Adios Big Daddy!

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It was time for Big Daddy to go bye!

I will not deny it, writing that hurts me for three reasons: 

  1. I personally really liked and still do like Dan Wilkinson. I have a very good relationship with him. I find him funny, honest and guarded. Once he got to know you he was wonderful. I was not happy when he came to Detroit. His off-the-field issues precluded him from being a “good guy,” and I hated the fact the Lions brought him in. I still hate the off-field issues that he had years ago, but as you got to know him and his family you saw a unique story of a man that made a super stupid mistake and did everything and more to make it right. That takes integrity. When you do something dumb you should pay a price. He, however, more than tried to make it right and after he did, he still never let himself stop paying. Dan Wilkinson made a dumb decision and Dan Wilkinson paid for it. Dan Wilkinson more than paid for it. Dan Wilkinson made up for it. Dan Wilkinson, the man, truly earned the title: MAN.
  2. Dan Wilkinson treated fans, media and teammates like class. With media and teammates, he needed to make sure you were O.K. and not an idiot, but when he liked you, you were in. As a media person, I always respected with him what “off the record” meant and consequently he was always willing to talk off the record. He was always 100% truthful with me and I never had a story or detail that was not accurate. He was and is a media persons’ delight once he felt comfortable with you.
  3. Dan Wilkinson (and I can not believe I am saying this) was an elder statesman in the Detroit Lions organization. He was a great family man; it was common to see him hurry out of an away locker room to get out and be with family. I will never forget in Chicago last year where he almost begged me not to have to talk so he could be with his family outside. Yet, when I walked by them all hugging and visiting, he stopped me and introduced me to that great group of people and included me like kin. He was a teacher to the younger Lions and he was a man that had come full circle from number one draft pick and a dumb kid, to a statesman that made his teammates better players and men. One time when he met my daughter’s fourth grade class, he took too much time visiting and being kind, and then acted as if we were the bad guys when we left. He is what you want on most teams.

With all of that said, I know what you are thinking. Hondo, how can you say it was time to go? I knew several weeks ago that Dan Wilkinson wanted to come back to Detroit. He didn’t want, however, to come back to the stressful practices and running that Sarge Marinelli is inflicting on the team. It was his intention to wait until either training camp started or just after to return. Well, the Lions don’t need that right now. They need, and Sarge wants, guys in the building. He needs to change a culture and that has to include everyone. To Sarge’s credit, every person in the organization, from Hawanya at the front desk to himself, has to be part of the program and Dan’s waiting was not part of the team. Remember when Ray Brown was allowed by Mariucci to miss most of training camp, and look at Favre now in Green Bay? Well, those things don’t work now in Detroit. Sarge has too many holes to fill and not with talent, this team has talent, but with character and integrity. To do that, he’s got to have his horses in the building. Dan is not a bad guy for this release, and he is still a football player with gas in his tank. He is more than a natural in Baltimore where he would take up lots of real estate to allow ray Lewis to be the rover he so naturally is, but would also be the mentor to first round pick Ngata that he was to Shaun Rogers and Shaun Cody.

The Lions needed him here and he wasn’t ready to commit to that. He could have come back and “collected” 2.4 million, but Dan at this stage in his career doesn’t act like that. The Lions needed to say goodbye, but some lucky team will say hello. 

Dan, you are one of the good guys and you have changed some bad mistakes into being someone who truly is a role model. You gave what Detroit asked for. This divorce is necessary, but I know for a fact your teammates and the management loved you, and whatever you do it will work out. You will make it. Lots of love and props bro! I am sad I am losing someone that I loved to be around and cover, but it is what is best for the Lions and will be what is best for Dan. Great job Daddy, like I told you in Chicago on the loading dock with the baby, you da’ man!