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Custom A’Shawn Robinson Jersey

ALLEN PARK — A’Shawn Robinson might have already played his final game for the Detroit Lions.

Robinson has been ruled out for the season finale on Sunday against Green Bay. He’s been battling a shoulder injury that sidelined him the last two games. Detroit is expected to free up the roster spot by moving him to injured reserve on Saturday.

And with his rookie contract set to expire with the start of the new league year in March, it’s possible Robinson’s time in Detroit has come to a close.

He was a second-round pick in Bob Quinn’s first draft class back in 2016, but only occasionally delivered on his promise. He’s started 37 games in four years while accounting for 172 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, 14 QB hits, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and one pick-six off New Orleans’ Drew Brees in 2017.

He ranked among PFF’s 15 best interior defenders last season, his first in the Matt Patricia defense, but has fallen all the way to No. 100 this year. Mike Daniels has been hurt most of the year, and Da’Shawn Hand too. Even Snacks Harrison’s play dropped off, and that cratering in the middle of Detroit’s highly anticipated defensive line has caused problems all season.

Now with Robinson and Daniels both eligible to become free agents in March, Detroit has serious questions to mull as it figures out how to repair a defense that has allowed 5,974 yards this season. That’s 29th in the league, and Detroit’s worst defensive season since 2010 with one game still to go.

Linebacker Devon Kennard (shoulder), linebacker Steve Longa (quad), kicker Matt Prater (illness), right tackle Rick Wagner (knee) and safety Tavon Wilson (hamstring) are questionable against Green Bay.

Custom Devon Kennard Jersey Large

Devon Kennard has heard the joke before.

The Detroit Lions linebacker is involved with so many causes that help metro Detroit youth — from funding scholarships, encouraging reading, raising money for worthy causes, adopting a family at Thanksgiving and working on social-justice and social-resiliency initiatives — it wouldn’t be hard to believe that being a role model is Kennard’s full-time job and that his NFL gig is just a side hustle.

“Hey, I’m very efficient,” the Lions’ co-leader in sacks said with a laugh. “People joke all the time. I’m not a guy that wastes a lot of time. Like I’ve got extra film to (study), I lock in, turn the phone off, get the film done. I go home and spend some time with my family. Then I got the off-the-field stuff. Definitely stay busy.”

Because of all his good deeds, Kennard recently was named the Lions’ nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. The winner will be announced Feb. 1. All nominees received a donation of up to $50,000 for their charity of choice, which for Kennard is the Midnight Golf Program of Detroit.

More: Detroit Lions’ 2020 free-agent class: Who’ll be back? Who’ll be gone?
Lions linebacker Devon Kennard speaks with kids during a Midnight Golf event.

Lions linebacker Devon Kennard speaks with kids during a Midnight Golf event. (Photo: Photo courtesy of Midnight Golf)

“He’s always been a guy that wants to make an impact off the field in the community,” Lions defensive end Romeo Okwara said. “That’s something I definitely look up to as well. As a teammate he’s definitely someone I look up to as far as setting a good example for what it takes to be a real pro.”

The NFL encourages its players to be active in their communities. Some give money. Some give their time. Kennard gives both.

In August 2018, his first season with the Lions, Kennard met Midnight Golf students at training camp and he was instantly taken with them. In 2001, Renee Fluker founded the program that mentors 265 high school seniors four nights a week at Marygrove College through life-skills training and proactive coaching.

“I just go and hang out with the kids,” Kennard said. “Honestly, they’re operating so well that it’s cool just to sit back and watch for a while. Every time I go, I end up speaking to the kids, sharing whatever’s in my ear that day and opening it up for Q and A.”

Kennard makes it seem like it’s not a big deal. But Fluker knows better.
Lions linebacker Devon Kennard speaks with kids during a Midnight Golf event.

Lions linebacker Devon Kennard speaks with kids during a Midnight Golf event. (Photo: Photo courtesy of Midnight Golf)

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“Last (week) he came out and did a presentation,” she said. “The kids were so excited he was there. He told his story about how he went to college and became an NFL player. Just a little background about how passionate he is about young people.

“They’re so excited about him. He’s a great young man, a great role model.”

In the spring, Kennard attended the Midnight Golf closing ceremony and gave $5,000 scholarships to Maya Solomon, who has a 4.0 grade-point average at Florida A&M, and to Jalen Fountain, who has a 3.5 GPA at Eastern Michigan.

