O’HARA: Quitting has never been an option for Ashlee Palmer

Posted Jul 31, 2014

Linebacker Ashlee Palmer isn’t worried about a rookie vying for his job. He’s here to play football and enjoy the competition.

Ashlee Palmer hasn’t hung his head or cursed the heavens over his bad fortune because the Lions drafted Kyle Van Noy in the second round to add a versatile play-maker to their corps of linebackers.

Van Noy is projected to play strong-side linebacker – Palmer’s position, and the one he worked his way into last year as the full-time starter and performed capably at in his fourth season with the Lions and fifth in the NFL.

Ashlee PalmerLB Ashlee Palmer (Photo: Detroit Lions)

Palmer insists he hasn’t given his situation a second thought, except to do what he’s done throughout his career – play football, and enjoy the competition.

For a lot of players, all that could be idle talk. But in Palmer’s case, his background makes it believable. He grew up in Compton, Calif., a tough area bounded by south central Los Angeles and Lynwood. Quitting on anything has never been an option his life – not then, and certainly not now.

“That’s what pushed me to want to get to where I am now, just to get out of a bad situation -- get my head out of the streets,” Palmer said after Thursday’s training camp practice. “I got into football to do something active with my life instead of being in the streets.”

Palmer wants it understood that he isn’t motivated only by where he came from.

“I don’t think it’s where you come from,” he said. “It’s within you. I don’t think anybody out here who puts on a pair of shoulder pads wants to give up – period.

“Growing up where I’m from, it’s a tough area. It pushed me to be where I am now.”

Palmer grew up in Compton but went to schools in bordering Lynwood. Lynwood High produced such notable grads as actor Kevin Coster and entertainment and rap mogul Suge Knight, who’s probably best known as former CEO of Death Row Records.

Like a lot of NFL players, Palmer has overcome obstacles. One was not being drafted in 2009 after being a starter at Mississippi.

He made the Buffalo Bills’ roster as an undrafted free agent. As a rookie he played 14 games with two starts for the Bills but was put on waivers after the season and claimed by the Lions.

Palmer has been a valuable, upbeat player for the Lions in a lot of roles -- backup role or starter at linebacker, and one the team’s best players on the hard-core special teams.
He has played all 16 games in all four seasons with the Lions. He took over a starting job last year after Justin Durant signed with Dallas as a free agent. Palmer started 10 games in the base 4-3 alignment. In the other six games, the Lions opened with two linebackers and five defensive backs.

The new coaching staff has put in a new defensive scheme that will change some of the responsibilities for the linebackers. One is that the strong-side linebacker will play up on the line of scrimmage more and also blitz more.

Linebackers coach Bill Sheridan doesn’t think the transition to a new scheme or competing against a high draft pick are difficult for Palmer.

“Honestly, I don’t think Ashlee loses a wink of sleep over that, and he shouldn’t,” Sheridan said of having competition in camp. “He’s here to compete for playing time. I don’t think he gets hung up on any of that stuff. He’s got a job to do.

“He loves to play football, and he’s instinctive. This isn’t difficult for him. If he was out on the playground playing pickup football, he’d make a ton of plays. He’s really an instinctive player, and he loves to play.”