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As a rookie last season, Lions cornerback Brian Branch made an immediate impact as a nickel cornerback. He started nine of the 15 games he played in, and was on the field for about three-quarters of the Lions’ defensive snaps. But this year, the Lions want more.

Lions defensive assistant Jim O’Neil says Branch can get more playing time, and if he’s healthy could be on the field for close to 100 percent of snaps.

“Last year they were a little more hesitant with BB to just kind of fix him at one spot. Now that he’s going into Year 2, I think we’ll be more aggressive with him,” O’Neil said, via the team’s website. He’s the type of player you want to see out there on all three downs, so we’re going to push him to that. At the end of the day, he still has to come out in training camp, and he has to take that job.”

Training camp will be a big opportunity for Branch to prove he belongs as one of the 11 Lions who’s on the field every defensive snap.

“In the role he had last year I thought he played really well as a rookie,” O’Neil said. “Now it’s, can he make the next jump as a second-year player and can he make the next jump maybe just being fixed as a safety or maybe being a safety and a nickel? That’s all things we’re going to figure out in training camp.”

After one of the best seasons in franchise history last year, the Lions believe they have a young nucleus of players who can sustain that success for years to come. They expect Branch to be a big part of it.

Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders announced Friday that he experienced a health scare last weekend. He did not provide details beyond that it was heart-related.

Sanders, who turns 56 next month, made an appearance at the NFL draft in Detroit in April.

“Over Father’s Day weekend, I experienced a health scare related to my heart,” Sanders wrote on his social media. “It was unexpected and served as a reminder of the importance of staying vigilant about our physical well-being, even when we are feeling fine.

“I am grateful for the amazing doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals for providing me with needed care. My family and I are thankful for your prayers and support during this time.

“Per my doctors’ recommendation, I am taking his opportunity to prioritize my health and well-being. I appreciate your understanding and continued support.”

The Lions’ official X account responded by sending get-well wishes to Sanders, who rushed for 15,269 yards in 10 seasons with them.

Green Bay’s kicking competition is back up to three entrants.

Per Mike Garafolo of NFL Media, the Packers have claimed James Turner off of waivers after he was cut by the Lions.

Turner, 23, just entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan. He spent just one season with the Wolverines, previously kicking for Louisville from 2019-2022.

Turner connected on 18-of-21 field goal attempts in 2023 and also set a single-season Michigan program record with 65 successful PATs.

The Packers previously waived kicker Jack Podlesny on Wednesday.

Anders Carlson and Greg Joseph are also on Green Bay’s roster at kicker.

Lions kicker James Turner has lost his job after the UFL star Jake Bates arrived.

The Lions announced today that Bates has officially signed, and Turner has been released.

Bates was kicking for the Michigan Panthers on the Lions’ home field this season and made three field goals of 60 yards or longer. Bates’ accuracy hasn’t been great, but his leg strength is extremely impressive.

The Lions’ incumbent kicker, Michael Badgley, will compete with Bates for the kicking job in Detroit this season.

UFL kicker Jake Bates won’t have to travel far for his next job.

Bates, who spent the 2024 spring season with the Michigan Panthers, will sign next week with the Lions, per multiple reports.

During his time with the Panthers, Bates made three field goals of 60 yards or longer, including a 64-yarder.

For the year, he made only 17 of 22 field goals, an average success rate of 77.3 percent.

The 64-yard kick was a Week 1 game winner over St. Louis, at Ford Field. All three of his 60-plus kicks were made at the stadium where the Lions play their home games.

The Lions currently have two kickers on the roster — Michael Badgley and James Turner.

In seven total games with the Lions last season, Badgley was four-for-four in field goals and 24-for-26 in extra points. He was a perfect 14-for-14 on all kicks during the postseason.