Lions enjoy giving back to community

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Detroit — Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford smiled and played four-square with kids.

Wide receiver Calvin Johnson twirled as a few students took turns jumping rope.

Tight end Jordan Thompson and former offensive tackle Lomas Brown helped children with relay races.

It’s a stark contrast to some of the images of NFL players during the past couple of weeks, with Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy making headlines for domestic-violence related issues.

The group of Lions players spent Tuesday morning with third-graders from Marion Law Academy at a Meet Up & Eat Up event at Eastern Market to help educate them about the importance of healthy snack choices and proper nutrition.

“This is something that our team does a great job of being a part of the community,” Stafford said. “There are a lot of negative things being talked about and being focused on — rightfully so — in this league but there’s a lot of good stuff going on too that sometimes goes unnoticed.

“This is an awesome time for us to give back as players and teach these kids about nutrition and have some fun playing games with them. It’s a good day.”

Johnson, in his eighth season, said he learned about the importance of community service from the Ford family.

“They showed it more than they talked about it, whether it be from all the Detroit charities that the Ford family’s name is on or just learning about the things the Lions do in the community that the Fords have been doing for a long time,” Johnson said.

In 2012, the Lions had a slew of arrests for DUI and recreational drug offenses, but since then have had few brushes with the law.

Brown, a seven-time Pro Bowler who played 11 of his 18 seasons with the Lions, said some younger players are taking playing in the NFL for granted.

“These guys coming in the league now, they have to start feeling like it’s a privilege to be in the league; they can’t feel like the league owes them anything,” he said. “(They) come in and they feel like they’re above a lot of things and they think they can get away with a lot of things — and society is not like that.”

Being responsible

With all the national attention on Rice, Hardy and Peterson, there’s some discussion among Lions players about handling the situation, especially with the updated personal-conduct rules regarding domestic violence.

But outside of a team meeting, there hasn’t been any formal talk among players about how to handle those situations. For Brown, maintaining a high moral code and preserving some of the legacy the league has built over the years is important.

“Guys have to be responsible and take more responsibility for their actions,” Brown said. “It’s despicable what’s been going on for guys that played 18 years like myself in the league. It’s been a sad couple of weeks for the NFL and for the integrity of the league.”

Johnson pointed to his own personal accountability and maturity and taking deliberate steps to stay out of trouble.

“It’s not hard for me; I keep my nose clean and fly under the radar anyway,” Johnson said. “I’m not in the streets, really — I did that when I was younger a little, but not anymore.”

Packers at Lions

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit

TV/radio: Fox/97.1

Records: Green Bay 1-1, Detroit 1-1

Line: Lions by 1½

Series: Green Bay leads 93-65-7 (Detroit 40-10, Nov. 28, 2013)

Did you know? The Lions are 5-23 against the Packers since 2000.