By now, you probably know that Detroit Lions linebacker Zack Follett -- whose career might be over following a serious neck injury -- referred to quarterback Matthew Stafford as a "china doll" during a radio interview in Fresno, Calif.
In the context of football, a "china doll" is a delicate player who "breaks" every time he gets hit. Suffice it to say, it's no compliment.
Stafford has missed 19 of 32 games over his first two seasons because of various injuries, and Follett gave voice to the worst fears the Lions and their fans might have about him. Follett almost immediately backtracked, jumping on a Detroit-area radio station and later on his Twitter account, and in the end I think we'll view this episode as the result of a (lovable) nut job unintentionally veering into sensitive territory during what was supposed to be a light-hearted radio appearance.
First, here is what Follett said on ESPN 1430 in Fresno, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press: "Stafford, good guy. He's a china doll right now. Anytime he gets hit, he goes down. But the kid is -- hopefully, it's just patiently waiting for him, because the kid is an awesome talent. He has a tremendous arm. The throws that he makes during practice when no one can touch him, he looks like an All-American quarterback, but put him in a game, and you hit his shoulder. So hopefully, say a couple prayers, keep him healthy next year, and the Lions can do some damage in the NFC."
Viewed in context, I don't think that statement comes off as a complete rip job. But lest there be any doubt, Follett later tweeted:
Thats my bad on the china doll comment, just referring to his injury.. have no room to talk I was more broken then anyone this yr
Matts a baller I see it everyday on the field, and have no doubt he's going to do work next season!
I'm guessing most Lions players know Follett and understand his uniquely wired brain. So ultimately, Follett's comments about Cutler could have more staying power. To my knowledge, he is the only NFC North player to criticize Cutler for leaving Sunday's NFC Championship Game. Follett's neck injury makes him a question mark to play next season, but even if he isn't with the Lions, his words still implicated at least one Lions coach and could have lasting impact.
Follett said that Cutler "kind of just knew that they were going to lose, hung his hat up and said, 'All right, maybe next season.' That's his character, that's him. I'm not going to attack him, but I would handle it different." Then he added:
"We played him the first game of the season. He kind of has a swagger about him that, a little cockiness, that it kind of makes defensive players kind of chomp at the mouth. We're ready to get at him. Our [defensive coordinator], Gunther Cunningham, he wasn't a big fan of Cutler."
It's one thing for an AFC player who might never face Cutler or the Bears to take a shot. But Cunningham and the Lions play the Bears twice a year. I'm guessing these series of comments will rise to the top of the motivational file the Bears are almost certainly keeping right now.