“You know what I'm craving? A little perspective. That's it. I'd like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that?”
Though players are supposed to report this evening, it's still about 24 hours before the 2010 Detroit Lions open training camp for real: on the field. We should be buzzing about Matthew Stafford’s first camp as the established starter, positional battles on the offensive line, and the new. Instead most talk is about whether or not the Lions’ two first-round draft picks, Jahvid Best and Ndamkong Suh, will sign their contracts in time.
Let’s take a step back for a second. We’ve been discussing Ndamukong Suh, what an unstoppable he-beast he is, and how Suh’d be a plug-in dominator since December. After the Big XII championship game, many people on this site and elsewhere began expressing their undying love for him, crafting treatises on Ndamukong’s glory, and expounding upon how Suh’d immediately make the Lions’ defensive line both powerful and flexible.
There’s a lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt that comes with a late camp entry. “He’s way behind,” “We’ve already installed 90% of the system,” and “If he can’t get the starting job in camp, he’ll be a backup all year,” are all phrases you hear at this time of year. But, I’m going to remind you folks of something: Calvin Johnson missed the first eight days of training camp!
Oh, there was woe. Oh, there were lamentations. Oh, there was gnashing of teeth. Calvin wouldn’t learn the offense in time. He needed to contribute in 2007, and he couldn’t if he didn’t know the offense. There wouldn’t be time to build a rapport with Jon Kitna. If he couldn’t be an effective starter in camp, he wouldn’t get enough reps to play well in the preseason. If he didn’t play well in the preseason, he wouldn’t have the confidence to excel right away in the regular season. If he didn’t excel in his rookie season, he’d be a year behind! Oh no oh no oh no his entire career hangs in the balance!
Believe me, people, I was right there with you all! But then . . . well, Calvin Johnson signed. He showed up for work. And what do you know? He turned out to be 6’-5”, with 4.35 combine-40-yard-dash speed. He also turned out to be just as humble, hardworking, and serious about his craft as advertised—and now, you’d never know he missed a few days of practice as July turned in to August.
I wanted the Lions to draft Suh because his body is put together in an extraordinarily rare combination of size, strength, speed and explosion—and inside that body, he’s a humble, generous, intelligent young man who understands his place in the world. None of that is going to change between now and Saturday or Sunday or Monday. Ndamukong wanted to get signed and get into camp—and, give or take a few days, he’ll be signed, and he’ll get into camp. I can’t recommend a good wine for that—but I do suggest you pick up a bottle of Lion Stout, and put a hearty mug in the freezer.