Five things to know about Detroit Lions TE Luke Willson

His role hasn’t been defined yet

ALLEN PARK >> Luke Willson apologized for sweating when he took the podium on Tuesday.

The Lions tight end said he didn’t usually sweat that much so apparently he’s working out hard in his first offseason in Detroit.

Willson, who signed with the Lions as a free agent, seemed totally comfortable talking to the media. He even asked for softball questions when he hopped up to the podium.

“I’m a local guy take it easy on me,’’ Willson asked, half-joking.

Five things to know:

1. He grew up in LaSalle, Ontario, (minutes from the Ambassador Bridge) and was a big Lions fan especially during the Barry Sanders and Herman Moore days. “Fun fact, David Sloan was my tight ends coach in college so we had a full-circle thing. Johnnie Morton’s brother, Chad, was out in Seattle … I liked the Lions growing up with that being said I think it’s important for me to establish the divide yeah i was a fan of the team but I’m here to do a job,’’ Willson said. Sloan was a tight end with the Lions from 1995 to 2001.

2. In his five seasons in Seattle, Willson had 89 catches for 1,129 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s uncertain what his role will be with the Lions. “At this part of the offseason, phase 2, it’s too early to talk about roles. I’m here to do whatever the coaches ask me, right now with CBA rules, personally it’s about getting better each day,’’ Willson said. “A lot of individual stuff, showing the coaches what I can do and from there they’ll decide what role I’ll be playing this year.’’

3. Willson spent the last three seasons in the same tight ends room with Jimmy Graham in Seattle. With the Lions, there is not one big name guy who is a tight end on the roster. “I’d say we’re learning together. At the same time, it’s been a lot of fun in that sense where everything is new to a lot of us. Mike Rob (Roberts) has been here longest for a year. Hakeem (Valles) has been here for last year. Even for me as a veteran guy bouncing stuff off Hakeem, but it’s been fun in the sense I can tell them some stuff as far as being a little bit older and they can help me out. It’s been great, I think we all get along pretty well,’’ Willson said.

4. Willson responded, “Absolutely not” when asked if the Matt Patricia controversy that arose last week will hang over the team this season. “He spoke to the team at the team meeting what happened at the team meeting stays in there. We all support him. It’s back to football for us. We’re pretty focused right now,’’ Willson said. “To be honest I kept an open mind, I believe in Coach Patricia and listened to what he said.’’

5. Here’s what he wants fans to know about him: “You know I want, I kind of grew up in the blue collar area that this is, Windsor is an automotive city as well. My parents weren’t in the automotive industry but good friends and family are,’’ Willson said. “I think I bring a part of that to my personality and a part of that to my game playing — a little grimy here and there, a little blue collar we’ll see how it goes.’’

Advertisements

Lions Matt Patricia: ‘I’m here to defend my honor and clear my name’

Owner Martha Firestone Ford shows support

ALLEN PARK — Lions coach Matt Patricia was scheduled to address the media on Thursday to discuss this weekend’s rookie minicamp.

Instead he stood behind the podium for nearly seven minutes in front of a jam-packed media room, to address the Detroit News story that reported he was indicted but not tried in a sexual assault case when he was 21 years old on spring break.

“I’m here to defend my honor and clear my name,’’ Patricia said in his opening statement.

Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford, who rarely attends news conferences, was in attendance displaying her support, along with general manager Bob Quinn, team president Rod Wood and Lions counsel Jay Colvin.

The team issued a statement on Wednesday night giving their full backing to Patricia. Their attendance on Thursday emphasized their support.

“Mrs. Ford, her family, Rod and Bob are unbelievable people. I can’t express to you how amazing human beings they are, compassionate and understanding,’’ said Patricia who was hired in January to replace Jim Caldwell.

