DETROIT >> The Detroit Lions will be short-handed when they face Green Bay for the NFC North title.
Lions center Dominic Raiola has been suspended for one game after he stepped on Chicago Bears defensive tackle Ego Ferguson on Sunday. The punishment was handed down by Merton Hanks, the NFL’s Vice President of Football Operations. The league said this was Raiola’s sixth rules violation related to player safety since 2010.
Lions players were not available to reporters Monday, and coach Jim Caldwell addressed reporters before the suspension was announced. Even then, Caldwell seemed aware of the possibility.
“I believe what Dom told me, that it was inadvertent, but I could also see why it’s obviously being reviewed by the league and everybody is taking a real good look at it,” Caldwell said. “You can also see the other side of that as well. There’s a league protocol to it, it’ll be reviewed and taken a look at. We’ll deal with the issues after there’s been some determination here.”
Raiola can appeal the suspension.
The Lions clinched a postseason berth Saturday when Washington beat Philadelphia, then Detroit (11-4) struggled through a 20-14 victory at Chicago that left some unanswered questions about how this team measures up against the NFL’s best. The Lions are 9-1 against teams with losing records this season, while going 2-3 against teams above .500.
Detroit did beat Green Bay 19-7 back in September. The teams are tied for first heading into next weekend’s showdown at Green Bay, where the Lions have not won since 1991.
“I know when we ask a number of our players whether or not they’ve been in a similar situation as this, the great majority of them are probably going to say no, but there are some guys obviously in the room that have been,” Caldwell said.
“It’s still great to get an opportunity to be right where we are. We’re undefeated in our division. The guys have fought some real battles and have done a tremendous job and we’ve got a great opportunity ahead of us.”
The Lions have won four in a row, and they appeared to have turned a corner offensively when they started that streak by beating Chicago and Tampa Bay by identical 34-17 scores. But the offense regressed in the next two games — a 16-14 win over Minnesota and Sunday’s game at Chicago.
“This is what we play for. We’re right there on the doorstep, we have one more task ahead of us and that’s to go out next week and get another ‘W,'” star receiver Calvin Johnson said. “It’s clear to see we have to play better.”
Raiola stepped on Ferguson’s right ankle while the Chicago lineman was on the ground early in the third quarter. Raiola said after the game it was not intentional, and that he talked to Ferguson and apologized.
Raiola has been with the Lions for his entire 14-year career, playing every game of every season except 2008.
Detroit used its third-round draft pick this year on center Travis Swanson.
“We have options, obviously he’s one of those options,” Caldwell said. “He’s the guy that’s played, understands it and has some snaps under his belt.”
Matthew Stafford threw two interceptions against the Bears on Sunday, helping Chicago stay in the game. If there was any significant bright spot for the Lions, it was their running game. Joique Bell had 74 yards on 13 carries, including the 17-yard touchdown run that put Detroit ahead in the fourth quarter.
Reggie Bush, who has been slowed by injury problems this season, had seven carries for 54 yards and a touchdown, and he also caught six passes for 44 yards.
“We made an emphasis to run the ball well,” Bush said. “We knew in order for us to win this time of year we have to run the ball well. I think everybody on the offense took that to heart.”