St. Petersburg Times Online: Sports
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather

printer version

Stewart has Lions up, running

By Compiled by ERNEST HOOPER

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 17, 2000

PONTIAC, Mich. -- From the outside looking in, you would think James Stewart is running with the specter of Barry Sanders, the future Hall of Famer who was the Lions' ground game for 10 seasons before retiring in 1999.

But really, Stewart is simply trying to lift Detroit from the abyss created by the anemic '99 tandem attack of Ron Rivers and Greg Hill. With Sanders gone, Rivers and Hill managed to churn out only 77.8 yards a game.

Stewart was the coveted free agent brought in from Jacksonville this summer to bring a motor back to the Motor City's rushing game. The outlook doesn't necessarily involve filling Sanders' void.

"James doesn't look at it in that way and we don't either," Lions coach Bobby Ross said. "We just see him as another piece of the puzzle. We think we have good receivers, we think Charlie (Batch) is a good thrower. So we think the potential for our throwing game is pretty good.

"At the same time, our running game was minimal last year. What we've asked James to do is just come in here and give us a good, firm, established running game. I think up to this point and time, we've been very pleased with what he's done. He's done a fine job."

Ross may be pleased, but fans were expecting a little more. So was Stewart after an eye-catching preseason. So far, the sixth-year veteran has only 143 yards on 46 carries in two games. The 3.1 average hasn't grabbed much attention, and the Lions haven't scored an offensive touchdown.

The team believes it struck upon a key to success in the second half of last week's 15-10 victory over Washington. Stewart had 58 yards on eight carries, and there was nothing complex about Detroit's strategy of dealing with defensive tackles Dana Stubblefield and Dan Wilkerson.

"We started going right at them," Stewart said. "Basically, they want to line up those big guys and force us to run outside so their safeties can come up. The first carry of the game, the safety was there before I got outside. I was fortunate enough to stiff-arm him down. The second half we lined up and said, "We're going to come right at 'em.' They've got to line up and play, too."

The second-half performance also provided offensive coordinator Sylvester Croom encouragement for the remaining 14 games.

"We're close," Croom said. "There were several plays where we were just a block away from having a really, really big play."

ANOTHER FRIEND: Does Bucs receiver Keyshawn Johnson know everyone?

His friendly rivalries with New England cornerback Ty Law (Week 1) and Chicago cornerback Thomas Smith (Week 2) have been chronicled. Now comes word Johnson and Detroit cornerback Bryant Westbrook have a good relationship. They work out together in the same southern California gym in the off-season.

"I know him pretty well. I remember when we were talking about getting his contract," Westbrook said, laughing. "He told me he was going to break the bank and be the highest paid receiver, which he did.

"He's a good dude. He's a competitor, he works hard. You always like guys like that because he's not just talking, he's doing it also."

But there will definitely be serious competition -- on a team and personal level.

"Anything you do, you want to be the better man out there on the football field," Westbrook said. "After the game you're definitely going to be friends again, but out on the football field it's just like a battle, just like a war."

HEAVYWEIGHT: Lions offensive tackle Aaron Gibson is listed as a second-year player, but he's really a rookie after missing all of 1999 with a knee injury. Still, that hasn't stopped the 6-foot-4, 380-pound Wisconsin product from impressing the Bucs with his size and leg drive.

Ross said the Lions also like what they have seen of Gibson.

"We're not displeased with the way he's playing," Ross said. "He's a big guy and he's missed on some things. He missed on a great goal-line opportunity last week and that was very disappointing, but overall we haven't been displeased with his play. It's about where we expected it to be."

Back to Sports
Back to Top

© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
Contact the Times | Privacy Policy
Standard of Accuracy | Terms, Conditions & Copyright

From the Times sports desk
  • Bucs GM plotting long-term
  • Irwin's team still mourns a tragic loss
  • Seminoles find balance in dismantling of Heels
  • For Rays, it's ppd., hurricane
  • Sack happy
  • Two out of three is enough for USF 26-7
  • The catch (or is it the drop?)
  • Santos chooses to fight, not sit
  • Mizell's mailbag
  • Sports briefs
  • Media shed no tears for Knight
  • Golf briefs
  • Gordon may chase Sturtze from home
  • Rays lose 7th straight as Wilson fades again
  • Veterans struggle for answers
  • Rays tales
  • Veterans struggle for answers
  • Baseball briefs
  • Clemens proves 'twilight' comment wrong
  • Finley really Indians' insurance
  • Olympics roundup
  • Carolina's veterans nip young Lightning
  • NHL briefs
  • Fly-fishers see red in the fall
  • Captain's corner
  • Restrictor platesdon't stop Labonte
  • CCC meet ends after prelims
  • Berkeley star withstands challenge
  • Crusader pulls away for victory
  • Meet canceled
  • Shorecrest falls in Keswick final
  • This week's best bet
  • Christa Benton must hold off a late surge.
  • NFL games
  • Raiders, Broncos kick it up a notch
  • Raiders, Broncos kick it up a notch
  • Backs earning rave reviews
  • Christensen given chance to flourish
  • Hard work paid off for Nathan
  • Best and worst: Game 3
  • Bucs chat
  • Robinson now looks forward
  • Analysis: Fox TV's Ron Pitts
  • Stewart has Lions up, running
  • Gaffney survives error in judgment
  • College football around the nation
  • Flexible Maddox gets first TD
  • Kickers still booting their chances away
  • UF Quotebook
  • UF sideliners
  • When 175 yards isn't enough
  • UT quotebook
  • So close, still so far out of reach
  • State football briefs
  • ACC briefs
  • SEC briefs
  • Big ten briefs
  • PAC 10 briefs
  • Big 12 briefs
  • College football around the nation
  • Butler back strong, sets tone
  • Bulls make special effort against JMU

  • From the wire

    From the state sports wire
  • Jacksonville's Spicer placed on IR after leg surgery
  • FIU-Western Kentucky game postponed because of Jeanne
  • Brown anxious to face old team for first time
  • Dolphins' desperate defense readies for Roethlisberger
  • Former Sarasota lineman sheds tough-guy image with Michigan
  • Rothstein rejoins Heat as assistant
  • No. 16 Florida has history on its side against Kentucky
  • FSU and Clemson QBs both off to slow starts