Archive for October, 2015

Lions Fans, we are all in this together!

Monday, October 12th, 2015

DETROIT – Golden Tate was disappointed with the Detroit Lions fans who were at Ford Field Sunday.

The veteran receiver didn’t appear angry or sound as if he was blasting the fans after a 42-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. But he also didn’t like some of the things he saw and heard as the Lions’ record fell to 0-5.

Fans began booing when quarterback Matthew Stafford threw an interception on the fourth play of the game – Tate was his intended target – and by the time the game finally ended there were only a few thousand at the most still in the stands.

“You know, I’m the first one to say I love our fans and I think our fans are amazing and they’ve been patient for a long time,” Tate said. “But before the game got out of hand, you know before the game started, I looked up, there a lot of empty seats.

“Early on in the game, our team is getting booed. Later in the game, it sounded like the loudest they got was when Stafford was leaving the game and Dan (Orlovsky) was coming in and that’s not the support that we want.

“You know, when we win, we all win together – the city, as an organization, as a state. When we lose, we all lose together. Today, I felt like at times our fan base kind of turned their back on us.”

At that point, a reporter started to interrupt with another question and Tate said he wasn’t finished.

“But we have a lot of confidence in our fan base and we can’t do this without our fan base,” Tate continued. “And we expect them to be with us a little bit better next week. We got a chance to still be special. We got two more at home … and we’re expecting our fan base to be there for us and support us.

“I know we’re not playing the type of football that we want to play right now but we need our fans. We need them.”

Tate was asked if he realized his comments might not go over well with the long-suffering fans, many of whom have seen the Lions win one just one playoff game since 1957, when they won the city’s last NFL championship.

“I consider us family, though, and I think there’s going to be time where family go through trials and tribulations,” Tate said. “There’s going to be times where we don’t agree with each other as far as family but at the end of the day we still gotta find a way to come together is how I see it.

“I don’t see our fan base as just the Lions fans. I consider us family and what I mean by that is it’s more than football to me. It’s being out in the community trying to bring this city together. You know, helping whoever I can who is down. And right now we’re just down.

“But we need the continuous support of our family at the end of the day.”

Golden Tate thriving with Lions after leaving Seattle

Monday, October 5th, 2015

He hoisted the Lombardi Trophy high overhead as he rode down Fourth Avenue in Seattle with his fellow receivers, never thinking for a second that his time with the Seahawks was done.

And when the championship parade ended at CenturyLink Field, Golden Tate sipped from a bottle of champagne and stood on stage smiling and laughing as Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, general manager John Schneider and owner Paul Allen spoke.

For four years, Seattle was Tate’s home, the city that raised him from a “stupid rookie” to one of the most underrated playmakers in the league. And now that free agency was approaching, he didn’t want to leave.

He loved the fans and the organization and the city, and as confetti fell that day, there was no place else Tate wanted to be.

“Actually, after the Super Bowl, I was so confident I was coming back, I was showing up to the facility, just never cleaned my locker out, left all my stuff in there,” Tate told the Free Press last week. “I thought, ‘I’m going to be back. I know.’”

For most of February 2014, Tate was in and out of the Seahawks’ Renton headquarters. He hung out with the team’s equipment guys, had multiple conversations with the affable Carroll and traded text messages with Schneider “way more than I had during the season.”

The tenor of the conversations always was the same, with Carroll and Schneider telling Tate how much they appreciated him and wanted him back, and both sides vowing to make it happen.

By the time March rolled around, Tate had settled into the California beach house he was renting for the off-season. He invited his sisters for a spring-break trip that happened to coincide with free agency, never expecting he’d be making travel plans of his own.

But business is business in the NFL, and when contract talks with the Seahawks fizzled, Tate found himself suddenly boarding a flight to Detroit, where a five-year contract and a new beginning awaited.

“My emotions, I didn’t know what to feel,” Tate said. “I thought for so long, ‘I’m going to be a Seattle Seahawk the rest of my life. I’ve done everything I possibly can.’ And it didn’t work out, unfortunately. They had just paid Percy Harvin, so they had a large sum of money invested in him, and I wasn’t looking for $60 million like he was. It just didn’t work.”

Things didn’t work for Tate and the Seahawks collectively.

