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Lions rookies get some winter tips

ROGER MILLS
Published November 28, 2004

Christmas came early in Detroit.

Lions coach Steve Mariucci came up with an ingenious gift for each of his 12 rookies: a snow scraper, and an explanation of how to use it when clearing the car's windshield.

"We talked about how you use them," Mariucci told the Detroit Free Press. "There were some real good questions. "Does that thing scratch my window?' That sort of thing. So, they're ready for the winter. Some of these guys have never seen snow before."

Among those grateful for the scraper was rookie receiver Roy Williams, a native of Odessa, Texas, who played collegiately at the University of Texas.

"We didn't have scrapers," Williams said. "We usually poured hot water over (frosted cars). I actually asked coach Mooch, "How do you get snow off the car?' That's where all that came from. And, at least, he gave us the scrapers."

While an assistant with the Packers, Mariucci, a native of Michigan, had quarterback Brett Favre at his house during a December snowstorm. As Mariucci tells it, Favre, a Mississippi native, was in shorts, a shirt and flip flops and tried to leave in a car covered with about 4 inches of snow.

"You think he scrapes his car off? No. He rolls down his window and drives home with his head out the window," Mariucci said. "I yelled at him down the street, but he didn't care. He needed a scraper; that's why these guys need one."

STILL IN THE FAMILY: Thanks to a new rule that permits suspended players to hang around team facilities and work out on their own, Koren Robinson has been an everyday presence at Seattle headquarters.

Robinson was suspended for four games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy and is eligible to return Dec. 26 against Arizona. Coach Mike Holmgren, one of the proponents of the rule, hopes the troubled receiver will develop a better appreciation for his good fortune by staying close.

"Koren's been in the principal's office a fair amount, you know," Holmgren said. "We have had great talks. I think we understand each other very, very well. We will continue to do that."

SPECIAL SEASON: The Bills haven't had a lot to smile about with a 4-6 record, but at least the effort of their special teams is something to be proud of.

Entering today's games, Buffalo is No. 1 in the NFL in punt return average at 15.9, No. 2 in average drive start after kickoff (at the 31.4) and No. 1 in opponent's kickoff return average (17.0 yards). The Bills also have four returns for touchdowns, a single-season team record.

Special teams coach Bobby April may have something to do with it. He coached Deion Sanders and Rod Woodson, considered two of the best returners in league history.

BACK ON THE SIDELINE: When you think about it, the performance of Steelers backup running back Jerome Bettis over the past three weeks is worth a tip of the hat.

Bettis, in his 12th season, rushed for 381 yards on 91 carries while subbing for starter Duce Staley and helped the Steelers maintain their presence at the top of the AFC.

Staley is due to return to the lineup and Bettis to the bench. The veteran, who moved past Tony Dorsett into fifth place with 12,863 yards, told the Post-Gazette: "I expect the situation is going to be the same (as before). I don't expect anything to change."

Staley had nothing but praise for his more-than-competent stand-in: "Jerome did a great job. I strongly believe we're the best one-two punch in the league. As soon as I can get healthy and get back out there, we can continue to terrorize defenses."

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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