Tigers pennant race, Lions season begins, and Roger Goodell on domestic violence

By Rob Parker - Sports Columnist
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DETROIT - In honor of the late, great Joe Falls, it's a Fish Fry Friday. ...

The Tigers, coming off their exciting walk-off win against the Yankees, open their most important road trip of the season.

They hit the road for eight games in seven days, starting tonight in Chicago against the White Sox.

They play four in Chicago in three days and then four games in Cleveland. And while both teams are behind the Tigers in the AL Central standing, division rivalry games are hardly a piece of cake this time of the year.

Plus, the Tigers aren't the same road team they were earlier in the season. In fact, they've lost 10 of their last 15 games on the road.

They have some heavy lifting ahead of them.

Worse, they make this trip without Anibal Sanchez, who is suffering from a muscle strain. Sanchez suffered a setback on Monday and said he's concerned his season could be over.

The Tigers will hit the road without new reliever Chad Qualls as well. The Tigers claimed him off waivers from the Houston Astros, but couldn't reach a deal within the 48-hour deadline.

And the Tigers are still without reliever Joakim Soria, who has been on the disabled list since Aug. 10 with a left oblique strain.

Manager Brad Ausmus said about Soria: "I'm not precisely sure at this point when he will be throwing off the mound."

And things won't be easier when the Tigers return from the road. They'll host the San Francisco Giants, who are in a fight against the Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL West title, before a series against Kansas City. The Royals are currently11/2-game up on the Tigers in the division.

Lions Win Again

The Lions won again in the preseason, blanking the Bills, 23-0, in Buffalo Thursday night.

Detroit finishes the preseason 3-1. They open the regular season at home Sept. 8 at Ford Field against the New York Giants in a Monday night tilt.

While I'll never pooh-pooh winning, it's hard to determine what the preseason really means to this team.

We didn't see much of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. In the Bills game, 11 starters were rested.

Worse, we really don't have a sense if this defense has improved enough to make the Lions a playoff teams.

A lot of early predictions from NFL experts don't have them making the postseason for the third straight season.

Most, though, would agree that it's the defense that will determine the Lions' fate in 2014.

The Lions - who finished 7-9 and out of the playoffs after starting the season 6-3 - claim they feel good about the season ahead.

"I'm excited for Week 1 to get here," Lions' receiver Golden Tate said during a post-game interview. "As you know, we're going to play Monday night to start the season off, which is going to be exciting."

NFL Commish Late

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell finally came clean and admitted he botched the handling of the Ray Rice case.

Many believe Goodell should have handed down more than a two-game suspension to Rice, the Baltimore Ravens running back, after being accused of assaulting his fiancée.

Goodell announced on Thursday that he's has changed the penalties for such cases involving any NFL employee.

For a first offense, a player will get a six-game suspension. If there's a second situation, that player could be banned for life.

It sounds harsh, but it's not. Domestic violence shouldn't be tolerated. The NFL did the right thing in changing how it handles such crimes.

The NFL was roundly criticized when Rice was given what most called a slap on the wrist for knocking out his now-wife and dragging her out of an elevator, all of which was caught on tape.

"My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families," Goodell wrote in a letter to NFL owners. "I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values. I didn't get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will."

Let's hope so.

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