- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Schmidt's job as a middle linebacker is made easier by a pair of first-rate defensive tackles, 300-pound Roger Brown and 250-pound Alex Karras. Off the field Karras looks like a bespectacled, overweight college professor, but he moves with such light-footed agility that his teammates call him Tippy-toes. Both Karras and Brown have benefited from the tutoring of 340-pound Les Bingaman, who played middle guard for the Lions some years ago.
"You have to teach them to use their hands and to use footwork when they come up," Bingaman said the other day. "Alex has great hands, mechanic's hands. Roger is tough, too, and he is learning. When these big ones come up, they are used to using pure power—which they could do in college. Here they have to learn finesse to go with the power—footwork and hands."
Unlike most teams in the NFL, the Lions socially are not divided into offensive and defensive units. They are a completely cohesive team. When they dine out together, for instance, offensive and defensive men eat together. There are no cliques. "I've tried to avoid that," Wilson says. "It doesn't help, and it can set up unhealthy rivalries. I want this club to be one club."
Under the sympathetic guidance of Wilson, several players who had not been outstanding elsewhere have blossomed with the Lions. Plum, stultified under the iron hand of Paul Brown, has become a fine quarterback under Wilson's looser rein.
"He does everything well," one of the Lion linemen said. "He helps the offensive line because he releases the ball so quickly that you don't have to hold a block forever. He calls a good game. He's got the arm, and he can run."
Both Plum and Earl Morrall, the other Lion quarterback, came to the club in trades—Plum, along with Halfback Tom Watkins from Cleveland, Morrall from the Steelers. In fact, 11 of the team's 22 starters were acquired in trades.
In almost any year but this one the Lions would have been leading the division with 10 wins and two losses. But with the Green Bay Packers winning all but one of their games Detroit can only hope for a chance to meet the Packers again in a playoff game December 23.
"We're a better team than they arc," Karras says.
"We got tired of hearing they were unbeatable," Wilson says. "No team is unbeatable. Not even us."