After thanking the Lions’ organization, he stated: “Twenty-two years ago I was falsely accused of something very serious, very serious allegations. There were claims made about me that never happened. I am thankful on one level that the process worked and the case was dismissed. At the same time, I was never given the opportunity to defend myself or to allow push-back with the truth to clear my name. This was something that was very traumatic to me. I was 21 years old. Once it was finally addressed I tried to put it behind me.’’

The first-time head coach said the issue never came up in the interview process with the Lions or at any time during his career.

“I started interviewing for jobs 22 years ago, in a time where one year after this incident happened where I interviewed, and these situations never came up, never asked. It was never an issue through the course of my career. The case was dismissed and I’m innocent,’’  said Patricia who spent the past 14 seasons with the New England Patriots.

Even though the charges were dismissed, it has now become an issue due to the Detroit News story which offered no update on the situation. The News reported: “The relevance of even old and untried charges raises questions for the Lions at the height of the ‘Me Too’ movement, which has brought new scrutiny to sexual misconduct allegations.’’

Patricia managed to keep his emotions intact through the press conference.

“I lived with the mental torture of a situation where facts can be completely ignored or misrepresented with disregard for the consequences and pain it would create for another person,’’ Patricia said in his statement.

“I find it unfair and upsetting that someone would bring this claim up over two decades later for the sole purpose of hurting my family, my friends and this organization with the intention of trying to damage my character and my credibility. I was innocent then and I’m innocent now,’’ he said.

Under Quinn — and even before he was hired — a player’s good character has been an important factor on whether they were drafted or signed by the Lions.

“I talked to the team today and told them exactly what I said to you guys, told them the truth,’’ Patricia said. “I also took this opportunity again to one more time focus on the fact that in this time we need to be sensitive and responsible. I used this as a learning moment with them so we can all try to be together.’’

 

Five thoughts from Detroit Lions O-lineman Graham Glasgow

Still unclear if he’ll play left guard or center

ALLEN PARK >> If you are wondering whether Graham Glasgow will start at left guard or center for the Lions this fall, you are not alone.

Glasgow, who played both positions last season, does not know yet where he will line up. The Lions drafted Frank Ragnow in the first round. He was a center at Arkansas but also could move to guard.

“That’s up to Bob (Quinn) and that’s up to the coaches. I’m an interior offensive lineman. I’ll play left guard, I’ll play center, I’ll play whatever they ask me to,’’ Glasgow said at a press conference on Tuesday morning.

Five thoughts from Glasgow as the Lions’ offseason work continues:

1. After playing 16 games last season (and 15 his rookie season in 2016), he said it didn’t take his body long to recover. “I’m a younger guy, it doesn’t take me as long probably as if it was T.J. (Lang) who did it. After a couple weeks I was ready to go again. I was ready to get everything going,’’ said the 25-year-old Glasgow. Lang, the veteran right guard, is 30.

2. On new coach Matt Patricia: “He’s very straight forward. His goals are to win, to win every week. That’s something all of us can get behind.” Then Glasgow was asked whether Patricia has a sense of humor, he responded that they might have to soften him up.

3.  At the NFL draft, GM Bob Quinn specifically said he was frustrated by inability to convert on short-yardage situations last season. “I would say it’s right for him to be bothered by that, we were bothered by that. It was frustrating in a lot of ways for us. We were our own harshest critics and I think that is something we in a lot of ways took personally. We tried to get that worked out and I think that’s something we will also improve this year,’’ Glasgow said.

4. Glasgow said he doesn’t know much about first-round pick Frank Ragnow, but has heard he’s worker and expects he will fit in. Glasgow said the biggest transition for an NFL rookie is just how good the guys you line up against every week. “You’re not playing against Michigan State and Ohio State, or in his case Alabama and Auburn one week and playing against Vandy or Rutgers the next week. Every single D-linemen you’re going against is very good. They’re all professionals, everybody is getting paid money. Having consistency from week to week is hard as a young offensive lineman,’’ Glasgow said. “I knew that was something I had to get ironed out when I first got here and a lot of older guys helped me out with that.’’

