Lions’ Bevell won’t coach Sat. vs. Buccaneers

The Detroit Lions are now on the interim to their interim head coach, as Darrell Bevell will not coach Saturday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers due to COVID-19 protocols, the team announced Thursday.

The Lions will move wide receivers coach Robert Prince into the head coach role and turn playcalling duties over to quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan, who has never been a playcaller at any level.

On defense, coordinator Cory Undlin and all three primary position coaches — Bo Davis (defensive line), Ty McKenzie (linebackers) and Steve Gregory (defensive backs) — also will not coach Saturday due to COVID-19 protocols.

Head coach assistant Evan Rothstein will serve as the defensive playcaller against the Buccaneers. Ty Warren, David Corrao and Tony Carter will handle the defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs, respectively.

In addition to all the coaching changes, the Lions have a number of starters listed as either out or questionable. Quarterback Matthew Stafford (ribs/right thumb), center Frank Ragnow (throat/vocal cords), kicker Matt Prater (back), offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai (concussion), left tackle Taylor Decker (groin), linebacker Jamie Collins (neck) and cornerback Darryl Roberts (hip) are all questionable. Wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hip) and right tackle Tyrell Crosby (ankle) are both out.

Bevell said he and the other COVID-19 restricted coaches are available to work until game day but can’t have any contact with the other coaches Saturday, meaning first-time playcallers Rothstein and Ryan will not have much guidance. Bevell, though, said he had been working with Ryan on playcalling “for a little while.” Rothstein has worked with former head coach Matt Patricia, and Bevell called Rothstein “our most knowledgeable in terms of our defense and really what we’re doing all the way across the board.”

“I might need to find a place to watch it by myself,” Bevell said of Saturday’s game. “You know, I can’t even tell you what it’s going to be like. I know what it was like sitting out, but sitting out and knowing that I’m just totally disappointed that I can’t be there and I want to be there for my guys and all the respect that I have for these players.

“I’ll be a madman, I think. I’ll be jumping up and down. I’ll be less calm than I am on game day.”

Bevell said the Lions talked to the NFL about trying to push the game back to Sunday, but that did not happen. Bevell said he couldn’t speculate about whether the league’s decision not to move the game had anything to do with Detroit (5-9) being out of playoff contention.

“I know that we did push to have things that could help us, and again, it’s between the league and the club on that,” Bevell said. “I am disappointed. I know if the game was on Sunday, I would be there, because the time frame would be up and all these coaches would be able to be there. So I think that’s the most disappointing part, but we’ve got to go with what they’re telling us.”

Safety and defensive captain Duron Harmon laughed and said “next man up, I guess,” when asked how he processed how many of his coaches were going to be unavailable. Harmon said he has never experienced a week like this, from the coach shuffling to the firing of special-teams coordinator Brayden Coombs — all on a short week.

“That’s the times that we’re in,” Harmon said. “What can I do? Sit around and complain? Nah. I just got to find a way. Find a way to keep going, find a way to continue to be motivated and find a way to play the best game we can play against a good Bucs team.”

Prince, who has never been a head coach, was an offensive coordinator at Fort Lewis College (1994-95), in the Japanese X League (1996-97), at Portland State (1999-2000) and at Boise State (2012-13). He was the passing game coordinator at Colorado in 2010.

He has been with the Lions since 2014, brought in by former coach Jim Caldwell.

Bevell will get credit for Saturday’s game, which won’t go on Prince’s head-coaching ledger, according to ESPN Stats & Information and the Elias Sports Bureau.

The only other time a team had three head coaches in one season was the 1978 New England Patriots. Chuck Fairbanks was suspended one game for a contract breach, so Hank Bullough and Ron Erhardt were co-head coaches in Week 16 before Fairbanks returned for the playoffs.

On Monday, practice squad linebacker Anthony Pittman and a coach both tested positive for COVID-19. The NFL and the Lions then went into their close contact tracing procedures and wiped out most of the defensive staff.

Bevell said Wednesday that he believed some of this occurred due to travel to the team’s most recent game, at Tennessee — Nashville has one of the highest new-case rates of COVID-19 in the country — but he is otherwise unsure how his player and coach contracted the virus.

On Wednesday, Bevell would not “confirm or deny” a report from the Detroit Free Press that one defensive assistant was not wearing his contact tracing tracker at all times and another held a meeting inside his office.

Bevell said Thursday that the close-contact designation did not mean the affected coaches did not have masks on. He said “it’s the contact time” that they are going off, as well as an interview process on mask-wearing and individual time in proximity to others. Bevell said he was “absolutely” wearing his mask.

Published at Thu, 24 Dec 2020 22:59:26 +0000

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