Welcome back to the Lions Congregation! As usual, the panel addresses your questions and thoughts on the Lions. Have something you would like to see the Lions Congregation discuss? Email us at:email@example.com
This week’s panel:
Al of the Wayne Fontes Experience
Steve of Detroit Lions Web Log
NetRat of The Net Rat Detroit Lions Site
Phil of MLive.com
Blades Boyd formerly of the Church of Schwartz
Joshua aka DetFan1979 of Roar of the Lions
From Marko T.: What do you think of the recent fights at OTAs and Minicamp? What does that say about the team and its’ direction? I’m not sure if I should be happy or not.
Al: This is what I said about the whole sad situation the day after it went down:
“Is there anything sillier than helmet and shoulder pad wearing football players fighting? (Other than Marty Mornhinweg riding off on a Harley after stopping practice, nothing.) Schwartz didn’t see the humor. To make his point about the lack of discipline even sharper, and to get across his extreme displeasure, Schwartz going to fine every and any one involved in the practice skirmishes.”
After reflecting a little more on the silliness of large, sweaty, padded men wrestling in sweltering heat, there’s only one thing I like about it. How Schwartz handled the whole affair. He dealt out fines to anyone and everyone involved, and all but said if it happens again, the punishment will be more severe than having to write a large check.
It’ll likely mean their jobs.
We’ve heard it all before. We all remember Bobby Ross’ weekly claim he’s be handing “bus tickets out of town.” But in Schwartz’s case, I tend to believe his threats. He has the full backing of the front office, and’ it’s not as if the Lions have been winning big with the punch throwers. So Schwartz really doesn’t have anything to lose…other than the respect of the players if he doesn’t follow up on his threats. Ross never handed out those bus tickets, and the players never took him seriously.
I don’t think that will be a problem with Jim Schwartz.
Steve: I don’t regard the fights that have occurred during the OTA’s as meaning anything beyond the obvious. In other words, a bunch of spirited, competitive young men are fighting for their livelihoods, which often gets heated in the process.
Given that the Lions have had a quiet off-season since the April draft, I believe the fact the fights are even being reported is largely because there is little else to report, and people have become cautiously optimistic about the direction of the Lions organization.
Other than the unfortunate off-the-field incident by team exec Tom Lewand and the rumors swirling about a potential acquisition of the Redskins embattled, underachieving DT Albert Haynesworth, this is the most stable the Lions have appeared in a very long time. Of course, a 2-14 or 3-13 performance would change that perception rapidly.
NetRat: Fights? I have no issue with fights that break out in OTA’s or training camp. I would be more worried if there were none. You have over 80 guys trying to make a 53 man team. The game is part talent, part emotion, and part impossible. While the coaching staff doesn’t want fights to interrupt their training schedule, they do understand that they happen. They know why they happen, they know it will happen, and they also know when things get out of control by players who need to learn control (to avoid penalties in a game if nothing else). To me, it’s a non-issue. Unless a player repeatedly does stupid penalties in game situations… then it’s a huge issue.
Phil: I wouldn’t read too much into any of the fights. There was a little dust-up at an OTA about a month ago, and then it was followed by a couple of donnybrooks at the recent minicamp. “Brawl” is too excessive a word, despite what you probably heard or read in the media. I was there. It wasn’t a brawl, and here’s my explanation: A brawl is when fists are thrown by a bunch of individuals in the same general fight. That didn’t happen. And anyone who says that happened is lying because the media is not within good viewing distance to see exactly what went on.
At the time, media members were within about a 20-yard area on the sideline opposite of where the scuffle took place – in other words, about 40-50 yards away. At ground level. Because the team is running plays, it’s not easy to tell when a fight breaks out until guys are scrambling. So that’s what happened the first time. The second time involved a lot more players, but they weren’t necessarily part of the fight – remember, there are plenty of guys trying to pull teammates away from each other or simply running to ground zero. The second fight took a little longer to break up and essentially ended that part of practice.
As Schwartz explained afterwards, though, there are a lot of guys fighting for their jobs; there are guys fighting for pride. This was the final day of mandatory minicamp, and groups of guys like to have the edge on the opposing unit over the summer. It’s not surprising that big, athletic men who compete in a violent sport get into a scrap from time to time. (Hell, wait until the dog days of August – two-a-days under scorching sun rays and 95 percent humidity!) These same guys pushing, shoving and wrestling on the ground will be having lunch or a beer together later on. Like I said, the second fight was a little more involved, but there’s no way I’d classify it as a brawl. I saw worse going to high school in Flint than what I saw on the Lions practice field last week.