But separately, as Tate prepares for his return to Seattle on Monday for the Lions’ prime-time showdown with the Seahawks on Monday Night Football, no one can complain.

The Lions got what turned out to be the steal of free agency in Tate, who caught 99 passes last year to lead the team to the playoffs.

The Seahawks used the money they saved on Tate to help sign Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas to contract extensions last spring, then made their second straight trip to the Super Bowl.

Tate posted career numbers in his first season with the Lions (99 catches, 1,331 yards) and has settled in nicely to his new home.

“I’m thrilled for him,” Carroll said in a teleconference with Detroit reporters last week. “I’m thrilled for our guys. To me, he’s one of our guys. That’s just the way I look at it. Our guys watch our players that are in other places and we enjoy just seeing how they do. We don’t want them to do it against us, of course, but we love to see them have success in other places.”

Reaping benefits

Long before he was a Pro Bowl receiver, Golden Tate III dreamed about becoming exactly that.

“Ball” was the first word he spoke as a baby. As a 6- or 7-year-old, he prayed every night that he would be a professional athlete. And he spent his days growing up in Nashville, Tenn., playing football, baseball, basketball, hockey or whatever other game he could find in the neighborhood streets.

If not an athlete, Tate said he wanted to be a police officer growing up. Or a professional fisherman.

Some of his fondest memories as a youth are the Fridays he had in kindergarten and first grade, when his parents picked him up from school with a Happy Meal from McDonald’s and drove straight to Percy Priest Lake or Old Hickory Lake.

“With fishing poles hanging out of our Jeep and tackle boxes and the worms and crickets,” Tate said. “Going to catch bluegill and perch and bass and catfish, just used to love it, man. It was family time. You didn’t have cell phones then, all you had was each other.”

Tate traveled the South playing AAU baseball as a youth, with his grandmother usually in the driver’s seat and two coolers packed with sandwich meat and yogurt and Gatorade by his side.

He was drafted twice as an outfielder — in the 42nd round by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007 and in the 50th round by the San Francisco Giants in 2010 — but gravitated more toward football, the sport that his father, Golden Tate II, starred in at Tennessee State.

A running back in high school, Tate started two games at receiver as a freshman at Notre Dame and blossomed at the position the next two years. He left school after his 93-catch, 1,496-yard junior season, and the Seahawks made him a second-round pick in their illustrious 2010 draft class that included Russell Okung, Kam Chancellor and Thomas.

Tate played sparingly as a rookie in a move that he now says was the best thing that could have happened to his career. He knew little about running proper routes then, and less about taking care of his body and how to go about football in a professional way.

“My first season in college I only caught (six) passes, and so my second and third year were my seasons,” Tate said. “I thought I had it figured out, but little did I know. Looking back at it, you got to thank Coach Carroll, because who knows if he rushes me into that situation of being a starter or being the guy, who knows mentally (how I would have handled it). I don’t think it would have, but mentally that could have screwed me up for the rest of my career, me doubting myself.

“But because they didn’t put the pressure on me, they were patient with me, it let my learning process be natural. When I was ready, I think we all reaped the benefits of it.”

Tate led the Seahawks with 64 catches for 898 yards during their Super Bowl season of 2013, but he was largely considered a complementary player on a team that relied heavily on its defense and running game.

Beyond the money — the Lions offered “significantly” more in free agency than the Seahawks, and Tate acknowledged that “if the deal was that close in numbers, I would have stayed in Seattle” — Tate said he was attracted to the Lions in part by the chance to play alongside Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford on an up-and-coming team in a pass-friendly offense.

Of course, Johnson missed three games and parts of two others with ankle injuries last year, Stafford has thrown 18 interceptions in his last 20 games, and the Lions are off to an 0-3 start and have the NFL’s 27th-ranked offense.

“I’ve never been 0-3,” he said. “And I think this is the most talent we’ve had here in a long time, and this is one of the most talented teams I’ve been on in my career. And I want to win. I could have gone to one of these very, very bad teams and had nothing at all and got paid a lot of money, but I wanted to come here because I see a bright future. I see all the pieces that we need to win.”

Zero regrets

The Lions went 11-5 last year, and Tate made the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career.

