Thursday, May 25, 2006

Don't Laugh, But Lions' Tradition At Defensive Line Not All Bad

Big Daddy appears to be gone now, for good -- but then again, Papa always was a rolling stone.

Defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson was released by the Lions the other day, and barring some change of heart from both sides, Big Daddy will be tying his bandana full of worldly possessions to a stick and hopping a freight train. Maybe this time the destination will be wherever he settles when football isn't part of the equation. For Wilkinson might be retiring.

And that was the problem -- that word "might". Ever since the final gun was shot into the sky in Pittsburgh -- at the end of the Lions' last regular season game in early January, Wilkinson has been non-committal about returning for a 13th NFL season. He was our version of Brett Favre -- debating whether to spend another training camp and 20 games -- exhibition and regular -- in the grueling NFL wars.

But Favre long ago said yes to the Packers, and the Lions were still standing, one foot tapping, glancing at their watch, wondering what Big Daddy Dan Wilkinson wanted to do.

Finally, they could wait no longer.

The Lions, for all their warts, have actually a pretty decent history along the defensive line.

It started in the early 1960's, with guys like Alex Karras and Darris McCord and Sam Williams, and extended later in the decade with the addition of Roger Brown and Larry Hand. In the 70's and 80's we had Bubba Baker and Doug English and Joe Ehrmann and Dave Pureifory and Bill Gay, and they even had a nickname: The Silver Rush.

Even in the lean years there's been guys like Jerry Ball and, today, Shaun Rogers.

But no more Big Daddy.

In today's Freep, there's a piece about second-year man Shaun Cody out of USC, and how he'll have to somehow attract as much attention in the interior line as Wilkinson so often did. It's unlikely that'll be the case right away. Maybe in time. Cody has talent, and the athleticism.

There's also speculation that the Raiders might do to Warren Sapp what the Lions did to Wilkinson. Naturally, since new Lions coach Rod Marinelli spent all those years coaching the Bucs defensive line -- which for years included perennial Pro Bowler Sapp -- it's inevitable that Sapp-to-Detroit talk will start. And it already has, even though the Raiders still employ #99.

Sapp as a Lion? He would just be another in a lineage of decent D-linemen in Detroit.

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