Lions LB Alex Anzalone says focus is to win playoff games

He signed 3-year deal with $18.75 million

When was the last time the Detroit Lions won a playoff game?

Jan. 5, 1992.

Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone confessed to not knowing exactly when that occurred, but he knew it had been a while, and said on Wednesday, that the team’s goal is to win playoff games. Period.

Anzalone is considered a veteran — he’s 28 — on the Lions’ roster. He laughs it off about being the old guy, but re-signing the linebacker was key to keep Detroit’s defense on track to take another step forward in the 2023 season and beyond.

Anzalone, who was signed on one-year deals with Detroit for the past two seasons, has agreed to a three-year, $18.75 million extension. He spoke to the media on Wednesday at the practice facility, saying that signing the multi-year deal brought a sense of relief.

“I really felt like I’ve found a home,’’ said Anzalone who was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the third round of the 2017 draft out of Florida. He played there for three seasons before signing with the Lions in 2021.

With the nex contract, Anzalone said his personal goal is to be more consistent at a high level.

He started all 17 games last season, finishing with 125 tackles (a career high), 1.5 sacks, seven quarterback hits, one interception and a forced fumble.

The Lions finished the season winning eight of the last 10 games, finishing with a 9-8 record.

“The development of young guys is not an excuse (any longer),’’ Anzalone said.

Most of them, including Anzalone, were not born at the time of the last playoff win, but they know it’s up to them to take the team to the next level.


Lions’ John Cominsky says new $8.5 million contract ‘a dream come true’

ALLEN PARK — John Cominsky took the podium on Wednesday at the Lions facility wearing a black T-shirt with the words: “One year of focus and hustle can change your life forever.” His agent gave him the T-shirt one year ago. Its message was loud and clear.

The defensive lineman, who had a career season with the Lions in 2022, was rewarded with a two-year contract worth $8.5 million including a $2.4 million signing bonus and with $4 million guaranteed.

He took a short break from his family vacation in Naples, Fla., to fly to Detroit to sign the deal.

“It’s a dream come true,’’ Cominsky said at a press conference on Wednesday.

He thanked everyone in the Lions organization for believing and supporting him.

“Until you’re in this building you don’t understand the family dynamic,’’ Cominsky said. 

After a solid season last year — and signs that the Lions are on the right track — Cominsky wanted to return to Detroit. He had interest from a few other teams.

He said he was already 99.9 percent leaning toward a return to the Lions when he got a text from Coach Dan Campbell that said: “I’m dying to have you here.” 

That text was the clincher, he told his wife that Detroit was it. He said his family is on Cloud Nine.

The Lions claimed the 27-year-old Cominsky off waivers last May after he had asked the Atlanta Falcons to be released. Last season he had career-highs in sacks (4), tackles (30) and quarterback hits (12) while playing with an injured thumb. It’s all healed now and he said he’s looking forward to playing with two hands. 

He spent the first three seasons of his career (2019-21) with the Atlanta Falcons after they selected him in the fourth round (135th overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft out of Charleston University.

Lions GM Brad Holmes not surprised about success of rookie class

A look at each rookie’s stats

ALLEN PARK — While veterans were key to the Detroit Lions 9-8 season including the big turnaround after a horrid start, the rookies played a huge role. A glance at the stat sheet is all the proof that is needed.

The 1-6 start was rough on one of the NFL’s youngest teams, but the rookies matured and as they grew they found a certain confidence and won eight of their last ten. 

It’s official the 2022 Lions draft class met and in some cases exceeded expectations.

“I’m not surprised about the success (of the rookie class). You don’t know if Kerby Joseph is going to pick off Aaron Rodgers three times in a season. You don’t know when James Houston gets going that he’s going to have eight sacks in just that small sample size. I can’t say we have that crystal ball, but we do know about who they were as football players,’’ Lions GM Brad Holmes said during his season-ending press conference on Tuesday.

“We knew Kerby Joseph was a ball guy, we knew he was a ball hawk, we knew he had outstanding instincts to get the football. So that’s not a surprise. We knew James Houston had all of the development or attributes and traits and the football character and intangibles to work with the development. Him having production is not a surprise,’’ Holmes added.

Houston may have been a surprise to others because he was a sixth-round pick. So was Malcolm Rodriguez who started 14 games. Joseph was a third-round pick. 

All eyes were on Aidan Hutchinson, the second overall pick, and he didn’t disappoint. 

“Ultimately, any of your draft picks, you just want to see them develop. You want to see them get a little bit better every week. You want to see that a mistake that they made early, they don’t make again, and really, they’ve all done that, and that includes Aidan,’’ coach Dan Campbell said. “And I go back to this, I mean he – he didn’t just walk in the door and all of a sudden, all these great things happen. I mean he goes into Washington, he has three sacks, and then it’s expected that he’ll have three sacks every week from then on, and that’s just not the reality, but the fact is he was disruptive, and he’s a football player, and he did improve.’’

A first-round pick is expected to contribute from Day One and Hutchinson did just that.

“We knew Aidan, we pretty much knew what his skillset was and what  his drive and determination and intangibles were,’’ Holmes said. “I don’t want to say we knew that the statistics would be what they were but we’re not really surprised that (the rookies) had success. That’s why we do all the work that we do.’’

Here’s a look at the 2022 Lions draft class and how they contributed:

— Defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson, second overall pick. In 17 starts, he’s had three  interceptions (he never had one in college), 9.5 sacks to lead all NFL rookies, two fumble recoveries and 52 tackles. His coming out party was in Week 2 when he had 3 sacks in the win over the Commanders.  

WR Jameson Williams, first round (12th overall). He played in first game on Dec. 4 after recovering from ACL surgery last January. His first and only reception was a 41-yard touchdown catch. He also had a 40-yard scamper for a touchdown. With no training camp and limited practice he was at a disadvantage with a lack of experience, but his speed was on full display. Expectations are high for next season.

— Defensive lineman Josh Paschal, second round, (46th overall). In 10 games with four starts, Paschal had a pair of sacks in Week 17 against the Bears and 16 tackles overall. He can be a force and the stats don’t always tell the story.

— Safety Kerby Joseph, third round (97th overall). In 17 games (14 starts) he became Aaron Rodgers’ biggest nightmare. Of his four interceptions three were against Rodgers with 2 in the Lions win at Ford Field and one at Lambeau on Sunday. Joseph was a standout with 2 forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and 82 tackles.

— TE James Mitchell, fifth round (177th overall). In 14 games he was targeted 11 times and caught every one with 1 touchdown. His role has developed after T.J. Hockenson was traded to the Vikings.

LB Malcolm Rodriguez, sixth round (188th overall). He’s a dynamo who got the eyes of coaches and fans from the start of training camp. He was a “Hard Knocks” star.. In 16 games (15 starts), he’s had 87 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery. Look for the ball and you’ll find Rodrigo.

— Linebacker James Houston, sixth round (217th overall). He opened eyes with  five sacks in his first four games, starting on Thanksgiving. He set an NFL record with seven sacks in his first six games and  finished the season with eight sacks. He’s a force who spent the first three months on the practice squad. He had a pair of sacks and a special teams fumble recovery in his first game on Thanksgiving. 

— Cornerback Chase Lucas, seventh round (237th overall). In six games mostly on special teams, he had three tackles. He was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 10 with a hamstring injury. He missed time earlier in the season with an ankle injury.