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Lions’ Tomlinson benched but not bitter

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
G Laken Tomlinson - Players are expected to make their biggest jump between years one and two, but Tomlinson was yanked from the starting lineup early in the season. He closed the year playing better, offering a glimmer of hope. GRADE: D-

Allen Park – It’s never easy being benched, but Laken Tomlinson is taking the setback in stride.

The Detroit Lions’ first-round pick in 2015, Tomlinson started 19 straight before being replaced by rookie Graham Glasgow last weekend.

Tomlinson isn’t sulking following the demotion, he’s digging in and prepared to work his way back into favor with the Lions’ coaches.

“At the end of the day, it’s a team game,” Tomlinson said. “You have to everything you can for the group. I do whatever the coaches say. Whatever the coach’s decision is, I fully support. I just have to keep coming in and trying to get better, be my best self for this team. That’s all I can control.”

Coach Jim Caldwell likes the way the young lineman has responded to the adversity.

“It’s difficult, but he accepts the challenge and he’s working to try to get better,” Caldwell said. “That’s the key and you want him to keep fighting and keep scratching and to work hard to get that next opportunity to get back in there, and he’s been doing that.”

At times, Tomlinson has flashed the nasty streak that led to the Lions taking him No. 28 overall last year, but he hasn’t been able to perform with the necessary consistency needed at his position.

“That’s the challenge,” Tomlinson said. “In this league, it’s about how consistent you can be. That’s what separates the good from the bad players.”

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Glasgow has performed well in his two starts, and there doesn’t appear to be an immediate path back into the lineup for Tomlinson, barring injury. His future with the team could be on the right side, after primarily starting on the left side since being drafted.

A right guard in college, Tomlinson started his first game for the Lions in that spot two weeks ago, in place of an injured Larry Warford. Tomlinson performed well.

“Obviously, with my history, I’ve had a lot of experience there in college,” Tomlinson said. “Just bringing some of that experience in with me, it definitely helped.”

Warford is a free agent at the end of this season and will likely command a lucrative multi-year deal. The Lions could opt to move on, letting Tomlinson compete with Joe Dahl for the job next offseason.