The league decided that the block wasn't flagrant, but Gerak got a phone call from Gene Washington, director of football development for the NFL, who warned him that another flagrant block could result in a suspension. In his own defense Gerak says, "I've been a running back all my life, and running backs learn to block low. It's instinctive, not malicious."
There's a twist to the story. Gerak sat out Sunday's game against the Bears, and he may miss this week's game against Miami. He injured a knee in Week 2 against the Lions when teammate Christy accidentally fell into Gerak's legs while Gerak was blocking a defender. In effect, the chop blocker was chop-blocked.
A Quiet Lion
Part of the challenge facing any coach coming to a new team is figuring out how to get the respect of his players. That has been a particularly daunting task for Steve Kazor, the Lions' new special teams coach. He has to prove he can fill the shoes of legendary special teams guru Frank Gansz, who left Detroit in the off-season to become the assistant head coach of the Falcons' offense. It didn't help Kazor that his punt-coverage team broke down in the second preseason game and gave up a 75-yard touchdown to Cleveland rookie Derrick Alexander in a 16-7 Lion defeat.
"There was a lot of concern," admits Detroit's Pro Bowl returner Mel Gray. "We looked really bad, and we'd had a reputation for having great special teams. I'd never seen a breakdown like the one against Cleveland. We were just going through the motions—every one of us."
Gansz, 55, is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a former military pilot who strides up and down the practice field like a drill sergeant, barking out instructions and encouragement. Kazor, 46, is a wallflower by comparison. Quiet and laid-back, he views himself as a teacher. The Lion special-teamers were continually comparing the two men. "We kept questioning the two different styles." Gray says. "Frank motivated with sayings. He told war stories. Steve is a teacher. We had to feel him out."
The poor play against the Browns seemed to wake up Kazor's players, who have become more aggressive in recent weeks. They went into Monday night's game against Dallas fresh from a strong performance against Minnesota, having forced a fumble on the opening kickoff and blocked a field goal attempt. Still, the jury is out on whether Kazor can successfully replace the charismatic Gansz.