When Detroit Lions offensive line Coach Hank Fraley was asked about the recent rumors that offensive tackle Tyrell Crosby was potentially on the trading block, he got a little defensive.
“Are those rumors or did we say that?” Fraley said, later indicating he was joking.
But behind the “joke,” Fraley was out there trying to defend Crosby, a player he clearly views as a talent in this league.
Crosby is entering his fourth year in the NFL—the last on his rookie contract—but he’ll enter training camp on the outside looking in when it comes to the starting lineup. After the Lions drafted Penei Sewell with the seventh overall pick and promptly declared him as competition at right tackle, that was a wrap for Crosby’s chances at a starting job.
But Fraley didn’t sound like someone ready to declare a starting five quite yet.
“We’re going to try and play the best five, and who’s to say who’s the starters? All you guys right now are saying Penei, (Taylor) Decker, all those. They all know they’ve got to come in here and compete.”
Crosby has spent most of his career as a backup in Detroit. First entering the league, many believed he was destined for a move to guard, but he fought off those odds and developed into Detroit’s primary backup swing tackle, capable of playing both sides of the line. He started seven games in his first two seasons as an injury replacement. Last year, Crosby eventually became the team’s starting right tackle after injuries forced Detroit to slide free-agent addition Halapoulivaati Vaitai to guard. Throughout it all, Crosby has provided relatively stable play, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“Crosby can be a great piece of the puzzle for us,” Fraley said. “You guys have seen it. He’s proved it.”
Fraley later continued:
“He’s just a competitor. That’s what he does. He comes to work every day and competes. He’s great for the room, great guy to be around, great to talk to. He’s got a bright future in this league.”
But it’s fair to wonder where that future lies with Crosby. If he has the potential Fraley seems to suggest, Detroit doesn’t seem like the place for him. With both Taylor Decker and Sewell signed through 2024, there is simply no route to the starting lineup unless a move to guard is finally in the cards for Crosby. But there has been no indication that is what’s ahead for him.
In the end, Fraley defended his guy because he has to. He’s been in similar situations as a former player himself and admitted he had a private conversation with Crosby about the rumors.
“Don’t worry about what everybody else is writing about or saying about,” Fraley offered as advice to Crosby through the media. “Let’s just go to work.”
And it appears, for now, that work will be in Detroit. That seems to have Fraley fired up.
“He’s still a young man in this league. He’s going to come in and help (make) us better. Help the Detroit Lions.”