But while he was in Arizona playing in the league’s annual All-Star scrimmage, his former team was across town preparing for its second straight Super Bowl.

One night, Tate went to dinner with Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse and some other friends, and he ran into Schneider, who was dining at the same restaurant with his wife, Traci, and Fox reporter Jay Glazer.

Tate said Schneider has told him on multiple occasions that he made a mistake letting the receiver go and still believes in him as a player, but that didn’t make watching his former team in the Super Bowl any easier.

“There was definitely envy,” Tate said. “I’m extremely happy here and I have zero regrets at all, but you can’t tell me, just like I’m here now, I very easily could have been back on that team playing in another Super Bowl. I could have. But it is what it is. That’s what life is. It’s choices you make.

“I don’t look back. I’m still excited about where I am and love where I am and the long-term future of this organization. But you can’t help but to be like, ‘Damn.’”

Last week, Tate made headlines by saying on his weekly radio show on WMGC-FM (105.1) that opposing defensive players have told him after every game this year they knew what plays the Lions were calling.

Many took those comments as a shot at offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, but Tate said that wasn’t the case. He said he still believes in Lombardi and the offense.

“I think we all just need to be a little bit better,” he said.

That starts Monday night in Seattle, where the Lions will try to turn their season around against one of the best defenses in the NFL.

Chancellor and Thomas, Tate’s draftmates from 2010, still are patrolling the Seahawks’ secondary, and Sherman is so good that he usually shuts down whatever receiver he’s covering.

Tate said he and Sherman used to have epic battles in practice, and he’s ready for those memories and others to flood back when he steps on CenturyLink Field.

“I’m going to try my best to keep my emotions under wraps and use my emotions to help our team, not draw negative attention, or any more negative publicity,” Tate said.

Coach Jim Caldwell said he’s not worried about that with Tate, who teammates describe as the ultimate competitor.

“There’s emotion there. It brings back memories. So these guys are human. They’re not inhuman. They’re not robots,” Caldwell said. “So they do feel it and they do sense it, but I think they’re pros, too. And so I do think that they can manage and they can handle the stress and the excitement and all of those things that kind of go along with it.”

Tate, second on the Lions with 15 catches for 161 yards, is plenty excited for Monday night’s game. But there’s no stress or nervousness. At 0-3 and with a chance to help save the Lions’ season, there’s no time for that.

“Obviously, I want to win this game, and I tried not to worry about this game until the week got here,” Tate said. “But you can’t help but to think, ‘It’s my old team, man. Guys who drafted me, everyone who helped me get to here.’ This is a chance for me to go out there in that stadium and handle business. That’ll be great for us to do.”

Golden Tate Is Always Ready For That No. 1 Spot

Monday, October 5th, 2015

In modern media, “the full story” is a bit of an industry unicorn. Thanks to social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, the never-ending hunger for 24/7/365 news coverage, and the increasing salaciousness of journalism’s clickbait era, a nuanced story that shows a side from all parties is increasingly rare. Rather, information is passed around second-hand. One website reports the original story; the others aggregate in kind. A game of Telephone can unfold, sacrificing crucial details in the process. It can be a cutthroat business.

Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate has seen the highs and lows of this new age in communications. The Pro Bowl wide receiver who tallied 99 catches last season en route to a one-stop playoff appearance is undoubtedly talented. However, his public profile has also been shaped by anything from Twitter to tabloid speculation. Last year, he was the subject of rumors of adultery concerning former teammate Russell Wilson and a supposed affair that Tate had with Wilson’s ex-wife, Ashton Meem. In February, Tate denied the story, adding that it was “sad” that Wilson himself hadn’t put the claims to rest. At the same time, reports emerged of locker room tension between Tate and Buffalo Bills wide receiver Percy Harvin during their time together in Seattle, dragging Tate’s name into a story that he views as a “misunderstanding” more than anything. In April, Tate’s views on domestic violence were quickly picked apart by what he may refer to as “the eye in the sky” after he tweeted about his frustrations with social media’s reactionary culture. He would end up deleting his original tweets.

