All-Access with Johnson, Stafford

A funny thing happened as we set out to shoot a feature on the Detroit Lions for Fox NFL Sunday. We noticed they are perhaps the most reluctant team in the NFL when it comes to network visits.

Polite? Yes. But they didn’t exactly jump at the chance and it was kind of refreshing. It’s almost as if the Lions just want some privacy, to be left alone. After all, it’s only two doggone wins.

“It’s important to keep things in perspective,” 11-year veteran Kyle Vanden Bosch told me. “We have a good group of leaders. And we understand where this organization has been. We appreciate being 2-0 but we know we’ve got to earn every win.”

Referring to his team’s knack for losing, Detroit’s outstanding 5th-year Pro-Bowl receiver Calvin Johnson used the term “down in the gutter” when speaking to me about the really bad years. He was in his second year when the team went 0-16.


Still can’t process it.

“We’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” Johnson said twice during our interview and he was believable both times.

But that light could be quickly extinguished if Matthew Stafford can’t stay healthy. Did you know he doesn’t like to be called Matt? It’s Matthew. Calvin Johnson called him Matt, but he can do what he wants. Matthew’s shoulder injuries aside, he completely knows the drill. He’s got to up the consistency factor for the Lions’ offense to move like the Soul Train . . . down the right track and with a little swagger.

“If we keep winning that means I’m playing consistent football, but it’s something I’ve got to go out there and prove,” Stafford said.

It’s not exactly hard to get as excited about the Lions as their fans have long been. It’s hard to watch a team or a player get routinely kicked around, like Rex Grossman for example. People say his name like it gives them a stomach ache right there on the spot. Rex GROSS-man?! Ugh.

Well, both are 2-0 and good for them.



Remember hubcaps? I got a ring in the mail this week from FOX that was about the size of one and about three sizes too big and I’ve got man hands. It was a thank you for being a part of the highest-rated television program in history as 111 million tuned in to watch Super Bowl XVL last February. I mean the thing is honkin’ huge.

I thought I’d lose the nerve to whip it out faster than a credit card at a Neiman Marcus shoe sale. I wanted to tell Stafford, Johnson and Vanden Bosh that they could have one, too, if the stars aligned and they work really hard. I did chicken out on those exact words but not the part about showing off the bling. It’s beautiful to me and gets me stopped at security by the TSA along with my Aretha Franklin 70’s saucer-sized hoop earrings.

The guys were good sports . . . smiling and complimenting the “Buick” I shoved at ‘em with such childish glee.

Stafford kept calling it “sweet.” Vanden Bosch held back a wink when he said “looks like real diamonds,” and finally Johnson said, “that’s cool.”

Perhaps it was a silly attempt at humor, but the Lions just want to be the ones doing the laughing and not the butt of the jokes like they have been in the past on Leno and Letterman.

Calvin Johnson watched the Packers win the Super Bowl and told me, “I want to know that feeling.” He told me how badly he wants to be on that the Super Bowl stage someday. He recently ran into a Packers coach in an airport and the guy pulled out the ring and showed it to him. The way he told me the story, Johnson wasn’t oohing and aahing.

His said first reaction was to “chuck it" clear across the airport.

Hostile and hungry, the Lions could use that combination and show us this early indicator of reversal of fortune is legit.

And if they ever get their mega-sized ring, that would be the ultimate last laugh.