By: Will Burchfield
Anquan Boldin has a Super Bowl title to his name. Golden Tate and Tavon Wilson do, too.
All three of them think the Lions have what it takes to go the distance in 2016.
“Absolutely. I think we have the personnel, I think we have the coaching staff to be that caliber of a team,” said Tate, who captured a championship with the Seattle Seahawks in the 2013 season. “We just gotta get it to the point where everyone believes, ‘We’re going to go out here and kick whoever’s tail we’re playing. It doesn’t matter where it is, who it is, we’re going to go out there and just ball out.’
“I think once we get that feeling throughout the locker room where every guy just completely buys in – not that guys aren’t bought in – but when everyone just goes into every single game like, ‘We’re about to kick everyone’s tail because we had a great week of practice,’ I think it’s going to be great.”
Boldin won the Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens in 2012. And he helped the Arizona Cardinals reach the championship game in 2008. The 36-year-old, who trains harder than arguably any player in the NFL, thinks the Lions have a similar work ethic to the aforementioned teams.
“You see guys here doing the extra things. We’re here, we work our butts off when we’re out on the field, but I don’t think you have the amount of guys that we have coming in on off days if you’re not a championship team. Probably every single guy in this building comes in on their day off, watching film, working out, getting extra stuff done. That’s the stuff that you like to see,” Boldin said.
Wilson, who earned a Super Bowl ring with the New England Patriots in 2014, wholeheartedly agreed.
“Most definitely,” he said. “On Tuesdays, our days off, I see a lot of guys here. I see a lot of guys here early in the morning, 6:30, 7:00 in the morning, putting in the extra work, everything you need necessarily to win. We just gotta go out there and put it together as a team.”
The Lions are 3-3, having won their last two games to rebound from a 1-3 start. The nadir of the team’s season came in Week 4, when Detroit fell to the lowly Chicago Bears and dropped into last place in the NFC North.
Boldin, who said he signed in Detroit because he wanted to win, never doubted the Lions’ potential.
“My confidence was never shaken, even when we lost the three games. I know what we have, I’m here every day in practice, I know the way that we prepare. I mean, that’s football – you’re going to lose some, you’re going to win some, but at the end of the day I know what kind of team we put out on the field,” he said.
The Lions’ ability to bounce back has furthered Boldin’s belief in their ability. And he feels the best is yet to come.
“I still don’t think we’ve played a complete game yet,” he said. That’s still our goal as a team and we’ll get there.
“Sometimes it takes time for teams to gel, everybody doesn’t gel right off the bet. Every year you come in it’s a different team, there’s switches made here and there, different guys come in, different guys leave, that’s just the way it is with free agency now. So you have to come together as a team every year and hopefully we’re finally starting to do that.”
The Lions’ head coach has some Super Bowl experience of his own. Jim Caldwell was an assistant on the Indianapolis Colts team that won the Lombardi Trophy in 2006 and was the Ravens offensive coordinator during their triumph in 2012. And Caldwell led the Colts back to the Super Bowl as the team’s head coach in 2010, where Indy fell to the New Orleans Saints.
Like Boldin, Tate and Wilson, he knows what it takes. He appreciates that his players do, too.
“These guys have been around, they understand,” Caldwell said. “They understand how hard it is, how tough it is.”
“What do I like about this team?” he asked. “They work hard, they’re a group that’s trying to get better every single day.”
Tate can attest to that.
“Guys take this seriously. It’s great to see guys putting in extra work, whether it’s taking care of their bodies, going to Cryotherapy afterwards, eating healthy, not staying out all night, it’s definitely serious,” he said.
Caldwell, who said there was a time in his coaching career when he never knew his team’s schedule beyond its next game, is adamant that the Lions stay focused on the day at hand.
“We haven’t done anything. We’re still trying to survive, we’re fighting and scratching,” he said.
Still, Wilson believes Detroit has the makeup of a team destined for big things.
“I feel like we got all the pieces in place, I like the way we work, I feel like we got everything we need,” he said. “We just gotta put it all together.”