5. On new offensive line coach Jeff Davidson: “I would say that Jeff seems like he’s a fantastic guy, he’s a very down-to-earth coach and I think he’s somebody that will help our position group get better and improve throughout the year,’’ Glasgow said. “Having somebody with a lot of personal experience can help me and younger guys in the locker get our technique down, a lot o questions he’ll be able to answer.” Davidson has 24 years of coaching experience, 15 of those working with offensive linemen.

Lions Bob Quinn explains Day 3 picks and how they will fit in

Two more offensive players drafted

ALLEN PARK — While the Lions went into the draft with needs on the defensive line and run game. With their six picks, they have boosted the run game and added just one defensive lineman.

General manager Bob Quinn said it was just a matter of supply and demand.  The best players on the board when they picked just happened to be mostly on offense. He’s visited with a few defensive line vets in recent weeks and may look at signing one or more of them.

“Productive day,” Quinn said after wrapping up the three-day draft.

Here are his thoughts on the three players drafted on Saturday and how he sees them fitting in:

— He traded his third round pick in 2019 to the Patriots for their fourth-round pick on Saturday. With that they drafted defensive end Da’Shawn Hand out of Alabama.

“I thought it was a really good value pick. Big, strong guy, position versatility, can play inside or outside. Good scheme fit for us. Good knowledge of our defensive line coach (Bo Davis) and that helped,” Quinn said. “Knows our technique. Met with him at the Pro Day. Matt and I went down to he Pro Day and met with all of those guys. Had a good meeting with Da’Shawn so felt that was a really good pick for us.”

Position versatility was key.

“We’re not going to have a base 3-4 or a base 4-3,” Quinn said. “He’s a defensive lineman that can play anywhere from 7-technique all the way down to nose depending on the different fronts we’re going to use. That was one of the things we liked about him.”

— With the fifth-round pick the Lions drafted tackle Tyrell Crosby from Oregon.

“Another good value pick, he really stood out on the board well above everyone else at that point. it was a really pretty easy pick when we talked about it,” Quinn said. “We had him graded a lot higher than we took him. Thought the value was too good to pass up.”

Crosby played left tackle in college but has practiced at other spots.

“We see him as a guy at multiple positions along our front. Had him in for visit it was a good day, he brings a lot to the table,” Quinn said of Crosby.

— In the seventh round, fullback Nick Bawden from San Diego State got the call from the Lions who did not have a fullback on the roster last season.

“Just some conversations we’ve had in the offseason since Matt (Patricia) has got here with some new staff members. It’s something we want to add to the mix to kind of give our offense more of a physical presence,” Quinn said. “It’s a seventh-round pick, it is what it is. He’s a guy we liked and was a good value at that pick.”

In the first round the Lions drafted interior offensive lineman Frank Ragnow. Running back Kerryon Johnson was the second-round pick and safety Tracy Walker was the third-round choice.

 

 

 

 

Lions draft FB Nick Bawden in seventh round

Started at San Diego State at QB

ALLEN PARK — In yet another move to bolster their run game, the Lions drafted fullback Nick Bawden in the seventh-round on Saturday.

The 6-3, 245-pound back out of San Diego State, had 15 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown in 2017. He had zero carries.

Bawden cleared the way last two years for Donnel Pumphrey and Rashaad Penny, who both dominated the NCAA rushing leader charts.

The Lions’ run game in 2017 was the NFL’s worst. In three days of the draft, they drafted two offensive linemen (Frank Ragnow and Tyrell Crosby), a running back (Kerryon Johnson) and now a fullback.

Bawden said he first talked with Bob Quinn at the Senior Bowl along with running back coach David Walker.

“They want to get back to running the ball and be really successful. So we’re just going to do whatever we can to get it done,” Bawden said. “I’m so glad they took me. My pride and joy is my run blocking. I’m going to do absolutely everything I can to get it done and everything they need me to do — whether it’s playing fullback, H-back, tight end kind of role. I’m going to do everything  they need me to do.”

