MIKE O'HARA

Dre Bly to Slay: Get ready to be tested even harder

Posted Jan 15, 2018

Dre Bly has a friendly warning for Darius Slay on how being named to the Pro Bowl will change his life on the field next season.

Dre Bly has a friendly warning for Darius Slay on how being named to the Pro Bowl will change his life on the field next season.

Get ready to be tested even harder.

That’s the price of success for cornerbacks who get honors and the notoriety that goes with them. And as a member of the Detroit Lions’ recently-expanded fraternity of Pro Bowl cornerbacks, Bly can pass along from personal experiences that it’s a price well worth paying.

“He’ll be a marked man,” Bly said in a telephone interview from his home in Charlotte. “They’re going to dissect him a little more. He has to be on point. They’re going to game plan him a little more.

“If they make a play on him, there’s going to be a little more excitement, a little more chatter. To repeat it (making the Pro Bowl), this offseason he’s going to have to come in even stronger, even harder.”

Slay ended two droughts for Lions cornerbacks by making the NFC team for this season’s Pro Bowl, to be played Jan. 28 in Orlando.

Bly made the Pro Bowl in the 2003 and ’04 seasons after signing with the Lions as a free agent in ’03. No other Lion cornerback had made it until Slay.

Before Slay, Hall of Famer Lem Barney was the last cornerback drafted by the Lions to make the Pro Bowl. Barney made it seven times – from his rookie season of 1967 to 1976, the 10th of his 11 pro seasons, all as a Lion.

Bly said he keeps in contact with Slay during the season, giving him encouragement and occasional tips on playing the position. He expected Slay to make the Pro Bowl because of his eight interceptions tied for the league lead.

It was long overdue for another Lion to be added to the list of Pro Bowl cornerbacks, Bly said.

“I wanted him to join the fraternity of Lem and myself,” Bly said. “With all the greats, all the good football players to come to Detroit, it just didn’t sound right (to have the drought). It’s good for Slay to be honored for his play.”

Bly was a highly regarded player when he signed with the Lions. He led the NCAA with 11 interceptions as a redshirt freshman at North Carolina in 1985 and went on to become a consensus All-American twice.

He was a ballhawk in the NFL. He had 14 interceptions in four seasons with the Rams and played in two Super Bowls. The 1999 Rams team beat the Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV. The 2001 team lost to the Patriots on a final-play field goal at the end of a drive led by Tom Brady.

In four seasons as a Lion, he had 19 interceptions, 12 forced fumbles, five recoveries and three touchdowns on returns.

Winning the Super Bowl was the highlight of his career, but playing in the Pro Bowls was special in terms of personal accomplishments.

In the 2003-season game he picked off a pass thrown by Peyton Manning late in the fourth quarter and ran it back for the go-ahead touchdown in the NFC’s 55-52 win.

True to his reputation, Bly sized up the play, gambled and won.

“I knew they were running a curl,” Bly said. “I told my safety, ‘I’m going to jump this route; make sure you have me over the top.’ I had a good read. I took a chance, jumped it and made the play.

“I still have the ball.”