Bill Tobin: "Alonzo's one heck of a disruptive force inside. He's just what we need for our rotation, and Bill [Young] likes him."
Millen: "Bill coached him 10 years ago."
Tobin: "If we give him one year near the minimum, plus incentives, we could get him."
Millen: "He scares me. I don't want all altar boys on this team, but I remember one thing Ron Wolf told me: 'Don't pay for bad character.' You've mentioned him before, and I've checked with people in Dallas, and I think he might need some babysitting."
Mornhinweg: "Can we bring him in? Look him in the eye?"
Millen: "Let me think about him, all right?"
Tobin smiles wryly. For years he made these calls in Chicago and then with the Indianapolis Colts. Not in Detroit. His was the smile of a beaten man. "I guess I get it," says Tobin. "That's the fourth time you've said no on the guy."
True to his word, however, Millen thought further about Spellman. Millen watched more tape of the player and liked what he saw. He asked assistant coach Charles Haley, a former Pro Bowl defensive end, if he'd help babysit Spellman. Haley said he would. Millen consulted confidant and former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler, who'd recruited Millen as a Pennsylvania all-state linebacker. ( Millen signed with Penn State.) Schembechler said he liked the energy Spellman would bring the Lions.
Ten days later Spellman walked into the Silverdome for an interview and a workout, and the Lions are strongly considering signing him for near the minimum. In the end Millen decided the risk was minimal—because NFL contracts aren't guaranteed, the Lions would have a free look at Spellman until Sept. 9, the first day of the regular season.
"What I appreciate about Matt," says Stai, who has been with the Jaguars, the Steelers and the Kansas City Chiefs, "is he talks to you [as if it's] player to player. He's going to tell you exactly what he thinks. I'm sure he's like that with the guys in the front office. This is unlike anywhere I've been. It's a fresh start for everyone. But you need a fresh start when you've won one playoff game in 43 years."