Allen Park – On Monday, Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell talked about the value of a loss festering with his team during the bye. But there has been little sign of lingering frustrations in the locker room the past two days, following the team’s 52-38 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
It’s obvious the bye week comes at an opportune time for the physical health of the team. Quarterback Matthew Stafford leads a lengthy list of players battling through some nicks, bruises, or in the case of Golden Tate, Glover Quin and T.J. Lang, more serious injuries.
But the team also stands to benefit from a mental reprieve, to get away from the noise surrounding a disappointing two-game losing streak after a 3-1 start.
After Sunday’s game against the Saints, a somber, hushed tone dominated the locker room. The wild afternoon – which included five non-offensive touchdowns, a 35-point deficit, a valiant comeback effort and a number of injuries – had clearly taken a toll on the roster. So the jubilant attitude of Monday and Tuesday was in stark contrast.
Players were laughing, music blared in the showers and there were a number of guys playing ping-pong and cornhole. A’Shawn Robinson, the often-scowling defensive tackle, was cracking jokes and dancing, while cornerback Darius Slay, the posterchild for forgetting the past and moving forward, was his happy-go-lucky self, playfully mocking his blunders from Sunday’s loss.
On getting blocked by offensive tackles on some of the Saints outside runs, Slay acknowledged he needed to do a better job of setting the edge, but also wasn’t interested in having a 300-pound man fall on him.
On getting jumped over by running back Alvin Kamara, Slay said he asked his defensive backs coach to skip the play in film review, grounded his son for asking about it and congratulated Kamara for having “a lot of bunnies.”
And on the Ted Ginn touchdown where Slay was picked by Saints receiver Michael Thomas, he kept calling the Saints cheaters.
“That’s a good scheme by them, but they cheated, though,” he said, laughing.
It was all in good fun. It can be tough to convey tone through text, but Slay was being goofy. It’s his personality and his delivery that had those listening in stitches.
The point is he’s loose and has already put the Saints game behind him. The team is looking forward to a few days off to rest and recuperate, while pondering ways to get back on track once they return to the facility to begin preparation for a Sunday night matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers in a couple of weeks.
“Just gives us more time to correct our mistakes, as a team,” Slay said. “It’s Week 6, so I can go see what I’m doing, what the quarterbacks sees me doing, so I can change stuff up and make myself a better player. It’s good timing. I’m just going to use this week and see what I can do better as a player.”
At 3-3, the Lions aren’t where they want to be, but they’re also still in position to fulfill the team’s goals, according to Slay.
“We still have 10 more games,” he said. “We have a lot of football left. We can reach all our goals. We ain’t lost a division game yet. All our goals are still ahead of us. We just need to handle business – quick though. We have to do it fast, have to do it right now.”