With the dead part of the offseason here until training camp begins next month, you get to hear from the players and get their thoughts or guarantees for next season. Usually the one to go to for that kind of information on the Lions is Roy Williams, but Jon Kitna has been taking over that role recently. Kitna, who has said the Lions will win 10 games in 2007 for quite some time now, is changing his statement. Instead of being more realistic, he's decided to make his own expectations even higher than before.
"I think, last year, man, it really sucked," Kitna said. "But the good thing about it, like coach (Rod) Marinelli said, he found out who wanted to be here, who didn't, and he's been able to put his stamp on this team."
"I don't like putting a lot of pressure on people, but Calvin Johnson, to me, will have about the same impact that Reggie Bush had in New Orleans," Kitna said. "He's everything that they said he was and more. ... I mean he's 235 (pounds), runs a 4.3 (40-yard dash), he's got tennis rackets for hands. ..."
A New Orleans-esque turnaround would be great, but we say that type of thing every year. 200_ will be the year the Lions turn things around. Eventually this team has got to breakthrough. Problem is, we don't know if it'll be in 2007, whenever Matt Millen gets the boot, or some day far down the road 10 years from now. I hope Kitna's assessment is right, but don't count on it (obviously).
Another great part of the offseason is getting to read news stories that have absolutely nothing to do with football, but are just absolutely hilarious. One of the funnier and more bizarre stories I've ever heard came from a couple of Rod Marinelli's high school buddies last week at an event to commemorate his high school stadium being named after him. The story dealt with the time Marinelli wrestled a bear, and I think the article has to speak for itself here.
There were a lot of car dealerships on Colorado in those days, and they started using gimmicks to attract people. The guys saw a sign: "Wrestle Victor the Bear." All you needed was $10, and you could take him on.
They stopped and watched the de-clawed, muzzled bear overmatch somebody in the parking-lot cage. His Russian handler was poking him with a stick and yelling in a thick accent, "Back, Victor! Back!"
"I would wrestle him if I had the $10," Marinelli said, according to Gomez.
The guys drove Marinelli home so he could change into his high school wrestling gear. He wrestled as well as played football at Rosemead. They went back to the car dealership. Schram and Gomez chipped in $5 each, and they waited for the owner of the lot to gather about 50 people to come watch.
"It was cold, the mat was all wet, and this bear was smelly, let me tell you," Schram said. "So we put the money up there, and in goes Rod. Rod did then what he does now: He went in to win."
"There was no hesitation on the guy's part," Gomez said. "He flew into that thing."
"And let me tell you," Schram said, "he had that bear on his back in about 10 seconds."
The Russian guy started poking Marinelli with the stick. It startled Marinelli. The bear recovered and pinned him. Marinelli reversed on him, and they went back and forth.
The Russian guy declared Victor the victor. Schram and Gomez said they cheated. Marinelli tried to be a good sport.
I have no idea if this story is true, but really, who cares if it isn't? Either way, Marinelli better take that competitive mindset into this season if he wants to keep the title of Lions head coach. I doubt a firing would be in order at the first sign of another horrific season as we have seen in year's past, but 3-13 isn't going to cut it again.