ALLEN PARK, Mich. It might not ever have felt better for Kevin Smith to wake up feeling sore Monday morning.
He was sore from running, sore from being hit and feeling good about it.
It means he had a job running the football again, and he had done it well.
Smith was one of the stars of the Lions 49-35 victory over the Carolina Panthers at Ford Field on Sunday.
By the end of the day, his story was well known nationally. He was a third-round draft pick by the Lions in 2008 but was out of football until two weeks ago, when the Lions re-signed him to fill a void at running back that was created by injuries.
Smith filled that void against the Panthers by running 16 times for 140 yards and catching 4 passes for 61 more yards. He scored 3 touchdowns 2 on runs, one on a reception.
Smith is sure to be in the spotlight Thursday when the Lions play the Packers in the traditional Thanksgiving Day game at Ford Field.
As a ballplayer, thats a game you dream of, Smith said, sitting on his stool in the Lions locker room Monday evening. Its a national TV game against the best team in the league, so far, if you go by wins and losses.
Smith was signed after the bye and played sparingly the previous week in a 37-13 loss at Chicago. Coach Jim Schwartz and the offensive staff went to him after Keiland Williams fumbled the ball away on a short-yardage run in the first quarter. Carolina converted the turnover into a touchdown.
Smith has undergone a role reversal since his first stint with the Lions. He was a full-time starter as a rookie and again in 2009 until he went down a severe knee injury in Game 13.
A broken thumb put him on injured reserve in 2010, and he was not re-signed for this season when he became a restricted free agent.
When he reported for practice and meetings Monday, Smith felt like hed elevated his status because of his performance Monday.
It felt good, to see myself back on the field and to know that maybe I opened a few eyes, he said. Its more important to know I played well. I didnt miss any assignments.
As an athlete, you want to prove it to yourself before you prove it to others.
Personnel update: The Lions were without defensive ends Willie Young and Lawrence Jackson on Sunday because of injuries. That left them a man short on the defensive-line rotation. They had seven linemen active instead of the usual eight.
Andre Fluellen, a backup at tackle and end, was the primary backup at end and played almost 30 snaps.
There are indications that Young could be available Thursday.
Defensive tackle Corey Williams went out of Sundays game in the fourth quarter and did not return, but he was available to play, coach Jim Schwartz said on Monday.
QB records: Matthew Stafford is on pace to have the best statistical season of any quarterback in Lions history.
In the first 10 games, Stafford has passed for 2,943 yards with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Scott Mitchell holds the one-season records for passing yards (4,338) and touchdowns (32). Mitchell did both in the 1995 season.
At his current pace, Stafford will finish the season with 4,549 yards pass and 38 touchdowns.
Joe Kitna is the only Lions quarterback to pass for 4,000 or more yards more than once. Kitna passed for 4,208 in 2006 and 4,068 in 07. However, turnovers were an issue for Kitna. In the two seasons combined, he had 39 TD passes and 42 interceptions.
Stats pack: A statistical oddity in Sundays game involved the Lions defense. It created more turnovers and gave up more scoring plays than punts forced.
The Panthers had 13 possessions. They had six scoring plays four touchdowns and two field goals. They lost the ball on four interceptions and punted three times.
Carolina scored on four straight possessions in the first half, with a kickoff return for a touchdown for a fifth score. Carolina gained 227 of its 409 yards in that span.
TV stars: The Lions are making a mark on television, locally and nationally.
Mondays announcement that their Dec. 4 game at New Orleans has been moved to a night kickoff for NBC television was not a surprise.
People at local NBC affiliate WDIF-Channel 4 said a month ago that the network had its eye on the Lions-Saints for its Sunday-night telecast.
It will be the Lions fourth time on a national prime-time telecast this year. Theyll have been on every network that televises the NFL except the NFL network.
The Lions four network appearances, in order:
1. CBS Lions 34, Patriots 10 in a Saturday-night exhibition game.
2. ESPN Lions 24, Bears 13 on Monday Night Football.
3. FOX Lions-Packers Thursday in the traditional Thanksgiving Day game at Ford Field.
4. NBC Lions at New Orleans on Dec. 4 on the peacock networks Football Night in America series.
Ratings game: Sundays game against Carolina was another example of how the Lions have pulled big numbers all season in local TV ratings.
The full-game telecast on FOX2 did a 26.3 rating and 50 share. Ratings peaked at 32.2 and a 57 share for the 4-4:15 p.m. portion, when the Lions were closing out a 49-35 win.
A share represents the percentage of homes in the market that are tuned to a station at a particular time.
A ratings point represents 18,180 households with televisions in the Metro Detroit.
It should also be noted that the in-stadium attendance of 63,633 represents a little more than 3.5 ratings points.