Rod Marinelli says it's just another game, that all he sees on the other sideline are gray helmets.
Well, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers do wear pewter helmets. So he's got us there. But it's hard to believe next Sunday's Bucs-Lions matchup will be just another game for Marinelli -- and many others.
Marinelli was the Bucs' defensive line coach for 10 years before becoming the Lions' head coach. He got his first break in the NFL; bonded with people like Tony Dungy, Lovie Smith and Monte Kiffin; learned the Tampa Two defense he now loves so much; and coached the likes of Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice. Oh, and he won a Super Bowl.
Some of Marinelli's Tampa Bay proteges have followed him to Detroit. Joe Barry, Marinelli's son-in-law, spent six years on the Bucs' coaching staff before becoming the Lions' defensive coordinator this year. Defensive end Dewayne White, defensive tackle Langston Moore and defensive-tackle-turned-fullback Jon Bradley are among the Lions who played for Marinelli in Tampa Bay.
White credits Marinelli with not only molding him into a player in Tampa Bay, but with molding him into a man and a good father. It's why he signed with the Lions as a free agent this year.
"I want him to succeed here as much as anything," White said. "That's kind of one of the things that motivated me to come. He wanted me here. The fact that I can help them succeed with his goals ... that attracted me.
"He's everything that I would want to be. If he says something, he's going to follow through with it. You can't help but to believe what he says because it's proven. He's done it. So it's sort of like, you need to do what he says because you're not going to succeed any other way. That's what I've tried to do, and it's been working out for me."