|Lions C Dominic Raiola has teammate Ndamukong Suh's back in the face of criticism. (US Presswire)|
The Detroit Lions may be 4-9, but their veteran leaders are determined to keep the locker room focused on winning as the team heads into a crucial offseason for the future of the franchise.
And when DT Ndamukong Suh was the subject of recent anonymous criticism that allegedly came from a teammate, Lions' players and coaches made it clear that they believe the comments aren't true. Center Dominic Raiola, who has also been targeted by anonymous critics this season, has gone as far as calling writers who publish anonymous criticism irresponsible journalists.
“It's not cool,” Raiola said. “The anonymous stuff's really gotten out of hand.”
The comments in question happened following Detroit's last-minute loss to the Colts in Week 13. After the game, an unnamed Lions' player told Yahoo! Sports that he questioned whether or not some of his teammates knew how to win in the NFL.
"We're loaded," the player told the website. "But we have a couple of guys who don't understand what it takes to win. Just making a couple of plays and thinking that makes you great … sometimes you want to just shake some of these guys and say, 'Don't you get it?'”
When asked for specific names of the players he was talking about, the unnamed Lion placed Suh at the top of his list.
In past years, the Lions' losing pedigree would have allowed such a quote to fracture, and eventually destroy the locker room. This season, however, the fact that Suh's critic -- teammate or not -- didn't put his name behind his attack seems to have galvanized the rest of the team around Suh.
First, Lions' defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said the criticism wouldn't affect the Lions' play for the rest of the year.
“Boy, ‘anonymous' gets around, doesn't he?” Cunningham said after the quotes were eventually published. “All I care about is Ndamukong, and our football team, and everything's good. The thing about it is, this time of year, all kind of things are said and done. We're trying to win a game. I know where his head is, and mine, and defensive players, we've got a job to do, and that's what we're going to do.”
Raiola pointed out that despite the Lions' 27-20 Week 14 loss to Green Bay, the team's fast start against the Packers proved that the anonymous criticism had no impact on locker room chemistry.
While he didn't directly offer his opinions on the unnamed Lions' player's decision to air dirty laundry through the press, Raiola said the Lions' “have Suh's back,” calling him an ideal teammate.
"I think [Suh's] a dominating player,'' Raiola said Thursday. “He works out, he does what he's supposed to do, he works hard, he practices every day, he plays as much as he can play. He does his job and he's very disruptive. How he approaches the game, that's somebody I want on my team. That's an NFL football player.''
For his part, Suh remained calm about the comments of his unnamed teammate, saying that he couldn't speak to an article or anonymous source because that person and article couldn't directly respond to his thoughts. Upon reflection, however, he admitted that he just couldn't believe that the player's comments were accurate.
“Honestly, in my heart of hearts, I really don't think [the accusations] are true,” he said Wednesday. “It's unfortunate that things are written like that.”
Since he doubts the veracity of the claims in the Yahoo! article, Suh says he has no desire to know who the anonymous teammate was. He made it clear, however, that he prefers anyone who would criticize his play -- teammate or otherwise -- to have the courage to speak with him face-to-face rather than hiding anonymously in the press.
“You know where my locker is if you've got something to say to me,” he said.
Calvin Johnson on Cardinals' CB Patrick Peterson: One day after Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson made headlines by saying he'd gain notoriety if he shut down Lions' WR Calvin Johnson, the All-Pro receiver said he wasn't worried about facing specific cornerbacks Sunday. Johnson said his sole focus was on making sure he executed Detroit's game plan.
“To me, I've got a job to do,” he said. “It's not ‘facing [Peterson], it's how well I can do my job for 60 minutes. That's my opposition right there.”
Peterson also called the matchup with Johnson “probably the best matchup as far as a receiver versus a DB in the NFL this year,” and said he considered himself to be the same caliber athlete as Johnson.
In response, Johnson said he doesn't get affected by the comments of the cornerbacks he faces, and wouldn't affirm Peterson's claim that he was the NFL's best cornerback.
“He's a talented player,” Johnson admitted, “I'm not in the business of judging if he's [the NFL's best corner] or if he's not.”
As to Peterson's desire to swap jerseys with the star receiver after the game, Johnson said he has switched jerseys with players before, but that he is using most of his game jerseys this season to benefit his charitable foundation.
Follow Lions reporter John Kreger on Twitter at @CBSLions and @JohnKreger