By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Even retired, former left tackle Jeff Backus is an anchor for the Detroit Lions’ offensive line.
The 12-year veteran might not be playing on Sundays anymore, but by sticking around as a part-time unpaid coaching intern, Backus will continue to provide some stability for a unit in transition.
“Guys still look up to him, myself included,” center Dominic Raiola said. “You can’t overlook what he did in the league and his career that he had. He blocked the best guy on the field every week, week in and week out, so you’d be an idiot not to listen to him, what he’s trying to teach, what he’s trying to help. I’m excited about him being out here, still being around, still being in our meeting room.”
Backus, who started 191 of 192 Lions games in his career, said he will not have anything to do with which players end up starting. His focus is on the fundamentals – balance, footwork, body position and other details that might seem inconsequential but are actually crucial to offensive linemen.
Even with all the changes, Backus is confident the unit will get in sync and be ready to perform well.
“There’s going to be some competition going on during training camp, trying to figure out who’s going to fill those roles, but guys are developing and they’re doing well,” Backus said. “The thing about our group on the offensive line is you don’t have to worry about them as far as working hard and doing what they need to do to prepare. They’re professionals and they’ll get it figured out.”
Lions guard Rob Sims said that the linemen are working to develop chemistry off the field as well as on it.
“We’ve been doing a lot of stuff at Dom’s house or my house, coaches included have been coming, just so we get to know each other,” Sims said. “Even though we did know each other, get to know each other a little different, outside of work.
“But on the field, it still feels the same, even though we’re missing those guys,” Sims added, “because those guys have been around. Riley [Reiff]’s been around for a year, and Dylan [Gandy] and Corey [Hilliard] and Jason [Fox] and Rodney [Austin]. Everybody that’s playing has kind of been around each other.”
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said he is not worried about any lack of continuity on the line. His observations so far include great communication and great chemistry, he said.
“These guys are going to come in and do everything they can to be right, and I’m going to help them every step of the way I can,” Stafford said. “It’s on guys that have been here awhile to make sure that they’re in the right place, and once they do that, their natural ability takes over, their hard work that they’ve put in takes over, and they just play.”