Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick spent a portion of his Tuesday press conference convincing the media that regardless of records, the Lions are a different team on Thanksgiving. Belichick knows from experience, including two seasons as a Lions assistant coach early in his career, that for the Lions and the city of Detroit the Thanksgiving Day game is the most important game of the season.
The fact that the Lions are a 3-8 this season, and that they have just a 32-28-2 record all-time on the holiday, clouds the fact that this is a big game for the franchise and its fans. After all, the game was the brainchild of original Lions owner G.A. Richards with the inaugural edition coming on Thanksgiving Day in 1934. This year's game will be the first to take place at the Lions brand-new home, Ford Field.
"Having been in Detroit and been a part of this game as a Lion I know that this is the biggest game of the year for Detroit," Belichick said. "It's big for the city. It's big for the fans. It's big for the team. You know before the schedule even comes when you are a Lion that you are playing on Thanksgiving. It's a nationally televised game and there is going to be a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for the event. I know what it is like going in there and I know what it is like being on that side of it. It is a real emotional game for the Lions. They are always tough on Thanksgiving. That's what we are expecting on Thursday, I am sure they will play well and I hope we do."
Later in the press conference when asked about the "struggling Lions," Belichick was quick to respond to what he perceives as a misconception about this week's opponent.
"Well wait a minute," Belichick said. "The Lions are not struggling. They are 3-2 at home."
Belichick also pointed out that in recent years the Lions have become almost unbeatable on Thanksgiving. Detroit has won four of the last five turkey-day games and the only loss was a 29-27 defeat at the hands of the Packers last season.
"They always play well on Thanksgiving. They play good at home. They are a good team at home and they have beaten good teams at home. Why I don't know, but Thanksgiving Day in Detroit is their best game of the year, it seems like every year. That's just the way it is. It's a big event there and everybody is ready for it."
And if Belichick has anything to say about it, even in this short week, his team will be ready for it as well.
The Patriots released a extremely short injury report Tuesday morning. Safety Tebucky Jones is the only player on the list and he is Questionable with a leg injury. Jones left the game two weeks ago in Oakland with leg cramps and was inactive for this past weekend's game against the Vikings.
The Lions issued a much longer injury report. Defensive end Jared DeVries (foot) is Out. Safety LaMar Campbell (hamstring), safety Corey Harris (knee), defensive end Robert Porcher (knee) and safety Brian Walker (toe) are all listed as Questionable. Running back Aveion Cason (knee) is Probable.
A number Patriots voiced their views on Tuesday about playing in front of a national audience on Thursday in a big NFL holiday tradition. The players also voiced some positive opinions about the throwback uniforms the team will wear for the game. The team will wear red jerseys, white pants and white helmets with the Pat Patriot logo that came to prominence in the team's 1985 Super Bowl season.
"It's very special," Mike Compton said of the game that he became familiar with in his time in Detroit. "I know all the years that I was there, the Thanksgiving Day game was … the emphasis was that the Lions never lose on Thanksgiving. It's national t.v. and it's a showcase game. Everyone's going to be watching. You get fat on turkey and then watch the Lions, it's just a big tradition. The years that I was there, we always played hard and it was our game, it was our time to show the country that the Lions were a real football team."
"This is the throw back week, and I guess it's an honor to all the older players that played," Richard Seymour said of the bright red jerseys and the Pat Patriot helmet. "As a young player I would like to pay my respects to those guys as well. It'll be something I can have for memorabilia and I can hang up in my trophy room."