A linebacker shuffle and other Lions notes

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert

Several interesting developments came out of Detroit on Thursday.


Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham told reporters that rookie linebacker DeAndre Levy is going to start Sunday against Pittsburgh. But with all three of the Lions’ current starters healthy, Cunningham wouldn’t say who is getting benched.

Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com writes that it’s unlikely that middle linebacker Larry Foote will lose his job, leaving outside linebackers Julian Peterson and Ernie Sims as the remaining candidates. John Niyo of the Detroit News suggests Sims could be the target.

Regardless, the move will continue a pattern of weekly personnel shake-ups. The Lions benched cornerback Phillip Buchanon two weeks ago, and this week coach Jim Schwartz inserted rookie Derrick Williams as his primary kick returner. Sims and Peterson were both thought to be cornerstones of the Lions’ new defense, but it appears Levy has earned himself a role -- somewhere.

Cunningham: “If we're going to follow the philosophy of the head coach, the best player should be out there and I darn sure think [Levy] is one of the best players we've got right now. Right now, the thought is to not take him off the field on any package.”

Quarterback Matthew Stafford missed practice for the second consecutive day, increasing the likelihood that he will miss Sunday’s game. Schwartz is keeping information flow on his status to a minimum, but Stafford’s dislocated kneecap is probably too significant of an injury to let him back on the field.

“Just got to keep rehabbing and try to get it ready,” Stafford said during a guarded interview with local reporters. (Watch the video here.)

The Lions announced they sold out Sunday’s game, giving them two sellouts in their first three home games.