Allen Park — In football, guards are often background characters, underappreciated despite the important role they serve aiding the roster's playmakers, whether it's protecting the quarterback or opening up a lane for the running back.
The only time we tend to notice a guard is after he's made a mistake.
Not surprisingly, guards don't typically find themselves at the podium for media availability. Yet, that's where Detroit Lions' veteran lineman Kenny Wiggins found himself for 10 minutes on Tuesday afternoon.
It was Wiggins first time participating in the format, but like his on-field performance, you probably wouldn't have noticed had he not announced it when he stepped up to the microphone and that one, obvious mistake, a curse word that casually slipped out during an answer that would have naturally fit in a one-on-one chat at his locker.
If you're into reading tea leaves, the decision to have Wiggins speak carries added significance given the team's impending competition for the vacant starting job at right guard. Last year, that was T.J. Lang's spot, but Wiggins was the man who started the majority of the games there in 2018, as Lang battled through multiple injuries.
Lang has been released, and he subsequently retired. That leaves Wiggins as the incumbent and default front-runner to fill the void.
Not that he sees it that way.
"That’s a question for Patricia and all the coaching staff, but I hope so," Wiggins said. "I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to start. I hope so, but honestly, wherever they put me, whether it’s the starting five or the six, seven, eight, I’ll do whatever."
Wiggins will have to fend off several challengers, including Joe Dahl, free-agent addition Oday Aboushi, second-year man Tyrell Crosby and undrafted rookie Beau Benzschawel.
The one thing Wiggins doesn't have to worry about, for once, is an early round draft pick.
"I watch the draft every year," Wiggins said. "Honesty, this is the first year, in the last six years, I haven’t had a person drafted at my position in the first three rounds. I’m still here, so there’s something to say about that."
For a player who always expects to be replaced — and who can blame him after being cut 10 times during his career — he acknowledged there was a sense of relief not seeing the Lions draft an obvious candidate for his roster spot this offseason.
Wiggins, 30, is technically entering his seventh season. He's been around a few more than that. After going undrafted out of Fresno State in 2011, he bounced around a bit on practice squads and had a brief, 10-day stint with the UFL's Sacramento Mountain Lions before the league abruptly folded in 2012.
He didn't play his first offensive snap until he was five years removed from college, but has started 26 games the past two seasons.
He's hoping to continue starting this year, but will be ready to contribute however the dust settles.
"Honestly, wherever they put me, whether it’s the starting five or the six, seven, eight, I’ll do whatever," he said.