Jim Schwartz says Detroit Lions lost leadership to injury in 2012

Posted Feb 10, 2013

Injuries to Nate Burleson, Louis Delmas, Corey Williams and Kyle Vanden Bosch left the Detroit Lions without key leaders throughout the 2012 season

While the release of Kyle Vanden Bosch saved the Lions $5 million in cap space next season, it also left a void in the locker room in terms of leadership.

The same can be said if the team ultimately decides to part ways with veteran center Dominic Raiola or veteran defensive tackle Corey Williams.

Speaking with reporters Thursday, head coach Jim Schwartz admitted he was a little concerned about where the leadership was going to come from next season.

"That is an area where we need younger players who are developing with us to take more of a leadership role," he said. "Also, there could be some opportunities where we may need to bring in some guys that have some of those qualities. We've always had good veteran leadership."

The thing about leadership, though, is that it can't just be figurehead leadership. The best leaders are the ones that have the personality for it, but are also performing on the field.

"Some guys lead by example and some guys are more vocal," Schwartz said. "But it's always been a good mix."

That was tested last season when several team leaders got hurt and couldn't practice. The team lost Louis Delmas, Nate Burleson and Corey Williams to injury at some point in the season.

Also, Vanden Bosch seemed more reserved when he was dealing with nagging injuries late in the season and when his play had declined.

"You guys know how much energy (Delmas) brings to practice and the tempo he plays with and he was sorely missed," Schwartz said. "Not just in the games that he missed (8) but also in practices.

"Same thing with Corey Williams. He was a really good leader for us, but after the first game, and even going back to training camp, he didn't practice much during training camp. His presence was missed. Same thing with Kyle Vanden Bosch."

Burleson wasn't voted a captain last season – which is hopefully rectified if he returns in 2013 – but he's one of the most vocal leaders on the team and a guy who has a big impact not just in the receiver room but in the team meeting room.

"He's been as much a captain on our team as the other guys," Schwartz said of Burleson.

The Lions have a chance to get some of those players back, but they also need younger guys to step up and assume their place in the hierarchy of the locker room.

"Part of developing as a player is not just developing on the field," Schwartz said. "But it's developing leadership and locker room and off the field and you start to feel more comfortable every year.

"We need some guys to step up that way."