The Lions didn’t use a fullback last season.

(Photo courtesy of San Diego State)

Bawden started at San Diego State in 2014 as the backup quarterback,  stepping in to start two games for the injured starter. He was moved to fullback prior to the 2015 season.

“It was definitely something I wasn’t open to at first. I had no idea that I had it in me to be able to play fullback. I knew how hard the position was, I knew how tough you had to be,” Bawden said on a conference call. “At first I didn’t really didn’t believe I could do it but I wanted to stay at San Diego, I loved our coaches, I loved everything we were going for. I was willing to give it a chance, it definitely gave me an opportunity to be where I am today talking to you as a Detroit Lion which I’m so excited about.”

He had to bulk up to make the move. He learned to cook his own meals. Since he started lifting weights in seventh grade.

“It was incredibly hard at first. I’ve loved lifting from an early age, I started lifting when I was in seventh grade I wanted to be the strongest QB in the league I really took pride in my training. It wasn’t too hard of a transition from there but I definitely had to gain some weight. I was about 220 pounds as a quarterback, i had to get heavier. I gained 10 pounds a year through my junior and senior year.

He was up to 250 for his senior year. “I started cooking all my own meals,” Bawden said with some pride. Although he’d like to take cooking lessons to improve.

NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein’s overview for Bawden: “Quarterback turned fullback who has bought into the physicality of the fullback position and has the mangled nose to prove it. Bawden has good size and is a competent pass-catcher. The market for old-school fullbacks has shrunk, but he has the ability to find a roster home as a contributing lead blocker and pass catcher on play-action.”

Other Lions’ draft picks on Saturday were DE Da’Shawn Hand in the fourth round and Crosby in the fifth round.

 

 

 

 

Lions draft tackle Tyrell Crosby in fifth round

Played left tackle at Oregon

ALLEN PARK — The Lions added another piece to the offensive line puzzle by drafting tackle Tyrell Crosby (Oregon) in the fifth round with the 153rd overall pick.

Crosby, who is 6-5 and 309 pounds, played all games at left tackle as a senior but could move to right tackle in the NFL.

Crosby did not allow a sack in 2017 after missing most of the previous season with a broken foot. NFLDraftScout.com had him as the sixth-best tackle and 58th best prospect.

“As an O-lineman, you never want your running back, quarterback or just anybody with the ball or teammate in general to get hit by anyone,” Crosby said in a conference call on Saturday. “To know that I kept our quarterback safe throughout the entire year is a tremendous achievement in my opinion. Getting named top PAC-12 lineman of the year voted by the defensive linemen, it’s humbling knowing that your peers think that highly of you.”

In 2017, he allowed only three QB hurries, according to Pro Football Focus — tied for the lowest pressure rate allowed by any offensive tackle at the Senior Bowl.

Pro Football Weekly had him rated as the 35th best prospect in the draft. He was all Pac-12 as a senior.

Most experts expected him to go higher than the fifth round.

“I didn’t expect (to wait), but honestly, at the end of the day I’m now a professional football player. So, things happen in life and you really just, at the end of the day you realize how grateful you are, especially looking back at how small of a percentage of college players make it to where I made it today,” Crosby said. “Things happen and I might have gone later than I expected. At the end of the day I’m excited to be a Lion.”

He tweeted that he celebrated by going to Chipotle. He’s not getting down on himself on falling to the fifth round.

“It’s frustrating just because my personal opinion, I think I’m the best, well, one of the best offensive tackles from the 2018 draft. But, though it kind of sucks, at the same time it’s just an awesome feeling to know that I’m a part of such a great organization with great history,” Crosby said. “Wherever I went, I ended up in Detroit and I’m so thankful for it.”

