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News » Detroit Lions Inside Slant 2009-03-06

Detroit Lions Inside Slant 2009-03-06

Detroit Lions Inside Slant 2009-03-06
From the front office, to the coaching staff, to the players, to the support staff, people in the Lions organization are trying to come to grips with what happened to defensive end Corey Smith.

"Corey meant something to everybody in this building, and we understand the realities of the situation," team president Tom Lewand said. "But we're going to keep praying as hard as we can."

Smith and three others were on a fishing trip over the weekend off the coast of Tampa when their boat capsized. One survivor was found.

The Coast Guard called off the search for Smith and two others at sundown Tuesday. But family and friends were still searching privately Wednesday.

Smith, 29, spent the past three seasons with the Lions. He became an unrestricted free agent Friday, but Lewand said the Lions were talking to him about returning as a backup defensive end and special teams ace.

The Lions aren't ready yet to talk about memorials, such as a black arm band, because they aren't ready yet to give up the slim hope that Smith can be found alive. They speak of Smith in the present and past tense, sometimes within the same sentence.

"Right now I think the focus should be on hoping and praying a miracle can happen, and we need to stay in contact with the family and hope we can bring closure to the situation for their sake," Lewand said.

For guard Stephen Peterman and cornerback Travis Fisher, situation is particularly surreal. Peterman went fishing with former Lions tight end Dan Campbell recently in southern Louisiana. Fisher was going to go fishing with family Saturday off the coast of Miami, but he didn't end up going.

"I'm sure he was doing the same things we were doing," Peterman said. "It's just unfortunate the weather got that bad and that boat tipped like that."

Smith is universally described as a quiet, tough guy who made the most of his opportunities.

"When he was in there, he made plays," Peterman said. "I know he made a lot of plays on special teams. He was a hard-working guy. He never complained. You never heard him moaning about us going 0-16 or coaching and that stuff. He was just always put his head down and worked. It's sad to see something happen to a guy like that."

One play stands out. It came against Chicago in September 2007.

The Lions knew the Bears were going to attempt an onside kick in the fourth quarter. They had to get their hands team on the field, and Smith was on the hands team. But they knew he had a severe hamstring injury and were looking for a replacement.

"Corey said, 'Coach, I can give you one more play,'" special teams coordinator Stan Kwan said. "He said, 'I might not be able to walk after that, but I can give you one more play.' So he hobbles out there."

Smith lined up along the left sideline. The ball was kicked. Smith smacked Mark Bradley and sent him flying out of bounds on his back, then knocked down Adrian Peterson, too. Casey Fitzsimmons returned the kick 41 yards for a touchdown.

Watch the replay from the end-zone view, and at the top of the screen, you can see Fitzsimmons running left to right, slapping hands with the fans in the front row at Ford Field. At the bottom of the screen, you can see Smith hobbling off on a parallel path, alone, unheralded.

Then-coach Rod Marinelli showed that play over and over to his players.

"Right then and there, his teammates knew that this guy is a team guy first," Kwan said. "That play pretty much epitomized what type of player Corey is."

The Lions aren't ready yet to talk about memorials. But one thing is certain.

"I can tell you that the only player that will wear No. 93 for the Detroit Lions this year will be Corey Smith, and that's something I think is important," Lewand said.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: March 6, 2009

Corey Hulsey Name: Corey Hulsey
Position: OG
Age: 31
Experience: 6 years
College: Clemson
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