The Lions' Stephen Tulloch, pictured above, and Nate Burleson are taking plenty of smack heading into their second annual charity softball game. (Todd McInturf/Detroit News)
Allen Park — Stephen Tulloch put it like this:
"Last year didn't go the way I would have liked it to go. But as you know, what you did last year doesn't count. It's all about the new year, and we are preparing for a championship-like game."
Before you start howling about another Lions player talking about a championship, Tulloch wasn't talking about the Lions bouncing back from the 4-12 debacle of last season. Oh no. He's talking about a completely different debacle.
Last summer in the inaugural Nate Burleson-Stephen Tulloch charity softball game, Burleson and the Lions' offensive players put a hurting on Tulloch and the defensive players. And Tulloch is serious about getting even this year.
"He held it over my head," Tulloch said. "Nate is not a humble guy. He likes to showboat and dance and celebrate. I am looking to dominate him… I took it upon myself to fly a couple of guys in here from different teams. I am bringing in some heavy hitters."
Literally. When Tulloch's team takes to King Boring Field in Dearborn next Saturday, it will do so with the St. Louis Rams' Cortland Finnegan — one of meanest and loudest cornerbacks in the league — and the New England Patriots' Brandon Spikes, a relentlessly aggressive linebacker.
To which Burleson said, laughing derisively, "You got to do so much to win, don't you?"
The point is, everybody is going to win. The game last year raised some $20,000, which was split between Burleson's and Tulloch's foundations. Sponsorship has more than doubled this year, including a sizeable contribution from the Lions.
"Every year we are trying to get better," Tulloch said. "We're doing more things this year for kids and for fans to interact with the players."
Every dollar raised goes to the two foundations. Tulloch 55 provides support for underprivileged kids and families in Miami, Tennessee and Detroit. The Nate Burleson Foundation has worked with schools, Boys & Girls Clubs and, as Burleson said, "Whatever pulls at my heart. Different things arise every year, so wherever I can help, that's where I put my energy and my money."
Here's to the good guys
We spend a lot of time shaking our heads and tsk-tsking at all the trouble NFL players get into during the offseason. Last offseason all we wrote about were arrests, seven of them, one right after another. We've had two relatively minor affairs this offseason with Amari Spievey and Ronnell Lewis.
And, as always, we have the never-ending saga of imprisoned former Lion Titus Young. In fact, the news of the Burleson-Tulloch charity game Friday was overshadowed by yet another story about Young, how he refused an offer of help from the league 18 months ago.
It's all so tedious and sad. But watching Burleson and Tulloch playfully spar with each other on Friday, going back and looking up their foundations and seeing the amazing work both of them do, it helps reinforce what I've always known through my 33 years worth of covering sports.
The vast majority of NFL players, of professional athletes, are good, honest, incredibly talented and hard-working people who are more than willing to give back to those less fortunate than themselves. But you know the drill: Bad deeds are newsworthy. Good deeds are expected.
So allow me this little space to applaud and help promote the charitable deeds of these two true professionals.
Oh wait, they are at each other again. Tulloch is talking about taking his team to a batting cage Thursday for practice, and Burleson is telling him it's a waste of time.
"We're going to win the game, the offense is going to win the game," Burleson said. "I am willing to put a wager on it — oh, I don't know if we can even do that, (NFL commissioner Roger) Goodell might come after us."
"I think we should put a wager on it," Tulloch said. "I think if my team wins, you should donate $1,000 to my foundation and if your team wins, vice versa."
"I got it," Burleson said.
The game is next Saturday, beginning with a home run derby at 2 p.m. Kids under 5 are admitted free, everyone else $10. You can purchase tickets at www.Tulloch55.com or www.NateBurlesonfoundation.org.