Monday, August 15, 2016

Riley Reiff, in rare interview, takes pride in leadership role with Lions

Riley Reiff (right) has moved to the right side of the offensive line and is taking on a bigger leadership role with the Lions. Duane Burleson/AP Photo

By Michael Rothstein
August 13, 2016

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Riley Reiff spoke to the media Saturday for the first time since the end of last season, and a lot has happened since then.

He entered the fifth and final year of his rookie contract. And on the field, he shifted from left tackle, where he has played the past three seasons, to right tackle after Detroit drafted Taylor Decker in the first round.

Through it all, Reiff remained silent. He didn’t complain. He didn’t say much of anything at all. And even now, in his first public comments since the switch, he wasn’t elaborating much.

“As a group, we’re trying to get guys in position,” Reiff said. “Trying to work hard every day, clean up mental errors. It’s all about the group. Just trying to put out a better season than we did last year.”

Reiff and the rest of the Lions offensive line was a part of the reason for Detroit’s 1-7 start and 7-9 finish. Their position coach last season, Jeremiah Washburn, was fired at midseason and replaced by Ron Prince, who held on to the job entering 2016.

And while the offensive line is still struggling, Reiff has stood out. He’s taken well to right tackle. He seems comfortable there and has been sometimes dominant in practices. He also looked good during the team’s joint work with Pittsburgh last week.

It isn’t the easiest transition to make -- essentially, the footwork changes making everything opposite of what he had done the past three seasons. But he’s handled it fairly easily thus far, to the point Lions coach Jim Caldwell called his performance in training camp “excellent” on Saturday.

And with a group that is incredibly young, other than reserve Geoff Schwartz, Reiff is now the anchor of the line, a role he inherited last season after the Lions declined to re-sign Dominic Raiola and Rob Sims, who both eventually retired.

“He was kind of the heir apparent to that position,” Caldwell said. “From the respect of his teammates and the people around him, I think they kind of sensed that he was going to be the guy to certainly take on that role, and he has. He’s done a nice job.”

That’s a point of pride to Reiff. Decker, the player who was drafted to replace him on the left side, has consistently said Reiff has been a good influence for him and has helped him with whatever he’s needed.

That isn’t surprising because Reiff has been more focused on trying to win games instead of his own personal accolades. It’s why he didn’t make a fuss publicly when he was moved from left tackle to right tackle -- although that wouldn’t be his style, anyway.

Reiff had teammates who helped him when he was a rookie, so he wants to pay it forward because “that’s what friends do for friends.”

“I don’t know how much of a voice I have, but if a younger guy asks for my opinion, I try to rely back on my previous experience and what I’ve been through,” Reiff said. “And if I can give him a good answer that can help him out, yeah, I take a lot of pride in helping people succeed.”

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