Players in the final year of their contracts should be a little more focused, a little more determined, a little more passionate.
If so, the Detroit Lions’ defense should be flying around this year with players trying to prove they deserve big paydays all over the field.
More than half of the starters are entering the final year of their deals. The group includes cornerback Chris Houston, safety Louis Delmas, defensive tackle Corey Williams, linebackers DeAndre Levy and Justin Durant, not to mention defensive end Cliff Avril, who hasn’t reported to training camp yet but is expected to sign his one-year franchise tender at some point in the next few weeks.
“It’s not on my mind,” Houston said of his contract status. “I put that to the side. When it’s all said and done, you get what you earn.
“I’m going to continue to put the work in on the field and on Sundays. We’ll see what it is at the end of the season.”
The Lions apparently plan to take a wait-and-see approach toward re-signing the bulk of their defense.
Asked whether he expects to reach contract extensions with any of these players any time soon, general manager Martin Mayhew said, “Probably not in August. I think we’ll get into the season and see how things go and make some calls on that area then.”
Assuming their lack of long-term security doesn’t lead to concerns over injuries at some point, these six Lions should be highly motivated to produce this season.
Sometimes limbo can have its advantages.
Of the estimated 1,500 Lions’ fans who attended an open practice earlier this week, one stood out: He was wearing a large championship ring hat made out of foam.
On both sides was the year “1957,” a reference to the club’s last NFL title.
The Lions have never even played in the Super Bowl.
Receiver Nate Burleson, born in 1981, took notice of the man’s hat.
“It puts things in perspective when you see that and you know it’s been so long,” Burleson said. “Obviously, every team wants to win the Super Bowl. We’re not going to be a team that starts talking about that right now.
“But we do understand what that would mean to the city if we were to bring something like that back to Michigan. It would be probably one of the biggest things that ever hit the state.”
As for the vocal fans attending practice, Burleson added, “It doesn’t surprise me. They’ve been waiting so long to have a hopeful, competitive team. We’re just that. They see the type of passion we approach practice with, the focus. They mirror that. They come out there and show us the same passion, the same energy.
“There was a fan when I was signing (autographs) who said, ‘We’re going to do our job on Sundays in the stands, you guys just do your job on the field.’ I said, ‘That’s a deal.'”