Detroit Lions still deciding what to do during national anthem; is Tracy Walker a backup?

Dave Birkett
Detroit Free Press
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The Houston Texans stayed in their locker room for the playing of the national anthem. The Miami Dolphins explained in a viral video they plan to do the same.

The Kansas City Chiefs took the field for the anthem, but one of their key defensive players took a knee and raised his right fist in the air during the song, and then was joined by teammates — and everyone who plays for the Texans — for a moment of unity at midfield.

Detroit Lions players have said little about their plans to protest police brutality and racial injustice before Sunday's season opener against the Chicago Bears, only that there will be some form of protest and that whatever they do likely will be unified.

[ Golladay, Vaitai still out at Detroit Lions practice ]

Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia, left, and a player listen as defensive end Trey Flowers (not shown) addresses the media with his teammates outside the Lions NFL football camp practice facility, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in Allen Park, Mich. The players were reacting to the recent shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis., on Sunday. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

"I feel like you won’t know until the game comes," safety Tracy Walker said

The Lions have been at the forefront of the NFL's latest movement, holding a player protest last month after the shooting of James Blake that prompted other NFL teams —  and teams in other sports — to do the same.

New Lions running back Adrian Peterson said Thursday he plans to take a knee during the playing of the anthem, and that he has the blessing of his coach. 

And right tackle Tyrell Crosby retweeted the Dolphins' video explaining their decision to stay in the locker room during the anthem with the caption, "This. All of this!"

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"We’ve had really good conversations all the way from when we got back and really even through this week, as far as what Week 1 looks like in general," Lions coach Matt Patricia said. "We’ve had some great discussions. Like I’ve said before, we have great guys in here. They do a great job of listening to each other and understanding. We’ll keep that in-house for now and then we’ll get to the game and get ready for Chicago.”

Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Alex Okafor (97) kneels for the national anthem before the game against the Houston Texans at Arrowhead Stadium.

Walker, who plans to wear special cleats Sunday with a picture of his cousin, Georgia shooting victim Ahmaud Arbery, on the side, said players are still hashing out what to do Sunday and that there are "a lot of opinions that's going out right now.

"I feel like all the ideas are great," he said. "I feel like the main thing is just getting out the message, and getting the right message out. That’s all that we care about, whether it’s a message before the game, after the game, whether it’s us taking a knee or whatever the case may be. I feel like whatever it’s going to be, we’re going to be saying it and doing it as a unit, as one, and that’s it. We just want the message to get out."

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Walker a backup?

After starting 12 of the 13 games he played in 2019, Walker was relegated to second-string status this summer for reasons that remain baffling.

Duron Harmon, acquired in an offseason trade with the New England Patriots, and second-year pro Will Harris are expected to start at safety Sunday, with Walker playing a significant role off the bench.

Asked about his apparent demotion Friday, Walker said, "That's above my pay grade."

Detroit Lions defensive back Tracy Walker intercepts a pass against Carolina Panthers receiver Curtis Samuel in the second quarter Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018 at Ford Field.

“I’m going to be honest with you, that’s not for me to sit here and basically justify and give you answers for," he said. "I don’t know. That’s not a question for me, that’s a question that should be upstairs right now. Like I said, I was just told just to go out there and compete and I’m going to go out there and do my job."

Walker led the Lions with 103 tackles last season and has been a standout in coverage against tight ends since he came in the league.

Harmon will play free safety for the Lions, while Harris is coming off an inconsistent rookie year.

"I don’t look it as me being a two or not a starter or whatever the case may be," Walker said. "I’m just in practice and participating and whatever I’m asked to do, I’m doing it."

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