It is hard to find many bright spots in a season where one’s team is 2-9. But if true football watchers have had their eyes on No. 59 (Julian Peterson), they would see a man that is giving all he has each game.
The Lions loss its ninth game in the 70th Annual Thanksgiving Day game to Green Bay, but after the contest Peterson, a 10-year veteran, remained upbeat and wishful.
“I’ve been fortunate to have played in this league a long time,” he said, “and I’ve experienced the highs and lows. One year in San Francisco we finished 2-14 and another year 12-4 where we made the playoffs. So, I know what it is like to struggle and also what it is like for a team to turn it around.
“For us to get better we have to continue to mature as team. I really feel we have the talent to be better than our record shows, but we have to gut out these last five games, starting this weekend against Cincinnati. The key is to stay in the mental fight and not give up as a team.”
The Lions acquired Peterson, an outside linebacker, from the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for defensive tackle Cory Redding and a 2009 fifth-round draft choice.
Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew felt he acquired both a pass-rusher and a sizeable linebacker in Peterson. In his three seasons with Seattle, Peterson accumulated 24.5 total sacks and went to three Pro Bowls; he’s been to five overall.
“I was very concerned about our ability to rush the passer consistently,” said Mayhew. “I was very concerned about the linebacker position. We wanted to get bigger at the linebacker position, so adding Julian, a player who can rush the passer and defend the run was a positive, because he’s done it at a high level every since he’s been in the league.
“People talk about Julian’s age, but he’s been in the last three Pro Bowls and he hasn’t missed a game in three years and that was important to us in terms of where he is physically.”
Peterson, 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, played his first six years in San Francisco, which drafted him in the first round (16th overall) of the 2000 NFL Draft after an All-American collegiate career at Michigan State University. He said he is a Spartan through and through and keeps up with a keen eye each year at how the team is doing.
With the free agent signing of middle linebacker Larry Foote and drafting DeAndre Levy, to augment four-year veteran Ernie Sims, the Lions linebackers’ corps appeared to have the ability to be one of the team’s strengths.
So far this year the linebackers have indeed anchored the Lions defense and have been a group that first year coach Jim Schwartz can point to as a real improvement over last season.
The question that comes to my mind is why would Seattle let an All-Pro like Peterson go?
“I did not know I was going to get traded,” Peterson noted. “I had gone to three straight Pro Bowls and I thought I was a consistent team player. I guess it is all about business. We were only 4-11 last year and I was the oldest linebacker on the team. I did not get mad or question the trade. I’m a professional and I have to stay mentally right, continue to play with passion and pride.”
Peterson said he expects the Lions to win a few more games, even though they have a tough schedule to close out the season. He feels Schwartz is a good coach and that is reflected by how the team has competed each game.
“Schwartz is a student of the game,” Peterson said, “and he has been around great coaches, bad teams and good teams. I feel he knows how to turn a ship around and get it moving in a positive direction. He has learned that he has some holes to fill and I think they will work till they make it happen.”
One hole that has been filled in 2009 is linebacker!
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