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Marinelli finally addresses 0-16 cloud hanging over Lions

DETROIT -- Detroit Lions coach Rod Marinelli repeatedly insisted the thought of making NFL history as the first 0-16 team hadn't entered his mind.

Marinelli said he didn't want his players thinking about it, either.

That changed this week.

The Lions coach addressed the topic with his team for the first time at a meeting after a long break following a 37-point loss to Tennessee on Thanksgiving.

Marinelli refused to talk about it with reporters, but his players did.

"He said, 'We're not going 0-16,'" running back Aveion Cason recalled Marinelli saying. "Nobody wants to be a part of NFL history."

At least not that kind.

The Lions (0-12) seem to be marching toward a dubious distinction, getting routed in their last four games after being competitive in the previous four, with games remaining against Minnesota and New Orleans at home, and Indianapolis and Green Bay on the road.

In fact, Las Vegas oddsmakers are gambling that Detroit will finish the season winless.

If you think the Lions are going to make history, you'll have to bet $160 or $180 to make $100, according to the Glantz-Culver line and Las Vegas Sports Consultants, respectively.

Rookie running back Kevin Smith insisted he's not worried about the possibility of surpassing the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who went 0-14 in an expansion season, as the worst team in NFL history.

"If I cared about what everybody thought about the Lions in the world, I'd be worried about a lot of people," Smith said. "Who cares?"

Some think the Lions' best and perhaps only shot to win a game will be Sunday at home against the NFC-North leading Vikings.

"I suppose that reflects on us," Minnesota coach Brad Childress said. "But everybody is entitled to their opinion."

Perhaps those who are predicting Detroit, a heavy underdog in Las Vegas, will win its next game haven't been paying attention to what Minnesota (7-5) has been doing lately.

The Vikings won their past two games against Chicago and at Jacksonville by a combined score of 64-26 and have victories in four of their last five games. Adrian Peterson has run for an NFL-high 1,311 yards, quarterback Gus Frerotte is 7-3 as starter since replacing Tarvaris Jackson, and the Vikings haven't given up 20 points in nearly a month.

Minnesota's defense had a setback off the field when the NFL suspended run-stuffing linemen Pat Williams and Kevin Williams for testing positive in training camp for a banned diuretic that can be used to mask steroids.

The NFL Players Association filed a lawsuit Thursday to block the suspension for both players, along with three of the other four involved.

"That's the media's job to stir that stuff up," Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen said. "It's our job to discard it and go out and play football."

The Lions played their best football -- in terms of the final score -- on Oct. 12 at Minnesota, when they lost 12-10 after a disputed penalty set up the winning field goal. The game was made memorable because their quarterback, Dan Orlovsky, obliviously ran out of the back of the end zone for a safety.

"It can be scary because you know they're going to come out fighting," Minnesota safety Darren Sharper said. "We have to make sure we come out fast and answer their intensity at the start.

"If we do that, we'll be fine."

The last time the Vikings played Detroit when the Lions were 0-12, the Vikings lost.

The Lions finally won a game in 2001 when Minnesota came to town, setting off a wild celebration.

"It felt like winning the Super Bowl," running back Aveion Cason said.

Daunte Culpepper was an injured Viking in that game and now he's the starting QB for the Lions. He's hoping to play an entire game for just the second time in five chances with the third team that has given him an opportunity to find the form he had as a Pro Bowl quarterback in Minnesota.

"It's always good to play your old team, but we're just trying to win a game right now against anybody," Culpepper said.

While everybody has been talking about the Lions possibly going 0-16, offensive tackle Jeff Backus is glad his coach addressed it with the players for the first time.

"Everybody knows we're in this situation and nobody has gone 0-16 and we only have so many games left to get a win," Backus said. "Why not present it to the team and let teams know where we stand?"

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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