ALLEN PARK — What a difference a few years make! Free-agent cornerback Dre’ Bly, 33, just before training camp signed a two-year deal with the Detroit Lions, who in 2007 discarded him like a used up tube of toothpaste.
Toothpaste keeps one’s mouth fresh and clean, and, that is exactly what Bly did for the Lions’ secondary in his first stint with the team. In 2003, after he left the St. Louis Rams and signed as a free agent with the Lions, he promptly made the Pro Bowl in two of his four seasons with the team and he always gave the media straight-from- the-hip quotes.
It is safe to say Bly gave the Lions the best cornerback play in this decade, but still many are questioning how much Bly has left in his tank at his age, but the real question might be who do they have that is better? That question will be answered soon, as the Lions are engaged in training camp getting ready for the preseason.
Bly is a solid cover cornerback, who has a knack for making big plays; he snatched 19 interceptions in his first four years as a Lion.
The Lions — in a now too often demonstrated cost cutting measure — traded Bly in 2007 to Denver for running back Tatum Bell, offensive lineman George Foster and an exchange of late-round draft picks. Bly signed a five-year, $33-million deal as soon as he got to Denver, but the Broncos released him after two seasons — again proving that this entire process is about money for the owners. So I wonder how can anyone criticize LeBron James for doing what is best for him when there is overwhelming proof that owners do not care about contracts or anything else when it comes to players.
In 2009, Bly signed with San Francisco but started just six games.
Bly told me after getting sent packing by the Lions that he really liked Detroit and was integrating himself into the Detroit community and its social structure positively.
“I would not have mind making Detroit my home and last team,” he said, “but you know this is a business and you just have to be ready to deal with whatever.”
I hate to think one statement made by Bly defending coach Steve Mariucci, caused many to turn on him. He said at the time that Mariucci got fired because he had to play quarterback Joey Harrington instead of veteran Jeff Garcia.
“If we’d had production on offense, in particular the quarterback position,” Bly said at the time, “then Mooch wouldn’t have been fired.”
Now here is a guy playing cornerback at an All-Pro level, but was sitting in the middle of a dysfunctional team that was going nowhere. Beaten down by the media and others, Bly noted that he wished he had not said what he said.
“It was something I shouldn’t have said,” Bly told reporters. “That’s probably the only thing I regret because of all the news and everything that it started. People started to criticize me as a person. But I’m a good teammate. I hate to lose.”
I really like the hate to lose part of Bly’s retort. I know that many in the heat of battle, along with the negative energy that comes with losing, say things because they want to win and it hurts personally to not be in the winners circle.
So why would Bly come back to a city that sent him packing?
With the ascension of Martin Mayhew as general manager and Jim Schwartz getting the head coaching position, all hope the Lions are headed in a more positive direction, including Bly. It dose not hurt that Mayhew was a defensive back and he can appreciate the special talent it takes to play that position.
“I’ve been told by friends and others that the attitude of the team is completely different,” he said. “I felt like I was a part of the community when I was there in Detroit. I always felt like I was family. I had a great relationship with the people upstairs, the administrators, people that worked around the facility.”
Bly, selected by the Rams in the second round of the 1999 NFL draft played four years with the team and earned a Super Bowl ring in the XXXIV game, and appeared two years later in Super Bowl XXXVI.