By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Devin Taylor, the 6-foot-7, 275-pound defensive end for the Detroit Lions, strolled through the locker room Monday in a pastel green onesie with snowflakes.
Caraun Reid sported a white sweater with a reindeer – “Rudolph Got ‘Em” – and had another shirt with a picture of a cat captioned “Santa Claws.” Andre Fluellen’s blue sweater featured the abominable snowman holding up mistletoe. Larry Webster’s shirt included a headless Frosty. Xavier Proctor wore a 2XL Santa top that was “a little snug.”
The Detroit Lions defensive linemen found “Tipsy Elves” Christmas apparel waiting on their desks when they arrived in their meeting room Monday. The players donned the goofy items of clothing for a group picture and continued sporting the seasonal shirts as they headed back to the locker room.
Proctor gave Taylor the edge for best crazy Christmas ensemble.
“The onesie was unstoppable,” Proctor said. “I’m going to have to say probably Devin.”
Proctor and Reid were not sure which lineman financed the silly holiday pieces, but their best guess was veteran defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who Reid noted had a big box by his locker earlier in the day.
“It could have been him because I feel like none of the other vets had any idea this was happening,” Reid said. “I just don’t even know what happened. They were like, ‘All right, let’s come take this picture’ beforehand, and then I was just, ‘All right, I’ll do it.’ The sweater was at my desk, and then there were a couple extras, so I took it.”
As the linemen laughed about their Christmas-themed clothing, some of them playing ping-pong or the corn hole game, veteran defensive tackle Andre Fluellen reflected on how close the group has grown.
“It’s really good, obviously the best I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Fluellen said. “It’s a special thing, and it’s something that doesn’t happen often in the NFL. That’s the great thing, but that’s the bad thing about it because after the season’s over with this group is never going to be together again, so that’s the thing that’s kind of tough, but at the same time, we’re enjoying it, enjoying each other, and just working to be the best we can possibly be.
“It’s just cool because, man. I don’t know any other teams that are walking around with an ugly sweater right now,” Fluellen added with a chuckle. “Who knows, but it just shows that we can do anything together, and we’re capable. We want to do everything together, as a unit.”
Suh will be a free agent following this season, as will fellow defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who has been out with an injury. Asked why he believes the group will not stay together, Fluellen did not mention any players in particular.
“That’s just the nature of the league,” Fluellen said. “Somebody goes, a couple people go, somebody stays. That’s just how it is because it’s not college. It is a business, too. That’s just how it is.”
Fluellen said what makes the group so close-knit, what makes the dynamic between the men on the defensive line unique, begins with head coach Jim Caldwell.
“He brings a sense and a spirit of camaraderie, and then I think the team goes as the leadership goes, and he’s a leader that everybody looks up to and somebody who, if I get older and be like him, that’s a good leader, like I really would like to be like that guy,” Fluellen said, “so just to him leading us in the right direction, we all kind of follow along and just fall into place.”