Allen Park — By now, you probably know Detroit Lions rookie cornerback Teez Tabor ran a slow 40-yard dash leading up to the draft. In fact, the 4.62-second sprint is probably the only reason he was still on the board when the Lions selected him 53rd overall in the second round last month.
The talk about his speed, or lack thereof, bothers Tabor. He openly admits that. It bothers his mother, too. She designed shirts for family members and friends to wear at his draft party which read, “Press play, watch the tape.”
The point, which Lions general manager Bob Quinn agrees, is Tabor’s film shows a talented football player, regardless of what the stopwatch read at the combine.
“I play football, I don’t run track,” Tabor said. “I’m trying out for the NFL, not the Olympics, so I’m in a pretty good spot.”
He also understands there’s nothing he can do to quell the criticism other than prove his detractors wrong on the field. So, if it’s OK with you, Tabor would like to table the talk about his speed for a couple years, until after he’s had an opportunity to prove himself. In the meantime, he’s going to use it as motivation.
“It adds fuel to the fire,” Tabor said. “When you tell somebody they can’t do something, you’re basically making them try even harder to do what you tell them they can’t do.”
But if you were looking for an excuse for the unexpected sprinting struggles, injury might have played a role. And while Tabor wouldn’t directly pin his time on it, he acknowledged his hamstring has been bothering him for a while.
“I’ve been dealing with a hamstring (injury) for a long time now,” Tabor said. “I’m here now, working with trainers and everything, just trying to get it as healthy as possible so I can help the teams.”
Tabor participated in the team’s rookie minicamp last weekend, but implied he wasn’t full-go for the three-day event. Working with the Lions’ training staff, his goal is to be fully recovered for the start of training camp at the end of July.
“I’m just working tirelessly, hours training,” Tabor said. “I’m just working really hard right now and hopefully I’ll be 100 percent by the time training camp comes so I can help the team.”
As a second-round pick, expectations will be high for Tabor. But he’s entering a crowded depth chart at cornerback, a group that is returning all of its top contributors from last year, plus added former first-round pick D.J. Hayden in free agency and a second rookie, fifth-rounder Jamal Agnew.
Tabor can play outside and in the slot. It’s expected he will work at both spots this offseason. Not that he cares. He said he’ll long snap, if the coaching staff thinks it would help the team.
Tabor will share the practice field with the veterans for the first time next week and he’s eager to impress as a student.
“Before I can compete, I have to know everything I need to know,” Tabor said. “Knowledge is power. These guys are way ahead of me. I’m not worried about competing right now, I’m just worried about learning as much as I can.”
The Lions will hold OTA practices May 23-25.