The most immediate impression of Tate runs counter to the brash, unapologetic persona you may have cobbled together from news stories. While we’re sitting at a high school field in Birmingham, Mich.—where teenagers awkwardly find reasons to walk by Tate, say hello to him, and perhaps ask for a picture—he is unfailingly polite and accommodating. And while some of his past antics and quotes have occasionally seemed larger-than-life, Tate’s quiet composure today doesn’t come across as affected or put-on. It’s clear that he would rather have a good conversation than make an easy headline. We have all heard of Golden Tate, the mercurial loudmouth. But the Tate who I’m sitting with is quick to note that he is a deeply devoted Christian (he was raised Southern Baptist), and a proud fiancé to his longtime partner, Elise Pollard. He’s a passionate supporter of the military, a commitment that extends to his charitable organization, the Golden Future Foundation.

I’m hesitant to call Tate arrogant. Self-assured, yes. But, mostly, he has no fear about communicating in a direct and honest way, whether you agree with him or not. He, for instance, will say that he would’ve been a difference-maker for the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. When asked to name his top five receivers in the NFL, he lists himself (though, he does add Dez Bryant as a sixth, perhaps placing himself as the odd man out). Regardless of whether those things are true, you’d be hard-pressed to feel any sort of anger towards him when you hear him say it in-person. Tate is a man powered by belief; and as much as he believes it’s God who gave him his gifts, he seems to also believe in these gifts as an extension of himself. It’s not arrogance. It’s faith.

But what’s expressed in-person can fail to translate when it’s put on the page. It’s one thing to read something, but listening to someone as they say it will always add another dimension. As a public figure who is often at a distance from his spectators, Tate doesn’t usually have the luxury of his audience understanding context or tone. But even if he’s beset by questions and commentators on a regular basis (whether from the media or Twitter trolls), he’s always quick to maintain perspective. Anyone from Tate to Tom Brady will tell you that you won’t win in this league until you’ve learned how to keep your critics out of sight and out of mind.

You’re coming off a Pro Bowl season—99 catches. What’s it like going into this year with heightened expectations? Where’s your head at? 
I try to stay even as far as nerves, but my goal every year is to be just a little bit better than last year and that means collectively, personally, and to just try to win more games. If the peripheral stats come with it, that’s awesome, but it’s a team game. And since I’ve been in the league, I’ve had games where I’ve had two touchdowns and 120 yards, but we lose. That’s not a good feeling. Because you always feel like you can do more, so if that means I have three catches for 40 yards but we win—that’s what’s important to me. I’m trying to go deep in the postseason and get another Super Bowl, so that’s what’s important to me.

But your first Pro Bowl, what was that experience like?
It was a great experience. My family was there to share the moment with me, that was one of the dreams I’ve had as a youngster. Going to the Pro Bowl, win the Super Bowl, and after five years I’ve done both. It’s a huge blessing, it’s something that a lot of people can’t say they’ve done. It was a great experience for me I had a really good game. I was a little out of shape; I remember being so tired because I hadn’t ran in a couple of weeks and I didn’t know I was going to go until a few days before I left.

But great experience, great being around some of the most elite players. And one thing I’ve noticed about all these elite players, Calvin Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning—these are all high characters guys. And I think they are just the best. These are the guys that are fighting to be better every single time they step out onto the field. Very charitable guys, high character guys, and that’s one thing I noticed about the elite athletes, they are good people. And I think that’s a recipe for being a really good player in this league.

“At the time, I didn’t want to leave Seattle. I mean, coming off a Super Bowl run and being there for four years…I didn’t want to leave that.”

What’s it like to play with Calvin Johnson? Did you guys work out together during the offseason? What’s your relationship with him like?
We have a great relationship. Calvin is kind of a very humble, quiet person for the most part. But very, very entertaining at the same time. We have a really good relationship and I usually can’t keep up with his workouts because he trains so tough, and it’s hard to keep up with—not many people can. But we definitely hang out as buddies and spend time with each other. Obviously, a lot in the facility playing cornhole or ping pong. Or sitting in the meeting rooms talking about way we can be better each week.

You say you’re a competitor, but at the same time you’re playing with one of the greatest wide receivers of all time. Do you kind of bristle at being a second option?
I mean, mentally, I don’t prepare and I don’t see myself as a No. 2. You never know what’s going to happen with injuries. I mean, God forbid, Calvin goes down this year, but last year that was real. He had an ankle injury and someone had to step up; so me, preparing like I’m the No. 1 always—it wasn’t a big deal. It’s what I’ve prepared for my entire life. So I think I did a decent job of holding it down when he was gone.

