"He has a tremendous amount of potential," safety Don Carey said. "One of the best athletes we have on the team — fast, reads real well."
The Lions can also turn to players like Bill Bentley and Jonte Green at cornerback. Mathis was signed in the offseason after 10 seasons with Jacksonville, and his participation in practice after his injury has been a positive sign.
"He can fill in both corner positions, the nickel and safety position," Schwartz said. "He's worked really hard with the other players. It's disappointing to lose him after the first quarter last week, but he was a big addition for us."
Detroit held off the Bears in part because Chicago went 1 of 13 on third down. The Lions have held opponents to a 21.3 percent conversion rate on third down — the best defensive mark in the league.
"Third down will go a big way to getting Green Bay's offense stopped," Schwartz said. "It's well documented, they've put yards up. If we get off the field on third down — that can either be a field goal attempt in the red zone, or it can be a punt — those are good situations for our defense."
NOTES: Star WR Calvin Johnson (knee) did not practice Thursday. "I'm all right," he said. "Can't talk about injuries though. That's our rule." Whatever his bumps and bruises, Johnson hasn't missed a game since 2010.
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