Spielman to return to Lions as analyst

DETROIT — It has been awhile since Chris Spielman was around the Detroit Lions. There was no stronger evidence of the former All-Pro linebacker’s time away from the team than the quick meal he had today before he spoke with reporters about joining Fox Sports Detroit as an analyst for exhibition games.

“I just had lunch in the cafeteria and I thought this has come a long way from when Wayne (Fontes) ordered Popeye’s for us,” he said. “So I had fish and salad bar and fresh-squeezed orange juice.”

Spielman, a fan favorite who went to four Pro Bowls and was a three-time All-Pro while playing with the Lions in 1988-95, will be the analyst working alongside play-by-play commentator Matt Shepard, when the Lions kick off the first of four exhibition games Aug. 12 at Pittsburgh. Jennifer Hammond will handle sideline duties and Spielman returns to a familiar role.

He was a TV game analyst for Lions exhibition games in 2001-04. He began his broadcasting career in 1999 as a studio analyst for Fox Sports Net’s NFL coverage and he joined Fox Sports as a game analyst for NFL and college football after 14 years as a college football analyst for ESPN.

It has been more than a decade since Spielman broadcast Lions games, but he said he’s eager to return.

“I did it before and it wasn’t my decision to leave,” he said. “But I did it before and I enjoyed it. I was working for ESPN at the time and so it was always fun and, again, being connected with something that was a big part of your life. I’m a big team guy and for me to come back and be a part of the Lions back then and to come back again, it’s pretty unique.

“This year I’m working with Fox doing NFL for the first time in my career, and we’ll see where that takes (me) next year if Fox, assuming it gets the Big Ten, which has been reported, I don’t know if it’s been verified yet. We’ll see where that leads. I don’t know. I found out in this business as an analyst, just like coaching if you can restart the clock, you restart it. So I got a chance to restart it this year.”

A little more proof of Spielman’s hiatus from the Lions was his lack of familiarity with the team’s woes over the past quarter century. During Spielman’s tenure, the Barry Sanders-led Lions were regular playoff contenders. But Spielman was not aware the team’s last playoff victory came in 1991. He couldn’t decide how hard it was to believe the Lions could have had that kind of run of awful football.

“I think this team obviously coming in this year, I think they’ve been close and I do think you have a quarterback (Matthew Stafford) that can take you over that hump because I really think he’s a top-10 guy in the league,” he said.

“But one thing never changes about football, no matter what level, is you have to have some consistency running the ball. I think that’s an area that will probably be addressed, I assume, this coming season.”

Spielman, a two-time All-America at Ohio State, praised other players, especially left tackle and fellow Buckeye Taylor Decker. But don’t worry, Michigan fans, he also bestowed plenty of love on former Wolverines center Graham Glasgow.

The offensive linemen certainly will be tied to one topic you can probably expect to hear Spielman emphasize in exhibition games. As a linebacker, one of his key duties was thwarting the opposing offense’s ground game and with the Lions finishing last season 32nd in rushing, there’s an obvious need for an upgrade.

“You’ve got to run the ball” he said. “You have to be able to establish something on the ground. Then it’s difficult (for the defense). I don’t want to be cliché but in this case, clichés are true. … If you’re one dimensional and you’ve got a defense that you’re not forced to bring an extra guy up there to slow down the run or every defensive lineman, including the interior guys are in their pass-rush stance every single down, that puts a lot of stress on the offense.”

avatar

Posted by Tribune News Services

Leave a Reply