FanPost

R-Dub, stepping up as Lions leader

Cool story below on Roy Williams stepping up as a leader in the Lions' locker room.  As a longtime, long suffering Detroit fan, it's nice to see something going well.

INSIDE LIONS LOCKER ROOM: Dominoes, make-believe hoops create new aura

October 15, 2007

BY CARLOS MONARREZ

FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER

Boxing-style championship belts hang in lockers. Bocce balls sit in a case on the floor. Six men huddle around two chessboards, and on the other end of the room a game of dominoes begins in earnest. Mike Furrey is bursting with news of a soccer-ball juggling record.

On any given weekday, this is the scene inside the Lions' locker room at the team's training facility in Allen Park. Games abound and they range from classic board games to whimsical baseball contests like the ones kids play indoors on a rainy day. Stephen Peterman's head is in foul territory and Shaun Rogers' locker is in the power alley. Dan Orlovsky is at the plate waiting for Roy Williams' pitch.

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And just about everyone in the Lions' locker room seems to be swinging at what the charismatic receiver has to offer.

It all started in training camp. Williams wanted something that would pull the team together and pass the time during the long days. Offensive lineman George Foster told Williams that during his time in Denver the Broncos used championship belts for locker-room sporting titles. The Lions now have five belts, thanks to Williams.

"I thought it was a pretty good idea. It first started out as a tonk belt and a spades belt," Williams said of the two card games. "Then we took it to the domino and the 'Madden' and everything that we could come up with. Paper-rock-scissors was a big thing in camp, so we did that."

How in world do you win a championship belt in rock-paper-scissors?

"You've got to watch film. Some guys are Marinelli guys, rock guys, 'pound the rock,' " Williams said of the mantra used by coach Rod Marinelli. "I'm a Marinelli guy myself; I'm a rock guy. So I have to know that my opponent knows that, so I like to switch it up. But you just have to watch guys and see what their tendencies are."

Williams' tendencies are apparent. Besides taking on more of a team leadership role, he has, in his own subtle way, helped change the dynamic of the locker room, that primal place in the athletic world where hulking men gather each day to coalesce.

Of course, it doesn't always happen smoothly. Last year, the Lions' locker room was a different place filled with different games. Players slapped down cards and dominoes as hardcore rap shook the ground. The defensive line boycotted the media for much of the season and the eardrum-busting decibels from a nearby stereo quashed reporters' attempts to record interviews.

This season, players speak freely when they aren't silently consumed with their next move on a chessboard or backgammon board. On Tuesday, as players prepared for a photo and the coming bye week, Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al" could be heard only faintly in the background.

"He's really stepped up as far as trying to be a leader on this team," Orlovsky said of Williams. "He's made a conscious effort to put himself out there and try to really create some camaraderie. Roy enjoys that. He's a people person. He enjoys having fun."

Orlovsky is one of Williams' favorite foils and perhaps one of his most fervent disciples. Like Williams, Orlovsky loves competition.

"We play baseball, we play a Detroit Lion version of Hacky Sack, where we use a soccer ball," Orlovsky said of the team in general. "We play some bocce ball, we play some make-believe basketball."

Make-believe basketball?

"We'll have someone hold the chair on top of their head and that's the hoop," Orlovsky said before noting there's a rule against dunking.

"We have some fun. We like to compete. We like each other, you know?" Orlovsky said. "We get along as a group, and we really like to enjoy ourselves and challenge ourselves. We're athletes. We're always trying to be competitive at something."

Of course, the players also have a fantasy football team. You get 11 guesses to figure out who the commissioner is.

But even while overseeing the league, Williams couldn't manage to draft himself. Orlovsky snagged the fantasy version of Williams in the fourth round. After some pleading by Williams, Orlovsky agreed to a deal. He sent Williams and Reggie Bush to the real Williams for Willis McGahee and Calvin Johnson.

It's all part of the process, as Williams sees it, of building a united and ultimately successful team.

"I think so and I hope so," he said. "Everybody's making a big deal that we lost this last game. We're 3-2, still good in the NFC. I think it just runs hand-in-hand. I think everybody wants to win those belts, for those who participate. And we all want to win a game out there on Sunday."

Contact CARLOS MONARREZ at 313-222-6697 or cmonarrez@freepress.com.

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