But, I understand Calvin Johnson is a heck of a talent and arguably the best ever to play the game. My job is to do my job the best I can, complement him as much I can, and help this team win. He’s going to get his touches, he’s a big-time star and I understand that. But, mentally, I prepare myself like I’m the No. 1 star, because you never know what’s going to happen.

You show a lot more flare and personality on the field than he does. Have you always been that way?
Yeah, I play the game of football with a lot of passion. If you know me as a person, you just see it as Golden being Golden. Just being goofy Golden and having fun. But if you don’t know me, I don’t know how you take it. Some people take it as arrogance, and some people take it as whatever they do. But if you know me and spend time with me, you know it’s just me having fun, playing with passion. I think there’s a bigger problem when you mess up and don’t show passion or when you do something great and you’re just whatever. It gives off the vibe of not caring—and that’s not who I am. At the end of the day we are entertainers.

Do you feel like you want to be a celebrity?
I mean, I don’t think of what I do as to be a celebrity. I play football and the world we live in with fantasy football and how impactful that is, it’s kind of inevitable. With all the social media, there’s always ways to get your name out there. I think, with being a celebrity, there’s a large territory that you have to understand you’re stepping into. A lot of it is good, and some of it is not so good. You’re under a microscope more so than just being a football player. I don’t have any regrets. I try to use this platform I’m on to better myself, to better the people around me, to better the community, and to get God’s word out.

As a player who is trying to get better and better every year, are there any distractions that you struggle with?
I think now the biggest distraction is social media. Because, now, [there are] people who sit behind the computer screen, who criticize everything you say and do. And it’s that time of the year when fantasy football is the most popular thing in America right now. That has pros and cons.

The pros are: People who really don’t care anything about the game of football play this game, and that is fun. That’s how they learn about players and how they connect with players. But at the same time, a lot of people don’t understand the difference between fantasy football and the reality of this, so they attack you on social media and make threats because you don’t do well when they expect you to. But when you do well, on the flip side, they praise you. So, that’s both a pro and a con.

Obviously, the microscope we are under is huge. I think coach [Jim] Caldwell said it perfectly a few weeks ago, that it takes a certain person to be a professional athlete. Obviously, the physical aspect—the athleticism—you have to have. But, in addition to that, nowadays—you didn’t have to deal with this 15 years ago—[it requires] character. You have to have character, you have to represent yourself well, on and off the field. You have to stay out of trouble, stay away from the DUIs, and whatever it is.

And then the mental part of it. Mentally you have to be strong, you have to be able to think in a split second. You can’t hit the delete button and redo it. Once the eye in the sky catches it, it’s all said and done. And there’s a small portion of people who can mentally do that. Athletically, stay sharp on and off the field, [and] also stay out of trouble.

So those are the tough parts about it. But once you kind of get it, it’s all a blessing.

Which city has a more vicious or unforgiving fan base: Seattle or Detroit? 
That’s a tough question because here in Detroit I haven’t gotten into any trouble. I’m here now, and there hasn’t been any negative talk about me, I haven’t done anything that’s going to attack my character. Not that I did in Seattle either, but a lot of people were a bit sensitive and tender when I left Seattle. And the fans didn’t completely understand the situation and what happened; they just kind of judged and thought whatever they thought. But that’s an answer for both parties, I guess.

Do you feel like it ever makes you paranoid?
Ehh, a little paranoid. We live in a time when I could be sitting here, just having a normal conversation, and I could say something that wasn’t positive about someone or something, and you never know—someone over here might be filming it. It’s that quick, gets on the Internet, all these retweets, favorites—it can really bring you down really quickly. One bad moment can destroy every good moment that you’ve ever had.

I have some buddies in the NFL, who’ve been awesome in the community, strong Christians, done a lot on the field. And they have one mess-up. One mess-up that the public eye gets ahold of and it takes away from everything positive they’ve ever done in the community. And I think that’s unfair, but that just comes with the territory.

