Lions CB Dre Bly says it’s time to reward fans’ faithfulness

Veteran cornerback Dre Bly, 33, is returning for his second tour with the Lions. A two-time Pro Bowl player whose best days clearly are behind him, Bly could play a pivotal role on the rebuilding Lions, who open training camp Friday. Bly — an instinctive veteran who should man the nickel role and come up with more than his share of big plays — recently talked with Sporting News’ Ryan Fagan about his return to Detroit, the Lions’ new vibe and franchise QB Matthew Stafford.

Entering his 12th year in the league, Dre Bly played for four seasons in Detroit (2003-06).
Entering his 12th year in the league, Dre Bly played for four seasons in Detroit (2003-06).

Q: So you’re back with the Lions. You spent four years there in the mid-decade. How different are things now?
A: That’s where I played my best ball. I was active in the community. If you know anything about me, you know I’m not a quitter, and when I was there I had hope, I had faith that we would turn it around. We’d have games or spurts where I thought we were on our way, and it didn’t work out that way. Then I was traded off, and they had different coaches come in and stuff like that. But from what I’ve heard, it’s a new attitude, it’s a new change.

I’ve been blessed, I’ve accomplished all my dreams, playing in Pro Bowls, won a Super Bowl, so I’ve done everything I needed to do. But I’m telling you, this is the way to go out, to have the chance to be back in Detroit. Coach (Jim) Schwartz has come in and changed the attitude. I’ve heard great things about Stafford, an up-and-coming strong guy. I really feel, based on what I’ve heard, this team is going in the right direction and I want to be a part of it.

Q: Detroit is one of the few teams never to reach a Super Bowl. That goal must seem so far, far away for fans. Give us some reasons for hope.
A: For one, it is a football town. It’s way more of a football town than anyplace I’ve been. I think it’s more of a football town than Denver is. With Michigan and Michigan State, all the diehard people in Michigan, it’s a football town. They’re just dying for a winner. That has to excite you being a member of the team. As many years as they’ve struggled, they still sell out the games. When I was there the first time, we struggled and sold out every home game just about. Fans were there — tailgating and supporting the guys. Then after two or three quarters when, you know, we weren’t playing to their standards, you’d see the signs come out and hear the boos. But for the most part, they came out every Sunday and supported us.

That’s why I feel this team can turn it around, will turn it around, and it’s just a matter of time. And hopefully it’s this year. It’s like they’re due. There are places where you’ve got to try to find people, you’ve got to lower the prices to try to find people to buy tickets. In Detroit, because it’s a football town, they don’t have a lot of problems like that. I really feel like it’s due time, and it’s definitely going to be soon.

Q: What are your first impressions of QB Matt Stafford?
A: I saw how he performed last year, watched the clippings. Most quarterbacks are mentally tough, but physically? You’ve got some that can take poundings like that, but when you’ve got a separated shoulder or whatever he had and he didn’t pull himself out of the game? Me, I played with a Grade 2 A.C. sprain and I didn’t take myself out of the game, but as a cornerback I can avoid contact. As a quarterback, he can’t avoid contact. As a D.B., I’m covering and I can tackle with the other shoulder, so it’s a little different for me. But as a quarterback? That shows something, his heart.

You have to have heart, and that’s the first thing he showed. And then you watch some of the clippings, see his arm strength and the small window he needs, he has all the tools. But the hardest thing to find is heart. If you’ve got that from the jump, all the other stuff will come.

Q: Tell me about your battles with Calvin Johnson. What unique challenges does he pose?
A: They call him Megatron. He’s just a freak. You put a quarterback around him who can get him the ball and I think he has the chance to be one of the best receivers in the game. He’s the closest thing to Randy Moss that we’ve had come up the last 10 years, as far as his physical size and speed. But I think he runs better routes than Moss.

Ryan Fagan is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at rfagan@sportingnews.com, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ryan_fagan.

Veteran cornerback Dre Bly, 33, is returning for his second tour with the Lions. A two-time Pro Bowl player whose best days clearly are behind him, Bly could play a pivotal role on the rebuilding Lions, who open training camp Friday. Bly — an instinctive veteran who should man the nickel role and come up with more than his share of big plays — recently talked with Sporting News’ Ryan Fagan about his return to Detroit, the Lions’ new vibe and franchise QB Matthew Stafford.

Entering his 12th year in the league, Dre Bly played for four seasons in Detroit (2003-06).
Entering his 12th year in the league, Dre Bly played for four seasons in Detroit (2003-06).

Q: So you’re back with the Lions. You spent four years there in the mid-decade. How different are things now?
A: That’s where I played my best ball. I was active in the community. If you know anything about me, you know I’m not a quitter, and when I was there I had hope, I had faith that we would turn it around. We’d have games or spurts where I thought we were on our way, and it didn’t work out that way. Then I was traded off, and they had different coaches come in and stuff like that. But from what I’ve heard, it’s a new attitude, it’s a new change.

I’ve been blessed, I’ve accomplished all my dreams, playing in Pro Bowls, won a Super Bowl, so I’ve done everything I needed to do. But I’m telling you, this is the way to go out, to have the chance to be back in Detroit. Coach (Jim) Schwartz has come in and changed the attitude. I’ve heard great things about Stafford, an up-and-coming strong guy. I really feel, based on what I’ve heard, this team is going in the right direction and I want to be a part of it.

Q: Detroit is one of the few teams never to reach a Super Bowl. That goal must seem so far, far away for fans. Give us some reasons for hope.
A: For one, it is a football town. It’s way more of a football town than anyplace I’ve been. I think it’s more of a football town than Denver is. With Michigan and Michigan State, all the diehard people in Michigan, it’s a football town. They’re just dying for a winner. That has to excite you being a member of the team. As many years as they’ve struggled, they still sell out the games. When I was there the first time, we struggled and sold out every home game just about. Fans were there — tailgating and supporting the guys. Then after two or three quarters when, you know, we weren’t playing to their standards, you’d see the signs come out and hear the boos. But for the most part, they came out every Sunday and supported us.

That’s why I feel this team can turn it around, will turn it around, and it’s just a matter of time. And hopefully it’s this year. It’s like they’re due. There are places where you’ve got to try to find people, you’ve got to lower the prices to try to find people to buy tickets. In Detroit, because it’s a football town, they don’t have a lot of problems like that. I really feel like it’s due time, and it’s definitely going to be soon.

Q: What are your first impressions of QB Matt Stafford?
A: I saw how he performed last year, watched the clippings. Most quarterbacks are mentally tough, but physically? You’ve got some that can take poundings like that, but when you’ve got a separated shoulder or whatever he had and he didn’t pull himself out of the game? Me, I played with a Grade 2 A.C. sprain and I didn’t take myself out of the game, but as a cornerback I can avoid contact. As a quarterback, he can’t avoid contact. As a D.B., I’m covering and I can tackle with the other shoulder, so it’s a little different for me. But as a quarterback? That shows something, his heart.

You have to have heart, and that’s the first thing he showed. And then you watch some of the clippings, see his arm strength and the small window he needs, he has all the tools. But the hardest thing to find is heart. If you’ve got that from the jump, all the other stuff will come.

Q: Tell me about your battles with Calvin Johnson. What unique challenges does he pose?
A: They call him Megatron. He’s just a freak. You put a quarterback around him who can get him the ball and I think he has the chance to be one of the best receivers in the game. He’s the closest thing to Randy Moss that we’ve had come up the last 10 years, as far as his physical size and speed. But I think he runs better routes than Moss.

Ryan Fagan is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at rfagan@sportingnews.com, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ryan_fagan.

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