Foote Dishes On Lions

Detroit-born, Ann Arbor-educated, Lions-cursed, Steelers linebacker Larry Foote with a history lesson.

PITTSBURGH -- Larry Foote won't play this week. The Steelers' defensive signal-caller is out for the season with an injury, but there was no stopping him from showing up in the locker room Wednesday.

After all, it's Lions Week, and Foote, who grew up in Detroit, went to college at Michigan, and even played for the Lions in 2009, when the Steelers beat them 28-20, provided a history lesson in a little less than six minutes.

And Foote went way back with the Lions, all the way back to their last championship quarterback -- "Bobby Layne," Foote said. "But that curse has been lifted."

Foote knows about The Curse. It's nothing concrete, but the myth goes like this: After the Lions won their last championship back in 1957, they traded Layne to the Steelers. On his way out the door, Layne allegedly said that the Lions wouldn't win for another 50 years.

And they didn't.

They won only one of 11 playoff games and had the worst winning percentage (.307) of any team in the NFL through that time.

The 50th year was the worst, as the Lions went 0-16, but the next year they drafted quarterback Matthew Stafford, who went to Layne's --

"High school," Foote said.

See, he knows all of this. Foote even joined the Lions the first year after The Curse had lifted, and he said the fog seemed to be gone.

"We won two games after the 0 and 16 season, so it was lifted," he said.

They should've won another one, Foote said. "We shoulda beat the Steelers," he said. "They got lucky. We couldn't pick up the blitz. Will Gay kept hitting (Daunte) Culpepper."

Culpepper completed only one pass for two yards that day to Calvin Johnson, the player Steelers coach Mike Tomlin called "the best wide receiver in the game and one of the best football players, period, regardless of position, in the game of professional football." One catch for two yards?

"Deebo hurt him," Foote said of former Steelers linebacker James Harrison. "They threw an out route. Deebo ruined our season that year. We probably would've won seven or eight, but Deebo hurt Cal."

Foote said the biggest problem for the Lions throughout those cursed years was the lack of a quarterback, but he believes they have one now in Stafford.

"That's why they're relevant right now. They're good," Foote said of the 6-3 Lions. "You've gotta have a good quarterback to win."

Foote said that even in Stafford's rookie year, "you wouldn't see that ball on the ground in practice. He can put that ball wherever he needs to put it. It's going to be a challenge for us."

Foote also blamed management for the Lions' 50 years of woe. "The people who've been running the team haven't made the right decisions," he said. "Should've kept Kevin Colbert. Thank God they didn't. Should've kept Dickie LeBeau. Thank God they didn't."

Should've kept Larry Foote?

"Ah, they made the right decision on that," Foote said with a laugh.

Of course, Foote ended his one-year homecoming and returned to the Steelers in 2010. This season he's been on injured reserve since tearing a biceps muscle in the opener. His replacement, sixth-round rookie Vince Williams, was thrust into the most difficult position on defense.

"He's doing a good job. He's getting better," Foote said. "Me being a coach now, you look week in and week out for improvements, and he's doing that."

Foote believes it'll take Williams until his third season to feel completely comfortable at the buck inside linebacker position.

"Hopefully I can hold him off and I can come back next year and he would be my backup," Foote said with another laugh. "But I'm just excited for what he's doing. As a linebacker you root for young guys. You want them to play well. He's doing a good job for us."

Foote said he wasn't much of a Lions fan growing up, but did root for some of the players. "Loved Barry Sanders, Chris Spielman, Jerry Ball. They weren't winning that much though."

Layne "was way before my time," but "I hear all the stories about LeBeau," Foote said. "The poeple in the streets call him 'Dickie LeBeau.' "Dickie's one of them legends. People love Dick LeBeau in Detroit. I heard about him growing up even before I played for the Steelers."

Were there any good stories?

"Oh, juicy good," Foote said. "People come up to me, 'Hey let me tell you about Dickie LeBeau. He could play cards reading the newspaper and take everybody's money!' And the ladies, the ladies love Dick LeBeau."

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