This is how Detroit Lions' Teez Tabor can regain playing time

Carlos Monarrez
Detroit Free Press

What’s the old saying? Practice makes perfect?

If there’s any truth to that, it might be wise for struggling Detroit Lions cornerback Teez Tabor to embrace every opportunity he has these days on the practice field to show he can contribute to the defense.

“Well, that’s where you find out consistently what a player can do and cannot do is in practice, right?” Lions defensive backs coach Brian Stewart said this week. “So if he consistently plays the ball well, then I would come in front of you guys and say, ‘He consistently plays the ball well.’ That would be based off of him at practice.”

Stewart touted the value of the Lions’ rigorous practice.

Panthers receiver Curtis Samuel makes a touchdown catch against Lions cornerback Teez Tabor during the fourth quarter at Ford Field, Nov. 18, 2018.

“We have a high-tempo practice,” he said. “We do practice. Some teams don’t, but we do practice. So it’s a great evaluator for us.”

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Practices are almost entirely closed to reporters during the regular season, so there’s little sense of who is and isn’t doing well in practice until game day. Stewart said it would be correct to say players who aren’t playing aren’t having good practices.

And Tabor hasn’t been playing. At all.

A second-round pick out of Florida a year ago, Tabor’s stock has plummeted. He has been inactive the past three games. He played in the first 10 games, and made four starts. But his struggles in pass coverage were glaring.

Teez Tabor tackles Seahawks receiver David Moore on Oct. 28.

In his final start, against the Seattle Seahawks, Pro Football Focus wrote he “was on the wrong end of most his targets, as he was unable to break up any of his targets he contested.”

In the next game, Tabor saw limited action against the Minnesota Vikings, but struggled. “One player who didn’t help the team all that much was Teez Tabor,” PFF wrote. “The former Florida cornerback had an extremely rough outing despite only playing 14 snaps.”

As Tabor’s stock has dropped, Mike Ford’s has steadily risen. The undrafted rookie from Southeast Missouri State made his way onto the roster with a practice-squad promotion in November. Ford earned his playing time, including three starts by — you guessed it — having great practices.

“I would say that having a great practice, that’s just a stepping stone to having a great game,” Ford said Wednesday. “That’s where you build the confidence in practice. You see what they’re doing because you see those plays in practice. It just builds your confidence for that game.

“Most important, you see it, it’s around the building: Practice execution. It becomes game reality. You always want to think you’ve got to come out here and have a great practice because it’s going to impact how you play in the game.”

Mike Ford.

Ford also credited the fast-paced, competitive nature of practice for helping make him “relaxed and comfortable” in preparation for the frenetic pace of NFL games.

“If you’re not prepared,” he said, “you’re going to go out there and it’s going to be missiles flying everywhere.”

While Ford continues his assent, Tabor remains grounded as he tries to work his way onto the active gameday roster. Stewart said Tabor’s path to playing time, at least for now, will be as a corner and not as a safety.

“Teez is fine,” Stewart said. “He practices hard, he’s attentive in meetings. We like him at corner. We’re not going to change his position.

“It’s not in stone. Nothing’s in stone right now. I just think we like where he’s at and keep him where he is.”

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Contact Carlos Monarrez at or follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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