Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham sat his players down recently and delivered a message: Violence is allowed. Injuries are not.
“We’ve really explained the facts of life to them,” Cunningham said, via DetroitLions.com. “I told them about a philosophy that we play violent defense, aggressive, between-the-lines, honest, fair and we’re going to cover. But the most important thing is that we’re available and accountable through the season. We can’t have injuries.”
Of course, injuries are a fact of life for every NFL team, and the more violently you play the game, the more likely you are to get injured. And given the NFL’s increasing emphasis on player safety, there are surely some in the league office and some within the players’ union who won’t appreciate the idea that a coach is suggesting that a player needs to suck it up and keep going if he’s hurt.
Cunningham’s larger point, however, is that the Lions’ defense played well last year when healthy, and that when injuries started to affect them late in the year, that’s when opposing quarterbacks started to carve up the Lions’ secondary.
“They have the skills to [cover] but what they need to do is stay on the field,” Cunningham said. “We made a big push for that.”