(ALLEN PARK) - If Wali Rainer came into minicamp with a little bit of an attitude problem you almost couldn't blame him. Rainer signed with the Lions as an unrestricted free agent from the Jacksonville Jaguars after watching the exit of Detroit's starter for the last four years Chris Claiborne.
Rainer might have felt he was the heir-apparent with no other middle linebackers on Detroit's roster and after watching player after player visit but Detroit passed on them all; until he came in.
Most observers were surprised after adding Rainer that two weeks later Detroit went back and signed veteran Earl Holmes, a starter at the middle linebacker position for both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns. So then the conventional wisdom was the Rainer would play the strong side linebacker position, but then Detroit acquired Rodney "Boss" Bailey in the second round of the NFL draft and announced he would start at the strong side.
Ironically, none of that bothered Rainer. In fact he expected the Lions to sign more players and for there to be fierce competition for the three starting positions. He's adjusted well to the situation and is making a bid to unseat ...somebody... for a starting position.
"I definitely expected it. Coach [Mariucci], When I came here said he wanted a championship. He was going to do whatever it takes and just talking to him and talking to the linebackers coach (Richard Smith) and the staff, the people upstairs, it was a perfect opportunity for myself. I definitely want to be here and be a part of that."
For the last two years, Rainer played the middle in Jacksonville, but when head coach Tom Coughlin was purged along with his entire staff, Rainer decided to exit as well. He isn't picky about what position he lines up.
"Right now, like I told the coach, I just feel like I'm a 'football player'. I feel like I can play wherever they want to put me at. I just want to go out there and show what I can do. Just keep excelling, keep working hard and whatever happens happens. But I know I'm just looking forward to a successful season.
Has he noticed the presence of highly touted "Boss" Bailey?
"He definitely has the speed. He has a will to win and to learn and that's always what you want. I think he's going to be a good linebacker. I feel like I'm a rookie myself. It's a new system. I want to learn everything possible [about it]. You never stop learning. In this game, you're always learning something new. You might learn it from rookies. You never stop learning and once you take that attitude - that you're always going to push for success and push for greatness- you'll be successful even if you don't reach it."
Rainer is looking forward to being in Detroit for a long time.
After being with his third club in his six year career, he wasn't happy with the way he was treated in Cleveland. After recording over 100 tackles as the Browns starting middle linebacker, new coach Butch Davis broomed the entire line backing corps, trading Rainer without ever talking to him to move up three spots in the third round of the draft. The veteran still speaks distastefully about that experience but has filed it away and uses it for motivation.
"I think it's these college coaches that are coming in. They're getting rid of entire staffs, everybody upstairs, entire teams basically. That's the way these college coaches are coming in doing it there way. That's part of the business. You may be unsatisfied with it, but I'm glad to be part of the Detroit Lions, coach Mariucci is a great coach and has a great staff and I'm just excited about this year."
Rainer loves working with coach Richard Smith. "Oh man, I love it. That's one of the main reasons I came here. He's an intense guy. He's going to demand the best out of you. You want the best out of yourself as a player if you're any type of man. I love and respect that."
While he's a southern guy at heart, he's becoming very at easy with the Midwestern lifestyle and being a part of the city of Detroit.
"I like this area, it's similar to Cleveland. There's a lot of culture up here but my main focus right now is that I want to win. I haven't really had the taste of winning in my mouth since I've been in the NFL and that's something I really want to do."
to complete Wali Rainer Interview]
~Exclusive to LionsFans.com Total Access Pass Users!~
Yahoo Users go to: pnm://real.lionsfans.com/lionsfans/walirain.rm