You knew it was coming based on how eager Darius Slay appeared to be to get traded from the Detroit Lions.
On Thursday evening, the former Lions cornerback joined WJR radio host Mitch Albom and opened up about his turbulent last couple years in Detroit, specifically his rocky relationship with head coach Matt Patricia.
And while Slay’s displeasure with Patricia and the Lions was plain to see after the Quandre Diggs trade halfway through the 2019 season, Slay said things were in bad shape well before that.
“At that time, I didn’t care really,” Slay said, as transcribed by the Detroit News’ Justin Rogers. ”Shoot, I didn’t have that much for respect for Matty P, as a person. It was hard for me to play for him. That’s all that was.”
One particularl example Slay gave about his poor relationship with Patricia was when he felt disrespected by the Lions head coach regarding his offseason workout summit with the likes of Richard Sherman, Aqib Talib and others.
“He told me I had no business working out with Richard Sherman and Talib because I wasn’t elite. Those were the guys that were elite category and I was just good,” Slay said. ”That’s the whole point, I didn’t get the thought, sitting here telling me not to go work with somebody, I’m not elite,” Slay continued. ”If I ain’t elite in your eyes, at least I’m trying to go compete with guys and work with guys, pick their brains and become elite.”
Patricia’s first year in Detroit was obviously rocky. There were several reports suggesting there was unrest in the locker room because of Patricia’s strict player rules—something has since been verified by several former players.
But there were plenty that witnessed a significant change in Patricia’s second season. Now with his inaugural season as an NFL head coach under his belt, Patricia was more punctual in team meetings and had loosened up a bit in his relationship with players.
Slay acknowledged this change, but he made it sound like irreparable damage had already been done to the relationship between the two.
Darius Slay on Matt Patricia during WJR interview: "Our first year was rough. Second year was good -- second year was no problem -- but our first year, it really destroyed our whole kind of like (relationship)."— kyle meinke (@kmeinke) March 19, 2020
Ultimately, Slay saw the writing on the wall. The team had toyed with the idea of trading him since last year’s trade deadline, and after signing veteran cornerback Desmond Trufant, he went to Twitter to accelerate his exit.
He told WJR “it’d be ugly” if he had stuck around with the Lions. But he has love for the city and its fans.
“I’ve got a lot of love for Detroit, man,” Slay said. ”I’ve got a lot of fans here. I support the fans here. I go out in the community, high school games, basketball games. I’m going to miss that. I’m going to really miss the fans here and some great guys in the locker room.
”I appreciate you all. I love y’all, man,” Slay said. “You Big Play fans stay Big Play fans, because I’m going to still make big plays.”
Some will view Slay’s comments as sour grapes—a player that has a vendetta against the team that didn’t value him as much as his new team, the Philadelphia Eagles, does. But given that Slay is hardly the first person to voice his displeasure—and likely not the last—his criticisms carry some significant weight.
UPDATE: You can listen to the interview here:
Part 2 pic.twitter.com/vINesv6Pte— Mitch Albom Show (@mitchalbomshow) March 19, 2020
Part 4 pic.twitter.com/9Uvip6AfQb— Mitch Albom Show (@mitchalbomshow) March 19, 2020
UPDATE 2: Both Dave Birkett and Michael Rothstein followed up with Slay in separate interviews. The Lions cornerback told a story about a troubling team meeting that appears to be the source of many of Slay’s frustrations. Here’s a snippet from Birkett’s article:
“He told me in front of the whole team, in the team meeting room, showed clips of me in practice getting a ball caught on me or so in practice,” Slay said. “I posted a picture (of a wide receiver on social media), and he told me, stop sucking this man’s private. So I’m like, ‘Whoa.’ I’m like, ‘Hold up.’ Where I’m from, that don’t fly. Cause I wouldn’t say that to him. I wouldn’t say to him to stop you know what to Bill Belichick. I wouldn’t do that. That’s just not me as a man. That’s disrespectful to me and so from there on it was done with.”
And here’s Patricia’s statement, given both to the Detroit Free Press and ESPN:
“Over the last two seasons, Darius and I have had multiple conversations in private that I believed were constructive and satisfactory,” the statement read. “My discussions with athletes are confidential and I won’t comment on anything discussed with our players in a team meeting. I appreciate his hard work and wish he and his family all the success in Philadelphia.”