The Curious Case of Tyrell Crosby

If there’s one thing this current era in the Lions franchise is known for, it’s transparency. Brad Holmes, Lions General Manager, and Dan Campbell, Lions Head Coach, have prided themselves on their openness throughout the first year of their regime. Well, the other shoe dropped. In an interview with the Detroit Free Press, former tackle Tyrell Crosby attacked the current Lions leadership for their handling of his injury situation last year. So let’s flashback and dive into the Crosby allegations, a serious black eye on the current administration.

The year is 2021. Penei Sewell has just come off the board with the seventh overall pick, and all any Lions fan can talk about is the new tackle duo of Sewell and Decker. Of course, this leaves Crosby as the odd man out. Trade rumors circulated, and Crosby didn’t show up for voluntary OTAs. Crosby claimed he was homesick after the strict COVID policies enacted for 2020 caused him to miss several activities outside of football. However, in his words, the decision was held against him by several people, including Anthony Lynn, the offensive coordinator in 2021. In the Free Press story, author Dave Birkett writes, “…Lynn chided him during drills about missing OTAs for being ‘afraid to compete.’”

Crosby is also quoted in the article saying Campbell and Holmes held a meeting with him, and says that they implied he wasn’t giving his all, or caring about the other people in the building. In short, his work ethic felt insulted. When he hurt his hamstring, the situation got worse. It was also at this time that he began to complain about back pain, which he mentions was largely ignored. He even says he was fined $5,000 for missing a weights workout, despite the fact that he was dealing with an injury and the back pain.

To add insult to several injuries, the team fired Dave Granito, their former lead trainer. Campbell never fully explained the termination, saying that the team was still receiving utmost care and treatment, but that the central issue was with communication among the staff. “It felt like we needed to go another way. Communication, some of those things, so we did make that move,” said Campbell last August. This was followed by Crosby’s debut in the preseason, and three days later, the Lions waived him with an injury designation. He was reportedly offered a four week injury settlement, but instead, Crosby saw an independent specialist, who revealed via MRI that he had a degenerative back condition.

This condition sadly puts Crosby’s career at risk. Crosby remains a free agent today. In the article, he slams the organization, saying “I would go out of the way for anybody in that building, and then to realize, ‘Oh, they actually just treat you like a genuine piece of meat and they don’t — they act like they truly don’t care.’ It’s so disheartening, and I hear from like other guys around the league that it’s, most teams aren’t that way. And so you start to understand, ‘Oh, this is definitely something that starts from the top down.’ It sucks…I wouldn’t want to play for that organization just knowing what I know now and just how poorly they treat their players.”

In my mind, there are three important things to consider when thinking about this story – things that could shape it’s media presence or public image going forward:

Comments from Allen Park:
During an interview on 97.1 The Ticket, Campbell said “…my players, know if they’ve got an issue, they’ll come up and talk to me, and they know that, man…my door is always open.” While he was referring to whether or not there would be any ripple effects in the building from Crosby’s comments, it’s hard not to read this as an indictment on the former player’s communication with higher ups, the same reason Campbell gave for the firing of Granito. He finished up, saying, “And I don’t really feel like this is something I need to be proactive about to be honest with you…” Whether or not Crosby’s allegations are true, the coach seems to believe the boat will stay afloat no matter what.

Current left tackle Taylor Decker offered similar sentiments, saying “There’s an atmosphere established for open communication for like growth as a player…here we try to get better.” While he never referred to Crosby at all (the question was about the current culture around the team), his comments were a little too similar to Campbell’s to not carry any weight. Despite these comments, no one in Allen Park seems to wish to engage with Crosby in the media, whether his story is true or false.

This isn’t the first time a player has complained about the Lions medical staff:
Remember a little known player named Calvin Johnson? After his retirement from the NFL, his quarrels with the Lions franchise have been well-documented. Several of his problems, he alleges, involved getting ignored by the training staff, such as when one his fingers was bent at a 90 degree angle, and they told him to get it fixed after he retired, per Johnson via Michael Rosenberg. Another story involves Johnson receiving a concussion, mentioning it to reporters, and team medical staff trotting him back out to peddle a saturated version where he was alright, and had simply misspoke.

In addition, former center Travis Swanson alleges via Twitter that for an entire week, they didn’t let him see a doctor for an injury. Whether or not these are separate incidents in admittedly different decades, or part of a longer string of medical misconduct remains to be seen, but it is disheartening to see this pattern emerge.

Crosby’s future is uncertain:
Since being waived by the Lions prior to the 2021 regular season, Crosby has not played a single snap of football. His lingering back condition puts his future at risk, and the current consensus seems to be, especially post-interview, that he is “damaged goods.” His allegations seem to enforce his belief that the wrongs he suffered at the hands of the organization led to a loss of his career. If another team takes a chance on Crosby, he may be able to refute the story that he’s done for good, but until then, he can continue to paint the Lions in a bad light. There’s truly not enough evidence for either side to be declared correct in the curious case of Tyrell Crosby. Whether this is a grudge held by a waived player, or a legitimate concern about the state of an up-and-coming front office remains to be seen. In the meantime, however, the silence from the Lions only seems to feed the fear that many fans have that these allegations are true.
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