All of that having been said, it’s not something for Schwartz to let go. There have to be consequences, and the head coach will dole out the punishment. All-in-all, I’d be quite indifferent toward the whole thing. I wouldn’t worry about the players being undisciplined or too easily fired up. Let’s see how things go in training camp before making it into an issue.
As an aside, one question I’ve gotten a lot after the recent “brawl” is about why there were no pictures or video of the fight. Here’s the low-down: Team rules prohibit the media from taking pictures or shooting video of anything other than individual drills. For those who haven’t had the chance to view a Lions practice, usually it goes like this: stretching/warm-up for about 20 minutes, individual drills for 20-40 minutes, various team drills (7-on-7, situational, etc.) for an hour+, special teams drills for 20-30 minutes. So other than 20-40 minutes, cameras must be put away or turned off.
Tony: Funny you should ask Marko because I’ve been thinking the same thing. As a result, I’ve made a list on the positives and negatives so I will list them and let you know what I think.
1. It shows intensity. It shows people actually care and they are not willing to give an inch. If you beat me, you’re going to pay for it and I love this attitude.
2. It builds chemistry. Not as a team, but as an offensive and defensive unit. We all know football is the “ultimate team sport” but the more you watch the game, it’s more like four teams competing against each other. (Offense vs. Defence for both teams)Showing that you are willing to go to battle with the guys on your side of the ball helps create a chemistry and that’s what you need to success.
1. It doesn’t build a TEAM chemistry. In fact, it could be argued it pushes team mates apart because it can pin people against each other. For example, the offense could go out and put up 30 points but the defence could allow 35 and the attitude of the offense could be, “hey, I did my part so I don’t care what the defence does.” In fact, this is the attitude we’ve seen in previous seasons.
2. It takes away from practice time. Lord knows the Lions need all the practice time they can get and by the time the Lions fight, it gets broken up, they get yelled at and then get back to work, it probably eats up ten minutes. Sure ten minutes doesn’t sound like a lot but when you’ve won two games in the last two years, it is a lot!!!!
I think it’s a positive. For the simple reason it shows people care. Passion is the one thing the Lions have lacked over the last decade and passion is what you need to be successful in the NFL. So overall, I’m happy they are showing intensity and passion.
DetFan1979: I am not as concerned about the “fights” this year as I was under Marinelli. First off, the players lost OTA days under Marinelli due to a player complaint. This season, they lost a day because the players were practicing too intensely when the NFLPA looked over the tape.
Let’s repeat that, shall we? The Lions lost 2 days of practice for practicing too intensely.
Since when can you really say that about the Lions? I just get the vibe that the level at which the Lions are praciting (and hopefully the level at which they play) has cranked up a couple of notches this ifseason as the vets are finally seeing some stability, and the bubble guys are having a harder time competing for spots as the roster has been infused with more talent.
Now that the Lions have more quality starting grade players as starters, this has pushed the competition in spots for the bubble guys to fighting for backup spots — backup spots that are not as numerous as they have been in recent seasons. Also, those fighting for the starting positions in flux know that the talent level has kicked up (are you reading this Dennis Northcutt?) and that ever player really counts.
That the players have this much passion and talent is a refreshing break from the Millen years. My hope is that this ferocity carries over into the season, tempered with discipline. Jim Schwartz made the right move by fining players involved and making sure it was well established that controlled passion is great – but wild frenzies are not. Discipline is still key, and I think he managed to continue establishing that while not quashing the competitive fire.
This has been a very positive and stable ifseason — the most stable I have seen in some many years. As a writer, that makes it hard at times because the turmoil provided for compelling stories. However, as a fan I’m thrilled at the direction the team is going in, and think that this is just one more sign of the way the Lions trenches (Oline and Dline) will be playing this season: Knock ‘em down and out.
Thanks for reading the Lions Congregation! Do you have a question you would like to see answered, or a topic discussed? Email the firstname.lastname@example.org !! Have a safe and happy 4th of July Weekend!