Former Lions great Barry Sanders won the Heisman Trophy in 1988 at Oklahoma State before playing 10 Hall of Fame seasons in the NFL with the Lions.
Sanders is heading back to college this fall, but this time it’s as a spectator and fan, watching his son Barry Sanders Jr. as a running back at Stanford.
Sanders Jr. was the top high school recruit in the state of Oklahoma this past year after rushing for 3,825 career yards and 55 touchdowns, including two seasons with more than 1,200 yards and 1,136 in an injury-shortened junior season.
“He’s bigger, faster, stronger and younger than I was,” Sanders told Detroitlions.com Tuesday. “He’s just a phenomenal high school running back. What I see in him is great vision and speed and he cuts very well.”
Who does that sound like?
“But there is a lot of growing for him to do after high school,” Sanders said of his son. “I’m speaking from my own experience but I wasn’t anywhere near where I was going to be as a freshman. There is a lot of maturing and growing to do after high school and he has a lot of room to grow. He has a frame that he can put on a lot of weight and be a phenomenal runner in college.”
Sanders Jr. is 5-11, 190 pounds and chose Stanford over dad’s Alma mater Oklahoma State and Alabama.
“They like running the ball up there, it’s a priority, so I think that was definitely a draw for him,” Sanders said of his son’s choice of school.
“I think my job is to just be there and be supportive and let him know that there are going to be ups and downs and it’s a great next step in life and you have to go there and start over and work your way up.
“You have to go earn your keep. They brought him there because they think he has potential and now he has to prove he’s worthy of being there.”
Tags: Barry Sanders
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 14 Comments »
In the salary cap era of the NFL, good teams are forced to make tough decisions on veteran players and turn to their young ones quicker than they’d probably like.
It’s no secret the Lions will be up against the cap in 2012 and that’s led to some speculation that players like receiver Nate Burleson and defensive tackle Corey Williams could be salary cap casualties this offseason.
The salary cap can certainly force tough decisions on an up-and-coming franchise like the Lions, but here’s hoping they don’t have to go that route.
Not only are Burleson and Williams two of the most stand-up guys in the locker room, they’re still key productive players.
Head coach Jim Schwartz has been trying to find three quality receivers to pair together since he got here in 2009.
Anyone remember Bryant Johnson and Derrick Williams?
The Lions finally seem to have a great trio for quarterback Matthew Stafford in Calvin Johnson, Burleson and Titus Young. Burleson had 73 receptions last year, a career high.
It doesn’t show up on the stat sheet all the time, but Williams is constantly grading out as the best defensive lineman on the field when coaches sit down and watch the game film.
Williams will make $5 million in 2012 and Burleson $4 million.
The team drafted Young and defensive tackle Nick Fairley last season, so I see why the speculation surrounds Burleson and Williams. But losing them would be a bigger loss than fans think.
“Those guys are leaders in our locker room and a very important part of our football team,” Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said at the NFL Scouting Combine when asked about Burleson and Williams.
“I have reached out to both their agents and told them that at this time we have no plans to do anything with their contracts and we’re happy with their performance and happy with what they bring to our team and our locker room.
“Both of them have been very professional the whole time they’ve been here and they have been a good example for our younger players.”
There’s no telling what tough decisions the Lions might face when their salary cap situation becomes more clear in the coming months, but they’re a better football team in 2012 with Burleson and Williams in uniform.
Tags: Corey Williams, Nate Burleson
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 13 Comments »
The father of Lions defensive tackle Andre Fluellen collapsed and died of an apparent heart attack Saturday during a charity basketball game in Georgia.
Rev. Charles Fluellen was participating in the “Pastors vs. Politicians” basketball game that pitted Cartersville community ministers against local politicians in a fundraiser, according to a story in the Cartersville Daily Tribune News.
The Rev. Charles Fluellen, 57, was director of the Bartow County Transit Department and pastor of Glory Harvester Church.
The Daily Tribune News reported that the minister complained of chest pains and lost consciousness during Saturday night’s game, and was later pronounced dead at Cartersville Medical Center.
Andre Fluellen has been a versatile player along the defensive line for the Lions, playing both end and tackle. He finished his fourth season with the Lions after being drafted in the third round by the team in 2008.
Funeral arrangements for Charles Fluellen will be announced by Mack Eppinger & Sons Funeral Home in Cartersville, according to the paper.
Tags: Andre Fluellen
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 12 Comments »
The Lions are willing to trade cornerback Alphonso Smith and have shopped him to at least one team, according to a report by NFL.com writer Jason La Canfora.
Smith was a second-round draft pick by the Broncos in 2009 and was traded to the Lions in 2010 for tight end Dan Gronkoswki.
Smith played in 11 games with three interceptions last season as the team’s fourth cornerback behind starters Chris Houston and Eric Wright and nickel corner Aaron Berry.
Smith has one year remaining on his contract.
Tags: Alphonso Smith
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 21 Comments »
The Lions will not give a restricted free agent tender offer to reserve linebacker Ashlee Palmer, according to league sources.
Palmer played primarily on special teams last year and finished with eight tackles.
The move makes sense for the Lions, who will be up against the salary cap next season. They can’t afford to tender a reserve linebacker at more than $1 million.
That certainly doesn’t mean the Lions can’t come to a free agent deal with Palmer for him to remain a Lion. Palmer knows the system and was very good on special teams last season.
It’s not unlike the situation the Lions went through with running back Kevin Smith when they didn’t tender him a contract offer last offseason.