What have you thought of the NFL’s more proactive, punitive stance in the past year then? A lot of people look at the NFL as being too reactionary right now, whether the punishment fits the crime…
Right now, I think in our profession, and anyone in the public eye, it’s guilty until proven innocent. And that’s how I feel because the media is always going to pick up the negative. And that’s what’s going to sell: the negative. People want to see what bad you’ve done, rarely they’re going to put the good out there. And what I mean by that is: Say I do something that people frown upon. It’s going to be put out there regardless if I did it or did not do it. And that’s really the tough part. Because the media has a job to do, and a lot of the time they twist things, and they take certain words and fit them into other things. And people read what they want to read. So next thing you know—although I didn’t do it and I’m actually the victim—they will attack you.

“I have total confidence in myself. And I’d be silly to say, ‘No, I don’t think I would’ve beat [malcolm butler].'”

I guess that’s why I was asking whether you want to be a celebrity, because it seems like all of that baggage is a consequence of it. 
Yeah, but at the same time everything happens for a reason. It’s a blessing. The way I simplify it as much as I can: Would I rather have people not knowing anything about me, and not talk about me? Or would I rather have people have something to talk about and praise me when I do something well? I’d rather be talked about and acknowledged when I’m doing well. That’s the simplest way to put it. If “ifs” and “buts” were pots and pans, the whole world would be a kitchen. And I can’t change it right now, so I’m just going to run with it and be the best I possibly can.

With regards to the back-and-forth that has taken place between you and Percy Harvin in the past, how do you think that might have spun out of control? Have you talked to Percy at all in the past year?
I haven’t talked to him since we saw him at the White House, back after the Super Bowl. Honestly, I didn’t spend too much time on it. I wish Percy Harvin nothing but the best and I hope he balls out every game and gets the praise he deserves. He’s definitely a heck of a talent and I don’t worry about what the media puts out there. Because, probably, a lot of it is twisted. Simple-minded people can believe what they want, but I’m going to continue to do my job the best I can and look forward, and find a way to better myself and grow in Christ.

I’m wondering if you could tell me a bit about BODYARMOR.
BODYARMOR is a drink that I’ve endorsed which is great for hydration. Natural cane sugar, coconut water, a lot of potassium, and most important it’s tasty. Very, very tasty. I like drinking it in my house. I keep cases in my refrigerator, I drink it all day and I feel great. I feel like I don’t cramp as much as I did when I was drinking the other sports drink. It’s something I’m proud to endorse.

Sometimes the guys will sign up to endorse things they’re not passionate about, or they don’t believe in—but that hurts the brand. This is something I actually believe in and I love the product. So I’m happy to be a part of it and it’s easy partnering with them.

Is it better than Russell Wilson’s Recovery Water?
I don’t know too much about this water that turns you into a superhero, Superman. This isn’t going to transform you by any means, but realistically it’s going to keep you from cramping too much. It’s tasty and for the most part it’s good for you.

Coming from Seattle—where you guys had just won a Super Bowl—to a place like Detroit, the organizational culture is totally different. What was that decision-making process like when you were making the move?
You know, I try not to live in the past too much and think about the “what ifs.” I just try to move forward, and I figure God has a plan and this is just part of his plan. At the time, I didn’t want to leave Seattle. I mean, coming off a Super Bowl run and being there for four years—with the relationships I had then and still have now—I didn’t want to leave that.

But at the same time, I knew that in order for me to reach my potential as a football player there [were] going to be better opportunities. The Lions showed interest early in free agency. I took a trip here, loved the coaching staff, the organization, and everyone that I met, and made the decision. Now, looking back at it, it’s working out tremendously for myself and the organization. I think the city is coming [together] because of the Lions winning games last year and that’s what it’s all about.

I know you don’t want to get into “what ifs,” but I kind of have to. Had you been playing for Seattle in the Super Bowl against the Patriots last season, would [Patriots DB] Malcolm Butler have beaten you to that last pass?
I mean, I have total confidence in myself. And I’d be silly to say, ‘No, I don’t think I would’ve beat him.’ That wouldn’t be the competitor that I’ve always known. So I’m going to say, yeah, I think I would’ve made a play, maybe earlier in the game so you didn’t get to that point where it came down to the last play. So, I guess, that’s something we just don’t know.