Lions open exhibition season

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DETROIT - The Lions open the preseason Friday night, hosting the Cleveland Browns at Ford Field.

For many, it will be the first glimpse of the 2012 edition of the Lions, although a small peek. That's because most of the starters won't play much.

And while many are excited about the team coming off their 10-6 season and a trip to the playoffs for the first time in a long time, there's still the same concern: the defense.

Especially the secondary.

First, the Lions had to release Aaron Berry, who appeared to be a starting corner. Berry was arrested twice in 30 days before the Lions had enough of his behavior and moved on. Then news that Louis Delmas, a starting safety, had surgery on his left knee. Delmas hadn't practiced in the 10 previous days because of soreness before the surgery.

The Lions, playing secrets, gave no indication of the nature or severity of his injury.

"We really don't have any timetables," Lions coach Jim Schwartz told the media at practice the other day. "He's not day-to-day, he's more like week-to-week."

It was a spot for concern last season. In fact, in the two biggest games of the season last year, it failed terribly. First, with a chance to improve their playoff spot on the last game of the season against the Packers in Green Bay, the Lions allowed 45 points. Matt Flynn, who started in place of Aaron Rodgers, threw for 480-yards and six TDs. In the playoffs, the Lions allowed the Saints' Drew Brees to throw for 465 yards and three scores in route to 45 more points versus the defense.

That's why the focus of this team -- which has a offense that rivals some of the league's best -- is still on the defense. We know the Lions can score, but can they stop anybody. And if you are trying to get to the Super Bowl, you have to get past of great quarterbacks in the NFL.

Tonight, it won't be that serious. Still, solid play in the secondary would be nice. Amari Spievey, who is a returning starter at corner, and nine-year vet Erick Coleman are likely starters vs. the Browns at the corner spots.

Tigers miss chance

No one is going to bellyache about a single loss, still with a lot of important games ahead the next two months before the American League Central is decided.

Still, the Tigers' 4-3 loss to the New York Yankees was bad Thursday afternoon.

The Tigers had runners on first and third and no outs in the bottom of the ninth at Comerica Park. They were trailing by one and failed to move either runner as the next three batters all recorded outs via the air, two infield pop outs and a fly ball to center to end the game.

"We let a golden opportunity get away there in the ninth," Tigers manager Jim Leyland told the media at Comerica Park.

No one will argue that the Tigers have been impressive, especially at home. They finished home stand at 5-2. And coming into Thursday, they had won 10 of their previous 11 in Motown. But they had a chance to win the series against New York with a victory, but instead had to settle for a split. That stinks because the Tigers won the first two games of the four-game series.

Now it's off to Texas for another important series.

One player that must get righted quick-fast is reliever Joaquin Benoit. He gave up back-to-back homers to the Yankees on back-to-back pitches to give up lead and take the loss. In 10 games since the All-Star break, he has allowed nine hits -- seven homers. ``He's had trouble keeping the ball in the ballpark,'' Leyland said.

Strong get stronger

The NBA is amazing. It's the only league where the good teams get all the good players. It happened again Thursday night when the Lakers got Dwight Howard in four-team trade.

It's the second time the Lakers have landed a free-agent-to-be star center from Orlando. Shaq left Orlando as well once he became a free agent.

Meanwhile, there are the usual 4-5 teams that have a chance to win a title. Yet, the league tells you there's competitive balance because they have a salary cap. Another bad day for NBA America.

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