August 12, 2014 at 1:00 am

Lions hone their competitive drives with pingpong, Xbox

Cornerback Bill Bentley is the master when it comes to the pingpong table in the team's player's lounge, or so he thinks. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)

Allen Park — Lions cornerback Bill Bentley was talking about the new pingpong table in the players lounge Monday when he took a subtle dig at a teammate walking down the hallway.

“I’m on my A game when DeAndre Levy comes in the room,” Bentley said.

The typically quiet Levy didn’t agree with that assessment.

“You’re trash,” he said to Bentley. “Everybody says you’re trash.”

It might seem like a minor addition, but the table and two Xbox Ones in the lounge have given the players another outlet to compete off the field. Many players will watch the battles and wait their turn, so they know who’s running the table or video games on a certain day.

The Lions haven’t had anything close to a fight during camp, and though the daily off-field competition is probably indirectly related, several players said it’s helped with team chemistry.

“It definitely helps with the bond,” tight end Brandon Pettigrew said. “Everybody’s always packed in there. The competitive level is up, we’re talking amongst each other, and it’s a good time.”

Free-agent wide receiver Golden Tate said adding the table was his idea, and other players agreed. The players had the idea cleared with coach Jim Caldwell, but it’s unclear who footed the bill.

When Tate was with the Seahawks, he said they had a table in the facility, and he saw wide receivers and defensive backs improve on the field by playing Ping Pong.

“One thing that I noticed over the years, the skill position players who played it, their hand-eye coordination got better, and it’s something I’ve always used as a tool,” Tate said. “I got one as a child and played every day for probably six months straight until I got good enough.”

And according to his teammates, all that time playing Ping Pong paid off for Tate. Players listed Tate, cornerback Rashean Mathis and rookie quarterback James Franklin as the best players in the locker room, but Bentley quickly noted everyone has his days.

“Every time I see Franklin going against someone he’s waxing them, and it’s kind of unbelievable,” offensive lineman Rodney Austin said. “He’s pretty nice with the paddle.”

Until the table arrived, some players thought their skills were better than they are. One player even said he’s gone into the lounge to work on his game alone to avoid embarrassment in a group setting.

Center Dominic Raiola compared his game to Forrest Gump and admitted, “I’m not that good.”

“You know what? I thought I was good until I seen some of those guys in there playing,” Pettigrew said. “I was like, I might just be decent.”

As for the Xbox Ones, FIFA 14 and NBA 2K14 are the most popular games. The top FIFA players, according to Bentley, are receivers Calvin Johnson and Ryan Broyles, running back Reggie Bush, cornerbacks Cassius Vaughn and Mathis and defensive end Ezekiel Ansah.

“My locker is right next to it, so I hear guys in there playing a lot of FIFA, getting into it a lot,” Austin said. “You hear a lot of balls slamming around the pingpong table, too.”

jkatzenstein@detrotinews.com
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