Allen Park — One play is all it takes to make an impression.
In each of the past six seasons, Lions linebacker Rocky McIntosh started at least eight NFL games, first with the Redskins, then the Rams last season. With the Lions, though, McIntosh is lucky to play one defensive snap as a fourth linebacker, but that hasn’t stopped him from making critical plays.
“Whatever they tell me to do, you’ve got to do it,” McIntosh said. “It’s a job.”
Against the Bears last week, McIntosh played two defensive snaps. One was in the second quarter on fourth-and-1 with Chicago at the Lions 27, and McIntosh stuffed Bears running back Michael Bush for no gain to give the ball back to the offense.
McIntosh also covered Bears running back Matt Forte on Chicago’s first 2-point try at the end of the game, though the Bears had a second opportunity after a roughing-the-passer penalty on Willie Young.
“All he does is make plays,” second-year linebacker Tahir Whitehead said.
In a Week 8 win over the Cowboys, McIntosh played three defensive snaps. Late in the fourth quarter, Dallas running back Phillip Tanner carried on third-and-14, and McIntosh made the tackle. A holding penalty against the Cowboys left the Lions enough time to march for Matthew Stafford’s winning quarterback sneak, but if McIntosh didn’t make the tackle, the Lions couldn’t have declined the penalty and would’ve lost another 40 seconds.
“He’s been a starter in the past. That’s not his role right now, but he prepares every week that way,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “I think that’s the key for any player is he can control his preparation and his attitude. Both have been outstanding.
“He’s done a really good job on special teams for us also. He was a good acquisition for us.”
In addition to his occasional role on defense, McIntosh is a key contributor on special teams, adding four tackles against Washington in Week 3 and three tackles against the Bears in Week 4.
McIntosh, who signed with the Lions at the end of training camp, understands his role, but he still prepares as he did when he used to be a starter. And when Sundays come, he’s ready for whatever role the coaches give him.
“You’ve just got to stay in tune,” he said. “It’s one day a week where you’ve got to give your full concentration, full focus, and that’s the way I take it.”
Even though he’s a backup, McIntosh said he doesn’t mind his role. The coaches think Stephen Tulloch, DeAndre Levy and Ashlee Palmer are the top three linebackers, and McIntosh said he agrees the coaches should go with the guys who give the Lions the best chance to win. For now, McIntosh simply adds a four-linebacker look for likely running situations, of which there could be many Sunday in Pittsburgh with rookie running back Le’Veon Bell.
The other linebackers have played well in their roles this season, so when McIntosh does enter on defense, he wants to hold up his end.
“I just feed off the rest of the guys,” he said. “That’s what they go out and do every play, and I don’t want to be left behind.”