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For the Jets and Lions, Today Is Not a Holiday

Newsday

For NFL players, Thursday is the day when the pain from last Sunday’s game begins to subside and they give thanks that they have three more days to get ready for the next game. But instead of working out the kinks in practice today, the Jets (9-3) have to go bruise-to-bruise with the Lions (6-6) in a nationally televised Thanksgiving Day game at the Silverdome.

It’s no holiday. “Thanksgiving is a great game if you win because you’ve got 10 days to relax and heal your injuries and feel good about the victory,” Jets coach Joe Walton said. “But it’s a lousy game if you lose.”

Three important Jets are listed as questionable: running back Freeman McNeil (sprained ankle), linebacker Lance Mehl (sprained arch) and cornerback Bobby Jackson (sprained neck). But McNeil and Mehl expect to play, and Jackson has been upgraded from doubtful. Since McNeil carried only five times in the 16-13 overtime victory over New England Sunday that put the Jets atop the AFC East, he may feel as good as any of his teammates.

Whether or not they are listed on the injury report, almost every regular player is fighting pain at this point in the season. It varies according to the individual and his position. “I feel pretty good,” said defensive end Barry Bennett said. “A racehorse needs pampering, but a workhorse is ready to go seven days a week.”

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Cornerback Johnny Lynn, who Tuesday won the Jets’ Ed Block Courage award for his ability to play with pain, would not have been able to play at this time last week because of a foot injury.

“I took last Thursday off,” said Lynn, who made several key plays against the Patriots. “You try to get your mind to control the pain and put it on the back burner.

“You try to do things so that you don’t have to react as fast. If you line up six yards off the line, you might get eight yards off, where you have a little more time to read the play. But it might be different for Lance at linebacker.”

Mehl was on crutches after the New England game, but Tuesday, he was able to walk with a limp, and he didn’t flinch at the idea of playing on three days’ rest. “It’s just a little bruise,” Mehl said of his foot injury. “You just tape it and go. Sure, it hurts a little more, but you’ve got 10 days to rest.

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In the past seven years, only two visiting teams have been able to win on Thanksgiving in the Silverdome. And this season, the Lions also have been tough at home on Sundays. Their 5-0 record includes upset victories over Dallas and the two teams who met in the past Super Bowl, San Francisco and Miami.

Jets coach Joe Walton believes the excessive noise level in the Silverdome creates problems for opposing teams. “Detroit has had a lot of success blitzing,” said Walton. “A little of that is because of the visiting team not being able to get out of a bad situation (by changing plays at the line of scrimmage). The major problem on offense is that it’s hard to audible because of the noise factor.”


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