But Kennard didn’t make it easy. He has a passion for reading. Last year, he was featured on the PBS series “The Great American Read” and spoke about Gary Paulson’s inspiring young-adult novel “Hatchet.” He wanted the scholarship applicants to explain how they were inspired by a book and they in turn didn’t make it easy for him to choose two winners.
Lions linebacker Devon Kennard awards two scholarships at the Midnight Golf graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 9, 2019, in Detroit.

Lions linebacker Devon Kennard awards two scholarships at the Midnight Golf graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 9, 2019, in Detroit. (Photo: Photo courtesy of Midnight Golf)

“I just loved the work they were doing,” he said of Midnight Golf. “I felt there was a need there and there are some very bright kids. I wanted to encourage them to read books and really reflect on some books they read, so I created a scholarship.

“So I asked them to choose a book, read it and not only give me a summary of the book but talk about the impact it had on their life, what they learned from the book, how they can apply it to their life. I ended up getting over 60 applications. I read every single one personally myself.”

Need comes in different forms. Kennard met D’Anyra Jones through Midnight Golf and when her mother wasn’t working during Thanksgiving in 2018, Kennard adopted the family and provided them with a Thanksgiving meal and gave them tickets to a Lions game. Jones is a freshman at Bowling Green University and has a 4.0 GPA.

Kennard also donates his time at the Downtown Boxing Gym, which serves about 150 students from 57 schools across metro Detroit. Around Thanksgiving, Kennard joined Matthew Stafford, Danny Amendola and Jarrad Davis to surprise the gym with a new Ford Transit 15-passenger van to transport students.
Lions outside linebacker Devon Kennard picks up a fumble for touchdown against the Giants during the first half at Ford Field in Detroit, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019.

Lions outside linebacker Devon Kennard picks up a fumble for touchdown against the Giants during the first half at Ford Field in Detroit, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (Photo: Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press)

Another important cause for Kennard is Detroit Lions Inspire Change, a player-driven social justice initiative he was instrumental in launching after the 2018 season. This summer, Kennard and some teammates met with Detroit police and a panel of male students to discuss finding success despite negative circumstances.

“We had real talks about social resiliency,” he said, “what they’re going through, how to overcome adversity, some challenges they’re facing and how to deal with it.

“And a message I really wanted to send is they’re at a pivotal point in their lives and the decisions I made at their age are having a ripple effect now. And I had friends who made bad decisions at their age and they’re dealing with the repercussions of that as well. So the decisions they make will greatly impact their lives. Moving forward, what kind of decisions are you going to make?”

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Kennard said the players’ efforts in 2018 helped support several organizations that Lions owner Martha Ford also has helped support.

“Last year, we raised a bunch of money between what we did in the locker room and Mrs. Ford matching it,” he said. “We want to do the same this year and really start to take strides with that and raise more money.”

The money is great. So are causes. But mostly, to Kennard, it’s about time. He makes sure not to waste it so that he can spend it being around kids and doing whatever he can to help.

“My approach has always been that the best thing you can give to our youth is time,” he said. “I take the position I’m in seriously of being a role model to kids like that. Just be there. Just hang out for a while and shoot the (breeze) for a little while and just talk.”

Custom Matt Prater Jersey Large

They’re packed in boxes, sitting in a room in his house, and when Matt Prater’s 3-year-old son, Pax, goes through his old game balls, he sometimes reminds his dad: “Dad, you used to play for the Broncos.”

Prater will play his first game in Denver on Sunday since the Broncos released him early in the 2014 season, after he finished a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on substances of abuse.
Lions kicker Matt Prater kicks a 54-yard field goal against the Chicago Bears in the first half on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Chicago.

Lions kicker Matt Prater kicks a 54-yard field goal against the Chicago Bears in the first half on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Chicago. (Photo: Matt Marton USA TODAY Sports)

As dark as the end was, Prater said he remembers his days in Denver fondly and is looking forward to kicking against his old team this weekend when the Lions visit Empower Field.

“I’ll always have a special place for Denver just ’cause I basically started my career there and played there a while,” he said. “I got nothing but good memories looking back, so it’s cool.”

Prater, who’ll play his 90th game as a Lion on Sunday, signed with the Broncos late in the 2007 season and took over as the team’s full-time kicker a year later. He made his first Pro Bowl with the Broncos in 2013, when he led the league in field-goal percentage (96.2%) and set an NFL record with a 64-yard field goal.

