLEN PARK >> The Lions made it official on Tuesday that the season is over for Kerry Hyder. The defensive end, who tore his Achilles in Sunday’s preseason opener, was placed on injured reserve.

After Monday’s walk-through, coach Jim Caldwell only would say that an announcement was forthcoming. Hyder, who led the Lions with 8.5 sacks in 2016, is likely out until training camp in 2018.

Also on Tuesday, the Lions placed running back Mike James on injured reserve and waived guard Matt Rotheram.

Hyder posted on his Instagram account: “There is no quit in my body. I truly believe God has a plan for me and I will be back better than ever. I am blessed beyond measure and I know this is not setback. It is an opportunity for me to show my strength that God has put in me. All things are possible through him. Thank you to all the friends and family for support. To Lions nation I promise I will be back better than ever. Thank you all.’’

His teammates will miss him.

“Kerry is a big brother to me, having him in the room he has one of the biggest hearts and he plays and it shows day in and day out in practice. … Now we just think what we can do for him. He worked his butt off to get to where he is now. That this happened to him sucks,’’ said defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson (in photo).

Caldwell said not surprisingly Monday was a tough day for Hyder.

“It’s kind of what you can expect. I’m not got to say that it was obvious but there’s nobody that’s excited about going through what he’s going through, so it’s a tough time,’’ Caldwell said.

— Defensive end/linebacker Brandon Copeland could miss the season with a torn pectoral muscle, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.

His loss would mean another huge hit for the defensive line. Hyder is out for the season and defensive tackle Khyri Thornton (six games) and defensive end Armonty Bryant (four games) will serve suspensions to start the season.

Copeland left the game in the fourth quarter and did not return. The Lions have made no statement on Copeland. After a day off on Tuesday they return to practice on Wednesday.

— A’Shawn Robinson was a standout on the defensive line in the preseason win over the Colts.

He finished his rookie season in 2016 showing more s each week.

“You know, which is  kind of hard to believe with a guy that big, that strong that he’s stronger. He’s, I think, running well. He had a pretty solid game the other day and did some of the things he’s accustomed to doing. He put pressure on the quarterback by knocking his guy back into the pocket,’’ Caldwell said. “And certainly when he gets pushed, it just ties in together with him getting his hands up in the throwing lane and tipping a few here and there. But he’s coming along well.”

He’ll likely start alongside veteran defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. And while the line will miss Hyder and Copeland, Robinson on the inside will be a factor.

“That was the first game for all those guys and we’ll see what happens in the second. Like I told the rookies, for the most part, we have a period that we go through all the mistakes. And the reason why we do that is because of the fact that those mistakes have to be corrected because what the other team does now, you’re on film. They look at your strengths. They look at your weaknesses. And those are the things that you attack,’’ Caldwell said. “So, we got to work at correcting ours. So, it’s the same thing with the guys that have been around a little bit. They still will look at you next week, they’ll spend a little bit more time in terms of preparation. So, we’ll see how well they progress.”

— Jeremiah Valoaga seemed to make the most of his chances on Sunday. The defensive end, an undrafted rookie, has had a few moments in training camp too.

“He played well. He’s long (6-foot-5) . He’s got some push. Between he and Alex (Barrett), those number of guys got some pressure on the quarterback,’’ Caldwell said. “And we kind of like what he’s doing right now. But he’s still young.”

Defensive end is a key position with Hyder likely out, and suspensions for ends Armonty Bryant (four games) and Khyri Thornton (six games) to start the season.

 

Five things to know about Greg Robinson who could start at left tackle

The veteran played the first half Sunday in win over Colts

ALLEN PARK >> In his fourth season in the NFL, Greg Robinson knows how key it is to take advantage of every opportunity.

The left tackle, who was signed by the Lions after Taylor Decker tore his labrum in June, played the first half in the 24-10 preseason win over the Colts on Sunday. It’s unknown exactly how long Decker will be out but he’s expected to miss at least a few games early in the season. Robinson is the likely candidate to start in his place. But it’s not a sure thing just yet.

“I take it with a grain of salt, it’s just something I can’t take for granted, honestly come out every day and work my butt off. That’s the real important thing,’’ Robinson said. “Just because a guy got hurt it’s not like things are supposed to be handed to me, I have to come out apply what the coach is teaching in the room and take that to the field and each day just build.’’

The offensive line protected all three quarterbacks, allowing just one sack of Jake Rudock.

Robinson and Cyrus Kouandijo, who was also signed after Decker’s injury, joined the team just before they broke for several weeks off in mid-June. So both studied the playbook on their own but were thrown in the fire when camp started.

Five things to know about Robinson:

1. Coach Jim Caldwell is cautious with praise at this time of year but had some good things to say about Robinson. “Solid, he was solid,’’ Caldwell said. ”In terms of his first outing within the system against another team, I thought he did some good things. But he’s still got a ways to go.’’

2.  Robinson knows he has improvement to make after watching film of Sunday’s win. “Coach grades kind of tough. It wasn’t as expected. I knew I had a lot that I had to clean up. I played hard,’’ Robinson said. “I felt like when opportunities presented themselves I took advantage of it and that’s the things that really count. We don’t get many plays in preseason games so the opportunity to prove yourself is so critical so just deal with that. I feel confident that I can do that.’’

3. He knew the day before that he would be playing the entire first half on Sunday. “At night I  went to sleep a little early knowing that it wasn’t going to be a series, get my mind right mentally,’’ Robinson said. “I went  over the plays, I focused on things I was struggling with throughout the week and make sure I pounded that in my head so I could be prepared in case the coach called it. I feel my conditioning needs to ramp up a little bit just in case I had to play a little more but I felt good afterwards.’’

4. The 24-year-old Robinson was the second overall pick by the St. Louis Rams in the 2014 draft, but never lived up to expectations. He spent the first three years of his career with the Rams, so moving to a new team has offered challenges. “I would say just mentally things aren’t moving as fast as my rookie year. But I’m allowed to slow the game down a lot on my own, getting on the same page, getting the calls and those type of things. I’m able to  relate to guys when they make certain calls. It gives me a headstart almost,’’ Robinson said.

5. Robinson seemed to have a slow start in training camp but has been slowly trending up as he gets more comfortable. “Yes, honestly going against another defense (the Colts) helped a lot,’’ Robinson said. “When I was in this position and noticed that ‘OK, I’m covered, I won’t have help here, I have to change my footwork’ — a few plays I got downgraded by the coach because of that but I feel like it was just a platform I laid and I’ve got a lot of building to do.’’