By: Will Burchfield
A’Shawn Robinson does not enjoy speaking to the media. Tion Green does.
So the rambunctious rookie running back sat down beside the brooding second-year defensive lineman on Thursday and invited the cameras over for an interview.
“As part of the rookie process,” Green explained, “A’Shawn was named my big brother. I have to learn how to be a pro, and that was part of my 13 weeks of sitting out. He was teaching me how to do interviews.”
Robinson, the biggest player on the Lions’ roster at 322 pounds, slouched in his chair with a towel around his waist and looked on plainly as Green, some 100 pounds lighter, waited eagerly for questions and lit up the scrum with every answer. Pupil quickly became master.
Speaking about his NFL debut versus the Ravens last Sunday, Green explained he didn’t know he was playing until he found his jersey hanging in his locker at the end of warmups.
“I actually went to the equipment staff and asked, ‘Did y’all forget to take my jersey?’ They go, ‘Nah, you’re playing.’
“‘For real?'” Green asked.
The undrafted 23-year-old went out and picked up 33 yards on his first carry, scored a touchdown in the third quarter and finished as the Lions’ leading rusher. Robinson had told him before the game to run hard — “to run somebody over,” in fact — and Green mostly followed orders.
“Ahh, yeah,” he said, knowing Robinson was passing judgement.
Said Robinson, in a voice that seemed to be contained in an empty oil drum, “It didn’t happen as much as it needed to.”
“See!” said Green, with a big smile. “That’s what he was just actually telling me. He goes, ’51 yards, one touchdown, that’s it? That’s what we’ve been waiting on?’ “I’m like, ‘Man, alright.'”
Green himself was disappointed he didn’t do more. The Lions lost, and he felt like he left some yards behind.
“I’m not really one to be like, ‘Oh, I did really great.’ I mean, we didn’t win,” Green said.
So, personal success only matters in a victory?
Green and Robinson responded at the same time: “Yeah.” Then Robinson nodded his approval of Green’s answer.
“Is that a checkmark there?” Green asked. “I got that one right.”
There’s genuine affection between the two, even if it includes a good deal of rookie hazing. Green has to carry Robinson’s helmet in from practice, fetch his towel in the locker room and supply his preferred hot sauce on a strict schedule.
“Whenever he eats salmon,” said Green, as Robinson broke into a rare grin. “He eats salmon almost every Tuesday for lunch, and I have to have his hot sauce. It’s Cholua.”
Green’s a year older than Robinson, but in many ways their brotherly roles are reversed. Green is the playful thorn in Robinson’s side. Robinson is the voice of experience. Prior to Green’s debut on Sunday, Robinson was among those who helped settle the rookie’s nerves.
“Guys like A’Shawn, guys on offense telling me, ‘Take a deep breath, relax, you’ve been doing it your whole life,’ that did a lot for me,” Green said. “Kind of got my heart rate down a little bit.”
He said a joke from Robinson helped, too. Actually, he’s not so sure it was a joke.
“Were you joking when you grabbed my neck and told me to run somebody over,” Green asked.
“No,” Robinson replied, as if anyone would ever joke about that.
“See!” Green said again. “He was serious with it. That kind of calmed me down.”
The two could have a TV show, if only because they’re hilarious in their differences. They even have clashing styles of play. Green bounds around the field and barrels into people in delight. Robinson glowers behind his face mask, his beard protruding through his chin strap, and stalks the football in anger.
“I’m definitely the sweet one,” said Green. “He’s the mean one.”
The other day in practice, Green accidentally got in Robinson’s way. He grazed him, barely. In response, Robinson pushed Green halfway across the field, as if to teach his annoying younger brother a lesson.
“He goes, ‘Stay out of my way, little dude,'” said Green, mimicking Robinson’s deep voice. “He’s funny, though.”
In college, when Green was a bit heavier, he often got the call as Cincinnati’s goal-line back. It’s a role he can fill for the Lions too. They’ve struggled in short-yardage situations throughout the season, particularly in the red zone, and Green’s the rumbling kind of back that can push a pile.
Or maybe they need to go bigger.
“I think A’Shawn would be a perfect goal-line back, like who was that guy, The Freezer, a long time ago?” asked Green.
You mean, The Refrigerator — 300-pound defensive lineman William Perry?
“The Refrigerator, yeah! That would be A’Shawn, but you’d be the freezer!” Green laughed.
Said Robinson, “I get to hit somebody in they face I’m cool with it.”
He added, “I’m just trying to hit somebody in the face in general, take somebody’s face off.”
Green looked over at him, as if everything suddenly made sense, and asked, “Is that why you’re trying to take my face off every day in practice?
“Makes you better,” Robinson said flatly.
When the Lions take the field on Sunday in Tampa Bay, desperate for a win, they’ll need some of Robinson’s fury. Green’s expecting a lot.
“Two sacks, five tackles for loss, an interception to the crib, and a touchdown celebration dance,” he said.
They also might need some of Green’s energy. Robinson’s expecting even more.
“My standard’s held to the highest,” he said.
“I need about 150 (yards),” said Green.
“No,” said Robinson. “300.”
“In one game?” Green asked, incredulous. “Like Barry?”
“I’m hard to please,” said Robinson, and then with his towel around his waist — and a hint of a smile — he made his way to the shower.