New Lions CB Desmond Trufant Has 'A Lot Of Respect' For Matt Patricia

Photo credit © Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

If Darius Slay feels one way about Matt Patricia, his replacement feels the other. 

Cornerback Desmond Trufant, who signed a two-year, $20 million contract with the Lions shortly before they shipped Slay out of town, said the opportunity to play for Patricia is part of what made Detroit a good fit. 

"First of all, I just have a lot of respect for him," Trufant said on a conference call with local reporters Thursday. "He’s had a lot of success in this league. He’s coached a lot of great players, especially a lot of great players at my position, and I know I can fit right into his scheme. I’m just ready for the opportunity to do me, to showcase my talent." 

Trufant is expected to say this. But the contrast with Slay is hard to ignore. The former Lions cornerback blasted Patricia on his way out the door, an explosion two years in the making. It felt like yet another hit to Patricia's reputation with players around the league. His image after two years in Detroit has become that of a domineering defensive mastermind whose defenses aren't very good. 

Fortunately for the Lions, the image he built over several years in New England hasn't been forgotten. In the eyes of Trufant, at least, Patricia is still the backwards hat-wearing coach who helped Bill Belichick and the Patriots win two Super Bowls and helped develop the likes of Aqib Talib, Malcolm Butler, Devin McCourty and Logan Ryan. 

Trufant could have reached out to Slay for some inside info while considering Detroit's offer. The two are friends, linked by the 2013 draft. Instead, he followed his instincts (and, yes, the money). 

"I know Slay, he’s cool. To be honest, we didn’t talk too much about it," Trufant said. "My situation is my situation, and his is his. That was pretty much it." 

As for his role, Trufant is Slay's replacement in that the Lions have yet to bring in anyone else worthy of the job. That could change, especially if they draft Ohio State CB Jeffrey Okudah. If it doesn't, that means they're trusting in Trufant, who had a career-high four picks in only nine games last year -- matching his total over the prior five seasons. 

"I just felt like I was locked in on my opportunities," he said. "I’ve had those opportunities in the past, I just didn’t catch the ball, to be frank. It’s not to say that I wasn’t in position to make those kind of plays. Last year I just finished the plays I was in position to make, and I plan on doing the same." 

After seven years in Atlanta, Detroit will mark the first change of Trufant's career. A Pro Bowler in 2015, he remains one of the better cornerbacks in the league. But he doesn't measure himself against anyone else, including his two older brothers who also played in the NFL. He is his own standard. 

"And only I know when I’m playing my best and maximizing all my opportunities," said Trufant. 

Which begs the question: Was he at this level last year?

"Yeah, I was definitely playing at a very high level. Obviously people are going to say what they want to say, but while I was playing I was making a lot of big plays," said Trufant, who missed seven games due to shoulder and forearm injuries. "I've done that throughout my career, so I’m just going to try and continue that and take it up even more.

"I bring a lot of energy to the field, a lot of confidence, swagger. I just play with that passion, so I’m definitely going to keep that going in Detroit." 

Big plays? Energy, confidence and swagger? Hey, sounds a bit like Slay -- and these are the qualities Patricia will embrace.