Adds Cris, "Everyone is trying to figure out what's different about me this season. I've evolved. I'm finally mature enough to handle this success."
On a Mission
Although Lion running back Barry Sanders has always taken a nonchalant attitude toward individual rushing records, his offensive linemen say they're intent on helping him get 2,000 yards this season, something only two runners—O.J. Simpson and Eric Dickerson—have achieved. On Sunday, Sanders rushed for 237 yards, and through 10 games he leads the league, with 1,319 yards.
"We're on a mission," says Lion Pro Bowl left tackle Lomas Brown. "Barry downplays 2,000 yards, and we won't even address it with him. We know what our goal is. Look, we get a bigger kick than he does when he gains 100 yards. Records are meaningless to him."
Adds center Kevin Glover, "If Barry can accomplish it [2,000 yards], that's something the line can be very proud of."
Since Wayne Fontes took over as Detroit's coach at the end of the 1988 season, the Lions have been unable to develop any consistency in their offensive line, a unit devastated by the death of Eric Andolsek and the career-ending spinal cord injury to Mike Utley. This season, however, things seem to be coming together. Brown and Glover, who have been with the Lions since 1985, are both having Pro Bowl-caliber seasons. They are joined up front by second-year Lion right tackle Dave Lutz and left guard Shawn Bouwens, who has regained a starting role in his fourth season in Detroit. Right guard Doug Widell, a free-agent signee, rounds out a unit that has been outstanding.
"We finally have great chemistry," says Brown, the only Detroit lineman to have made the Pro Bowl since Sanders arrived in 1989. "Make a mistake on the defensive line, and somebody can cover for it. But if an offensive lineman makes a mistake, nothing will work. Everything starts up front with us."
Says Glover, "People in the NFL have always overlooked our line, and I think that's driving us this season too. In other years we've had people moving in and out all the time. But we've adapted well, and we'd like to finally be recognized."
Receiver of Praise
When Bear coach Dave Wannstedt overhauled his offense in the off-season, he was criticized for acquiring wideout Jeff Graham from the Steelers for a future draft pick. The Bears, after all, desperately needed a first-rate receiver, and Graham, Pittsburgh's second-round pick from Ohio State in 1991, didn't seem to fit the bill. Although he had 49 receptions two years ago, Graham never really blossomed in his three seasons in Pittsburgh, scoring only one touchdown.