Calvin Johnson appears on this week’s national cover of Sports Illustrated; Alabama’s Josh Chapman on a Southeast regional cover

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Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson appears on the national cover of this week’s Oct. 10, 2011, issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands Wednesday. In addition, Alabama nosetackle Josh Chapman appears on a regional cover that will appear in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky. Below is the last time each team appeared on the cover and how many appearances they’ve had overall.

  • Lions: Nov. 11, 2002 (Joey Harrington); 11th appearance
  • Alabama: Aug. 22, 2011 (Trent Richardson); 19th appearance

An additional regional cover touting our 2011-12 NHL Preview will be revealed later this morning. The pink Sports Illustrated logo on this week’s national cover is in acknowledgement of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.


While cover boy Calvin Johnson—along with quarterback Matthew Stafford—are leading Detroit’s offensive revival, the Lions’ defense has tackle Ndamukong Suh at its core. At a relatively lithe 307 pounds, Suh is quick enough to dart past offensive linemen but strong enough to bowl them over. That potent combination — not to mention his aggressiveness — has led to three fines from the NFL. Suh discussed his reputation with senior writer Damon Hack (page 36): “The Delhomme play [in the 2010 preseason], I agreed with [the fine]—my mistake. [But] I feel like I make it tough on officials to officiate against me because I’m attacking. Nobody’s seen a specimen like myself. I hate to say it that way, but it kind of is that way. When you combine speed and power, things are going to look bad when I hit somebody.”

Other notable quotes from the story:

  • Suh’s mother, Bernadette, on her son’s reputation as a dirty player: “I don’t see him as a dirty player, and I’m not sure what people mean when they say he is. It bothers me because from what little I know about the game, he wants to make sure he makes plays — and that plays aren’t made on him.”
  • Lions defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, on what teams resort to in order to slow Suh down: “The things teams are doing, trying to chip him with backs, you usually don’t see that. Teams usually chip defensive ends, not tackles, but they know they can’t just leave a guard on him, so they bring over the center or chip him with a back.”


Sports Illustrated is not afraid to say it. Alabama’s defense could end the season as one of the best in college football history. And with good reason. Seven current members of the Crimson Tide defense are projected to be either first- or second-round picks in next April’s NFL draft. No defense has ever yielded that many choices over the first three rounds in at least 35 years. Says safety Mark Barron (page 42): “I talk to guys in the league who were my teammates, and they say what we do on defense [at Alabama] is harder to learn than the NFL schemes. I’m still learning new things.”

On the Tablets: What other college teams are in the discussion for “best defense of all time”? Here are hot spots on five immovable, championship defenses that sacked, slammed and swatted opponents into submission.


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