“That was six years ago now,” he said. “It was cold that day, too. It was like 10 or 12, I think. I can’t remember the exact (temperature), but I know it was cold.”
Oct 29, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions kicker Matt Prater (5) holds son Pax Prater before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 29, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions kicker Matt Prater (5) holds son Pax Prater before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports (Photo: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)

Game-time temperature is expected to be about 60 degrees Sunday, good kicking weather, and Prater said he’d love an opportunity to break his mark against his old team.

More: Detroit Lions vs. Denver Broncos: Dave Birkett’s scouting report, prediction

“There’s a lot of guys that could do it, it’s just getting the opportunity,” he said. “It’s got to be right before the end of the half or right at the end of the game just ’cause field position’s so important. So many games are close, it’s just getting that opportunity.”

Mostly, though, Prater said he’s looking forward to seeing a few old neighbors and friends who might attend the game and people inside the organization, such as assistant equipment manager Kenny Chavez, who helped Prater break in the “K” kicking balls.

“I’ve got fond memories,” Prater said. “I remember the good times, bad times, but that’s like anywhere you go. You’re going to have ups and downs. I remember more of the good than bad, though. … I had a good run and it was fun.”
Injury report

The Lions ruled three starters out of Sunday’s game: Right tackle Rick Wagner (knee), defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson (shoulder) and linebacker Christian Jones (shoulder). All three players will be missing their second straight games.
Detroit Lions offensive lineman Rick Wagner goes through drills during training camp Sunday, August 4, 2019 in Allen Park. Lions

Detroit Lions offensive lineman Rick Wagner goes through drills during training camp Sunday, August 4, 2019 in Allen Park. Lions (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press via Imagn Content Services, LLC)

Linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring) and running back Bo Scarbrough (ribs) are questionable to play. Both practiced on a limited basis Friday, though Kennard missed two practices earlier this week.

The Lions (3-10-1) still have one open spot on their 53-man roster and are expected to promote running back Kerryon Johnson before Sunday’s game.

“We’ll see how he feels after (practice Friday),” Lions coach Matt Patricia said.

Guard Ronald Leary will miss his third straight game for Denver (5-9) because of a brain injury.

Contact Dave Birkett at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.Read more on the Detroit Lions and sign up for our Lions newsletter.

Custom Steve Longa Jersey Large

 

The Lions are preparing for their season finale Sunday at Ford Field against the division Rival Green Bay Packers.

Both teams are playing for very different goals: The Packers can clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs with a win, while the Lions are looking to play the spoiler role.

“What do we have to lose? We’re just going to go and throw our best shot at them and give them everything we got,” Lions quarterback David Blough said.

“They are playing for a lot, but so are we. Pride means something around here and these guys are going to fight.”

The Lions want to end the season on a good note, and the best way to do that is with a win.

“Every game I play in, I want to win,” linebacker Devon Kennard said. “There’s only one left. Green Bay’s had a great year, but the loss we took (23-22 in Week 6) that one still stings.

“I think about it. Being able to beat them would be a good thing for us. It would make this year feel a little better – at least walking out of here at the end of the week.

“So, yeah … I’m looking forward to it.”

TAVAI TO IR

The Lions announced Monday that rookie linebacker Jahlani Tavai was headed to Reserve/Injured after injuring his shoulder in the Lions’ loss to the Broncos in Denver.

Head coach Matt Patricia confirmed it is the same shoulder Tavai injured his senior year at Hawaii. It’s not clear at this time if this injury will cause Tavai to miss any of the offseason training program.

With just one game left in the season, the Lions will need guys like Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Steve Longa to step up and help fill Tavai’s role.

“We have a lot of packages that are up defensively, and those guys had to fill a couple of different roles from maybe different linebacker types to different third-down packages, things like that, to goal-line packages,” Patricia said. “Those guys are really good during the course of the week. They really pay attention, they understand that injuries can happen and there could be a situation where they might be up.”

The team also signed linebacker Anthony Pittman to the active roster from the practice squad Friday.

OTHER NOTEWORTHY ITEMS

Click here for the full Lions-Packers injury report with game designations for Sunday’s contest.
The Lions’ opponents are now set for the 2020 season.
Catch up on all the news from Darrell Bevell and Paul Pasqualoni’s Tuesday media sessions.
Detroit Lions Inspire Change will invest nearly $600,000 in financial support through grants to nine Metro Detroit organizations in 2020.