Barry Sanders: Lions 'still do control their destiny'

Dave Birkett
Detroit Free Press
Barry Sanders waves during the Pro Football Hall of Fame halftime show at Ford Field on Oct. 18, 2015.

ENFIELD, England -- Barry Sanders ran behind some patchwork offensive lines during his 10 NFL seasons, but the Pro Football Hall of Fame running back isn't sure how he'd do with this year's Detroit Lions blocking for him.

"How do I think I would do?" Sanders said, laughing. "I don't know. Hopefully, OK. But hopefully, they can just have some good balance going into the rest of the season. I know they've made some changes, and sometimes that's all it takes."

Sanders, in town for a series of promotional events surrounding this weekend's International Series game against the Kansas City Chiefs (9:30 a.m. Sunday, Fox), said he's still holding out hope that this year's Lions can rebound from their disastrous 1-6 start.

The Lions rank last in the league in rushing, 29th in scoring and have given up 16 sacks this year. On Monday, they fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and line coaches Jeremiah Washburn and Terry Heffernan.

Sanders, who was on the 1995 Lions team that rebounded from a 2-5 start to reach the playoffs, attributed this team's rough start to "a few early glitches" and said "there's plenty of season left" for a turnaround.

"One thing you have to do is not get down in the dumps and understand that, because of how things work now, each game feels like there's probably a lot more riding on it than it probably is," Sanders said after taking part in a Heads Up Football clinic the NFL put on for two London-area football programs. "You get in there, you get to .500 and you work your way from there.

"They haven't handed out any awards yet. There's some teams that are 6-0, but they still haven't won anything, so I think, for the Lions, it's just important to realize that you're just now really figuring out who you are, going into the middle of the season, and it's not over yet, even though sometimes it feels like it or it sounds like it. So you just got to keep playing."

Sanders, 47 and nearly two decades removed from his last carry, said he occasionally wonders "about what the younger Barry would have done" in today's NFL.

But unlike Herschel Walker, who said last spring, at age 52, that he thinks he still could play in the NFL, Sanders harbors no illusions.

"I doubt it very seriously," Sanders said. "I don't know, but I doubt it. It is fun to think about, and when you're sitting over there on the sideline and you don't have to actually suit up, then you can fantasize all you want to, I guess. But me, personally, no, I don't think I could. The guys look terribly big out there."

Sanders, who was at Ford Field for last weekend's loss to the Minnesota Vikings, was scheduled to attend a dinner with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Lions owner Martha Ford and others tonight, and he's expected to take part in a fan event before Sunday's game.

"The first part of the year's been tough, but, hey, look," Sanders said, "it's a long season, and a lot can happen, and that's really how you have to approach it. No one's going to feel sorry for you because you lost a few games -- and maybe one of them kind of got taken from you. No one feels sorry for you, so you just got to get back on the horse, because a lot still can happen and a lot is going to happen. … They still do control their destiny and so that starts this weekend."

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Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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