(Photo courtesy of Oregon)

Lance Zierlein’s prospect overview on NFL.com: “Evaluators may stick with Crosby at right tackle in the pros, but his issues with hip tightness and gaining enough ground to the edge in pass protection may force a move inside to guard sooner rather than later. Crosby has technical issues to smooth out, but he will appeal to teams who covet size, length and strength as he puts big checkmarks in those boxes. Crosby is a bulldozer who can generate good movement in the run game, but he lacks the body control for desired consistency at tackle or guard. He has NFL starting talent but he may have a limited ceiling.”

Zierlein projected him as a second- or third-round pick.

He’s from Henderson, Nev., the same hometown as Lions safety Miles Killebrew but they went to different high schools.

“Tremendous amount of respect for him and what he’s done, especially going to high school a 10-minute drive from him,” Crosby said. “When he got drafted, him coming from a small school like SUU (Southern Utah), honestly it was awesome for me to see just because he’s a public school kid from this area.”

Inside offensive lineman Frank Ragnow was the Lions’ first-round pick. Other draft picks so far: Running back Kerryon Johnson in second round, S Tracy Walker in third round and DE Da’Shawn Hand in fourth round.

 

 

 

 

Lions trade for pick, draft DE Da’Shawn Hand in fourth round

The Lions traded the New England Patriots their 2019 third-round pick for a fourth-round pick in Saturday’s final round of the NFL draft.

They used it to address the defensive line needs by selecting Alabama defensive end Da’Shawn Hand with the 114th overall pick.

He’s got two connections with the Lions. He played with defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson at Alabama and Bo Davis, the Lions’ new defensive line coach, was Hand’s line coach at Alabama in his first two seasons.

“He helped develop me to the player that I am. I’m just excited to be reunited with those guys,” Hand said on a conference call on Saturday.

He sounds excited about heading to Detroit. “You know, with Coach Bo (Davis) there, I know they’ve got a kind of similar scheme like Alabama did. It’s just a whole bunch of dogs, so I’m just ready to be a part of that unit,” Hand said.

Hand said getting the phone call was like the best feeling in the world.

“You just work for so long to get to a goal. I mean, it was a childhood dream. And now it’s a dream come true. Now, I’m just ready to work hard and fulfill what I’ve got to do,” Hand said.

NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein’s prospect overview on Hand: “In 2014, he was considered the top-rated recruit in the nation but failed to find the production and accolades that were expected of him. While he possesses NFL size and ability, he hasn’t always played with the fire or urgency we have come to expect from Alabama defenders. Hand is a versatile defender who could be targeted as a base end who reduces inside on passing downs. He’ll likely be drafted on Day 2 based on the traits, but he’s hardly a lock to match the production to the talent as a pro.’

Hand, who is 6-4 and 297 pounds, started nine of 11 games that he played in 2017 recording 27 tackles, 3.5 for loss with three sacks.

He was arrested for driving under the influence in July 2017, though he was actually found sleeping behind the wheel of the car while it was parked.

(Photo courtesy of Alabama)

Per NFL.com: “At Alabama, Hand played in nine games as a true freshman, making seven stops including two sacks. Hand played in every game as a reserve in Alabama’s deep defensive line rotation in their 2015 national championship season (16 stops, 6.5 for loss, three sacks), making an impact in the title game with two tackles for loss against Clemson. That depth kept him from starting again in 2016, but he was a regular contributor (21 tackles, 3.5 for loss, two sacks) using his length, strength, and athleticism to factor in plays where he didn’t collect a stat.”

The two-time first-team USA Today All-American was also a state high school wrestling champion.

Going into today’s final rounds, the Lions had only two picks — fifth round and seventh round. Quinn had traded the fourth round pick to the Patriots on Friday to move up to take running back Kerryon Johnson.

Saturday’s move was the third draft pick that GM Bob Quinn has made with the Patriots, his former team. He said on Friday night that’s it’s easier and more efficient to make trades with people he knows.

Inside offensive lineman Frank Ragnow was the Lions’ first-round pick. Other draft picks so far: Running back Kerryon Johnson in second round, S Tracy Walker in third round and tackle Tyrell Crosby in the fifth round.