Allen Park — The NFL can be a cruel business, one that favors younger, cheaper players over the costs tied to the past production of more experienced options. Around this time of year, when teams have a fresh influx of talent via the draft, veterans can get protective of their spots on the roster.
Last week, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made headlines for openly criticizing his team’s selection of backup, and potentially eventual heir to the starting job, Mason Rudolph.
Despite not playing all 16 games the past three seasons, Roethlisberger said he didn’t understand how Rudolph would help the Steelers win now. And asked about the rookie’s comments that it wasn’t Roethlisberger’s job to teach him the ropes, the veteran sarcastically replied.
“I don't think I'll need to now that he said he doesn't need me,” Roethlisberger said during a local radio interview. “If he asks me a question, I might just have to point to the playbook.”
Roethlisberger’s attitude toward a younger player in line to take over for him isn’t necessarily unusual, it’s just not a topic many players publicly address. But while many veterans are threatened by incoming talent, that hasn’t appeared to be the case in the Detroit Lions’ running back room in recent years.
This offseason, the Lions made two significant additions at the position, signing veteran LeGarrette Blount and trading up several spots in the second round to draft Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson.
Theo Riddick, the highest-paid running back on the roster who stands to lose playing time and potentially his roster spot, doesn’t share Roethlisberger’s attitude. In fact, Riddick embraces the additions, seeing it as an opportunity for both him and the team to get better.
“I think our room has gotten more competitive, with some of the guys who are in there,” Riddick said Tuesday. “With that, that makes everyone want to work harder and bring their 'A' game every day.”
As a sixth-round pick in 2013, Riddick said he was embraced by veterans Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, which helped shape his attitude toward young players.
Five years later, Riddick is eager to take on a mentor role with Johnson, just as the veteran has done with teammates Tion Green and Dwayne Washington in recent years.
“I’m eager for him to come here so we can teach him about the playbook and our lifestyle here, the atmosphere we want going forward,” Riddick.
And if it results in a reduced role?
“It’s never a conflict. I put my teammates first," Riddick said. “I just want to win.”
After experimenting with a vegan diet last offseason, Riddick opted to stick with the lifestyle change after experiencing positive benefits. He said his recovery time was much smoother last season, and he regularly felt better by Tuesday after a Sunday game, as opposed to Friday in past years.
Riddick believes the dietary shift played a role in being able to play all 16 games for just the second time in his career.
Given the drastic switch to a lifestyle free of animal products, is there anything he misses? He showed no hesitation giving a response.
“A ribeye,” he said, eyes widening.
The Lions made an addition to their scouting staff this week, hiring Brian Hudspeth as a national scout.
Hudspeth, an 18-year scouting veteran, spent the past nine years working for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, including the past eight as the team’s area scout for the Southeastern region.
Prior to his stint in Tampa, Hudspeth spent five seasons in Houston and four in Atlanta.
...The Lions waived linebacker Brandon Chubb on Tuesday.