The Lions will have to decide on their other restricted free agents soon — linebacker DeAndre Levy, defensive tackle Sammie Hill and offensive tackle Corey Hilliard.
I expect the Lions to extend tender offers to all three of those players.
Tags: Ashlee Palmer, Corey Hilliard, DeAndre Levy, Kevin Smith, Sammie Hill
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 1 Comment »
The antiquated system of paying insanely high contracts to the top draft picks has now been replaced by a system that diverts that money to veteran players.
Unfortunately for the Lions, it came a little too late to help their current cap situation. The Lions don’t have a ton of salary cap space available for 2012, in part, because of the large contracts signed by high draft picks like Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh.
There is a silver lining for the Lions, though. At least they hit a homerun with each of the aforementioned picks and those players are now the young foundation of the team.
Heading into the final year of his rookie contract, Johnson’s cap number is around $22 million next season, which is why the Lions are hoping to sign an extension this offseason to reduce that number.
“Obviously, Calvin is going into his second contract and has a much higher base than some other players would have,” said Lions general manager Martin Mayhew at the NFL Scouting Combine Friday. “It’s an ongoing effect of drafting that high. I think originally, the idea and the concept was to help teams that hadn’t performed as well by letting them pick earlier. But what ended up happening over a period of time was that it hurt teams because they were locked into those deals.”
Count the Lions as one of those teams. And they could find themselves in similar situations with Stafford and Suh in the coming years.
“The system is a lot better now and makes a lot more sense,” Mayhew said. “The money should go to the veterans and that’s how the system is set up now. I like the way it is now.”
The Lions haven’t drafted as low as they are this year (23rd) since taking Robert Porcher with the 26th pick in the 1992 draft.
Tags: Calvin Johnson, Martin Mayhew, Matthew Stafford, Ndamukong Suh
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 5 Comments »
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford just completed a 5,038-yard, 41-touchdown, 10-win season that made it pretty easy to forget that he just turned 24 years old.
Stafford certainly played well beyond his years this past season, but he isn’t even close to reaching his potential with only 30 career starts under his belt.
Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said the mental part of the game is always an aspect that can continue to develop in a young player like Stafford.
“He’s a very sharp guy, but I’ll think (offensive coordinator) Scott (Linehan) is going to continue to expand the offense and do some different things and (Stafford) is going to continue to grow with that,” Mayhew said.
“I think he can still grow as a player and grow in our offense. Scott does a great job with our offense continuing to expand with the things we do and working with personnel groups and things like that. I think there is still a lot of growth he can make. He is still young. “
Mayhew said that he spoke with people following the season who weren’t impressed with Stafford’s season.
“I’ve heard some people say they weren’t impressed, and I’m saying anytime you can do something that only three other guys have done in the history of the NFL (throw for 5,000 yards in a season), I think that’s impressive,” Mayhew said.
“The thing that we have to do is put pieces around him for him to be successful.”
For all those out there not impressed by Stafford last season (that includes you, Marshall Faulk), just remember that he’s only 24 and has less than two full season’s worth of starts under his belt.
Not impressed with 5,000 yards? That’s just silly.
Tags: Martin Mayhew, Matthew Stafford
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 8 Comments »
Every year around the NFL free agency period, fans get all excited about the hot names in free agency.
For Lions fans this year, that’s cornerbacks Cortland Finnegan, Brent Grimes and Brandon Carr.
Lions head coach Jim Schwartz was asked about Finnegan at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Thursday.
“There’s a lot of guys that fit our scheme,” Schwartz said of Finnegan. “I think that it’s important for us as an organization, it’s important for us as a team to keep a lot of the players that we already have before we start looking elsewhere.
“But I think the approach that we’ve taken the last couple of years is that we’ve kept an open mind in just about everything that we have. We haven’t gone all-in at any one person. We haven’t also just discounted any player or any person.
“Anybody that fits our scheme, anybody that makes sense for us, we’ve done a good job of evaluating those guys and if Cortland ends up being one of those then we’ll be in that position with him.”
Still, don’t expect the Lions to make any big splashes in free agency with a player like Finnegan, Grimes or anyone else. The Lions are more interested in signing their own players and don’t have the salary cap space to do that and sign a marquee free agent, too. It just isn’t in the cards.
“We don’t anticipate being in the top part of the (free agency) market,” Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said in a Sirius XM interview at the combine. “But we do plan on being active and finding value there.”
Tags: Jim Schwartz, Martin Mayhew
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 3 Comments »
Stafford and Johnson were on hand to receive their award, with Johnson receiving a pass from Stafford prior to stepping to the mic.
Said Stafford, “I know you all know him as Megatron, but maybe for one night, I can be Batman and this man can be Robin in this dynamic duo.”
The Lions tandem beat out LeBron James and Dwayne Wade (Miami Heat), Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp (Los Angeles Dodgers) and Blake Griffin and Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers).
The award show will re-air Friday (February 24) at 6 p.m. ET on Cartoon Network!
Tags: Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford
Posted in DetroitLions.com Blog | No Comments »
You know Matthew Stafford’s celebrity is on the rise when he becomes the target of the paparazzi.
Celebrity gossip website TMZ caught up with the Lions quarterback at Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday when he was in town for the Cartoon Network Hall of Games Award Show.
Stafford seemed pretty disinterested in the interview as they asked him questions at the outdoor check-in desk, but played along like a good sport.
Tags: Matthew Stafford
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 2 Comments »