ALLEN PARK - When he's on his game there are few players more impressive on the football field than Lions' defensive tackle Dan "Big Daddy" Wilkinson. The former Ohio State standout possesses a rare combination of brute strength, agility and suprisingly sneaky speed.
Wilkinson's ability to draw a double-team from opposing offenses allows Pro Bowl teammate Shaun Rogers to wreak havoc, caving in blocking schemes and getting after quarterbacks.
When Rogers gets double teamed, Wilkinson does the same and occasionally shows enough speed to chase down a back waiting for a pass or a slow-footed quarterback scrambling out of the pocket.
But the Lions need to draw a line in the sand with "Big Daddy" if they intend to support coach Rod Marinelli and if they want to avoid another messy "Joey Harrington" scenario.
Detroit is very fortunate that the Dolphins caved and gave them a conditional 5th round pick for Harrington because they could have ended up with nothing.
If Miami had waited until June 14, a month from now, they could have had Harrington for zero, but instead felt the difference in learning the playbook and having the signal caller in camp now was worth the sacrifice of the pick.
There are several NFL teams who would love to have Wilkinson, who played at times at a pro bowl level last year, on their roster. The 13-year veteran has hinted at retirement, but the real reason he hasn't shown up at the Lions organized team activity is because at his age, he doesn't want to get dragged through a military-style training camp.
So why isn't Detroit shopping Wilkinson now for future considerations?
For whatever reasons, Lions president Matt Millen believes he can convince
Wilkinson to come back and play one more season for Detroit. But if Wilkinson
sits out all of the organized team activity and part - if not all - of training
camp, then suddenly shows up, how is that going to play with the players who
have busted their tails all summer and fall? Really, that kind of approach risks
undermining Marinelli's credibility in the locker room.
The best thing Detroit could do is call Wilkinson's agent and have him shop for a deal for his client with the proviso that he find at least TWO teams he's willing to play for, negotiate the best deal you can and wave bye-bye. Detroit has an up-and-comer in former USC standout Shaun Cody, signed veteran Tyoka Jackson as insurance and also have Cory Redding who can play inside.
Has Detroit learned anything from the Joey Harrington debacle? We shall see.