Ex-Lion Sims: I could have helped ’15 OL

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Rob Sims started at left guard in every Lions game from 2010-14, so it was difficult for him to watch the offensive line struggle in 2015.

For Sims, the plan was to pass along enough help to ensure the young group was ready after he and center Dominic Raiola weren’t with the team. But, the Lions balked at re-signing both veterans last offseason, and the youth of the line seemed to be a problem during a 1-7 first half.

“Seeing them kind of fall was hard on us because we kind of realized we needed another year in there to get them right,” Sims said last week. “It was tough, but that’s how it is. People go, people come and no matter what, you’ve got to perform. Hopefully this year, they’ve learned their lesson, they’ve learned some things and hopefully the game slows down for them. They’re still young; they can go out there and do their thing.”

Life has been good for Sims since he retired last offseason. His business ventures, including real estate and a title company in Birmingham, are going well. He said Detroit PAL recently named him to its board, part of the reason he attended last week’s event in which the Lions donated their old weight room equipment to the city’s youth sports league.

Looking at last year’s offensive line, Sims said the players “took a bad rap” for some of the early-season issues. Many of the problems last season were related to unblocked blitzers, an issue that could also be blamed on running backs, tight ends and the quarterback.

For much of the season, left tackle Riley Reiff was the oldest starting offensive lineman at just 26. Some of the current players stayed in touch with Sims and Raiola during the season, but Sims thinks the scheme might’ve been too complex without their veteran leadership.

In previous seasons, the meetings would feature offensive line coaches Jeremiah Washburn and Terry Heffernan at the front with Sims and Raiola frequently discussing concerns openly. The Lions fired Washburn and Heffernan, along with offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, after Week 7 last year, and the line improved with a simpler scheme led by offensive line coach Ron Prince.

“Our bodies were failing, at least mine was failing, but still being around it, being in the meeting, we definitely could’ve helped,” Sims said.

Knee pain, along with business plans, was a major reason Sims retired last August instead of trying to catch on with a team, and even though he still wakes up with some pain, his knee is doing better.

“But that’s the cross to bear,” he said. “That’s part of it. You get a chance to run with the bulls, you know you’re going to get a couple horns.”

And even though Sims hasn’t experienced any issues yet, he’s “absolutely” worried about the degenerative brain issues affecting former NFL players.

“Some of the things that guys are growing through, if that was something that would happen to me and I’ll be that burden on my family, that would be something I would struggle with, for sure,” he said.

Despite the long-term effects of football, Sims said he won’t try to prevent his 3-year-old son Scoop from playing. He won’t rush his son into the game either, but with NFL bloodlines — Sims’ father and his wife’s father played in league — Sims knows his son could be pretty good one day.

“If that’s his destiny to play in the game and he’s that good enough, I can’t stop him,” he said.