Mady: Healthy Competition in Lions Secondary

Detroit Lions defensive backs Bill Bentley and Alphonso Smith were next to race, with Bentley taking both sprints and even jawing a bit during his second victory, looking over to Smith – mid-flight – exclaiming, "it's too easy." Lions' insider Mike Mady discusses the competitive yet sincere camaraderie amongst the defensive backs.

ALLEN PARK -- A couple weeks ago, after one of the Detroit Lions training camp practices, many of the team's defensive backs were gathered around debating the top current Hip Hop artists.

I mentioned this to linebacker Justin Durant, who shrugged off the occurrence, smiling.

"DBs love to argue," he said.

Uttered lightheartedly, that statement seems to have subconsciously resonated with me.

I've noticed that there is a sincere yet competitive camaraderie amongst the defensive backs.

After a play in practice where one gets beat, there is always a peer to help explain what caused the defect.

They are competing for the same jobs while also helping their fellow competitors improve.

"We're all in there as one," said rookie cornerback Bill Bentley. "Whether I win the spot or lose the spot, I'm here to contribute on the team in anyway. We're here for each other. We are all friends, we hang out to together.

"It ain't like we battle against each other or we hate each other. They help me on the field, I try to help them with the little bit I can, but I can't say much because I'm still a youngster and have to play my role as a rookie. Those guys reach out to us very well and I try to reach out to those guys and just try to go about on the field and bring enthusiasm and excitement to the game."

If they aren't explaining plays to one another, they are challenging each other.

Wednesday's challenge was short-distance racing.

Veteran cornerback Chris Houston seems to be the catalyst of the sprints.

"Just talking on the sidelines, Chris Houston brought it up," said Bentley. "We had me and the rookie (cornerback) Jonte (Green), we had to show them that (we might be) these young lads (but) it ain't no joke, we still can move. We have to teach those old school boys a lesson."

When practice concluded, the defensive backs moved to the indoor practice facility, with several of their teammates gathered around watching, and paired up.

Houston and Green raced first, with Green pulling off the surprising upset. Of course, Houston wasn't thrilled with the result and exacted revenge by winning the rematch.

Bentley and Alphonso Smith were next to race, with Bentley taking both sprints and even jawing a bit during his second victory, looking over to Smith – mid flight – exclaiming, "it's too easy".

The extra-circular activity after practice is nothing new for this group.

"We always stay after practice to get extra work," said Smith. "Running just happened to be our extra work today, along with other things. It was good to get a little competition going and he got bragging rights for 24 hours."

When looking at a team, that's an outstanding sign.

You want your group to be hyper-competitive – a prerequisite to succeed in the NFL – but you also want them to get along.

"I have a lot of faith in the guys that are out there and I believe we are getting tighter as a group," said defense coordinator Gunther Cunningham of the team's defensive backfield. "The chemistry is growing and it's going to be interesting when we decide on the final defense for us. How they get along, that's the most important thing (is) that they like each other. If they do, then there's no telling."

A great microcosm of the secondary's perfectly balanced fight and friendship is the relationship between Bentley and cornerback Jacob Lacey.

The two seem to be the frontrunners for the team's starting position at right cornerback. Both desperately want the spot and are investing their blood, sweat and tears in an attempt to earn it.

With lockers directly next to each other, one would think that a bitter rivalry would develop between the two but instead the opposite has happened.

"I just met Jacob in May and right now we're like best friends and we hang out every day," said Bentley. "We compete for the starting spot, we hang out a lot. We go over the playbook together. When I don't understand something, he's always there right beside me, trying to let me know what I'm doing wrong. I try to help him out even though he knows more than I do. I try to soak it in as much as I can."

The position's competition will ensure each player comes to work ready to perform every day. The camaraderie will ensure each player can lean on the other for support through the grueling grind known as the NFL season.


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