As if the Detroit Lions didn’t already have a difficult enough task matched up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Week 16, the team will play without head coach Darrell Bevell and four defensive assistants, including defensive coordinator Cory Undlin on Saturday.
Bevell was among the close contacts to a COVID-19 positive on the Detroit coaching staff. As mentioned by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Bevell is now the first NFL head coach to miss a game due to COVID-19 protocols. Defensive line coach Bo Davis, defensive backs coach Steve Gregory, and linebackers coach Ty McKenzie will also miss Saturday’s game.
As a result, wide receivers coach Robert Prince will take over head-coaching duties for the Lions against the Bucs. Prince, 55, has been with Detroit since 2014, originally part of Jim Caldwell’s staff.
Prior to coaching with the Lions, Prince was the offensive coordinator at Boise State and passing game coordinator at Colorado. He also has experience as an assistant with the Seattle Seahawks, Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, and then-San Diego Chargers.
Interim Head Coach Darrell Bevell, Defensive Coordinator Cory Undlin, Defensive Line Coach Bo Davis, Defensive Backs Coach Steve Gregory and Linebackers Coach Ty McKenzie will not coach in Saturday’s game against Tampa Bay due to COVID-19 protocols. pic.twitter.com/a173JJqAGF
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) December 24, 2020
Other changes on the Detroit sideline include quarterback coach Sean Ryan calling offensive plays while Evan Rothstein (head coach assistant/research & analysis) makes the calls for the defense. Defensive assistant Tony Carter will coach defensive backs, while David Corrao (director of football research) coaches linebackers, and Ty Warren (minority coaching assistant) will oversee the defensive line.
Those assistants will be thrown right into the deep end of the swimming pool, facing Tom Brady, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, and the rest of Tampa Bay’s explosive, star-laden offense.
According to the Detroit News‘s Justin Rogers, the Lions had one coach and one practice squad player test positive on Monday. As one of the coaches working at the team facility, Bevell was considered a high-risk close contact. And with Detroit’s game scheduled for Saturday, he will still be in quarantine.
Since the Lions can still field a full team against Tampa Bay, postponing the game until Sunday or Monday apparently wasn’t a consideration. Would the situation have been different if Detroit was in playoff contention? Bevell wouldn’t address that possibility. At least Detroit won’t have to play a practice squad receiver at quarterback, as the Denver Broncos did in Week 12.
The Lions and Buccaneers play at 1 p.m. Saturday (Dec. 26) with the telecast exclusively on NFL Network. Adam Amin calls play-by-play with analyst Mark Schlereth and Lindsay Czarniak reporting.