Matthew Stafford has made most of the headlines, but he’s far from the only ex-Detroit Lion at Super Bowl LVI this week.
Riley Reiff would be starting at right tackle Sunday for the Cincinnati Bengals if not for an ankle injury that has sidelined him for the entire postseason. Brandon Powell handles most kick and punt returns for the Los Angeles Rams. And A’Shawn Robinson is Aaron Donald’s sidekick on L.A.’s vaunted defensive line.
Robinson has 16 tackles in three postseason games, tied for most on the team, and has been a key part of a Rams run defense that has allowed 54 yards rushing per game in the playoffs.
A 2016 second-round pick who spent his first four seasons in Detroit, Robinson said Wednesday he has felt perennially underappreciated throughout his career and can change that by winning a world championship this week.
“I always feel disrespected. I never feel respected,” Robinson said. “It’s just a part of my mindset. I never want anything given. I like that everything I’ve gotten in my life has been earned. I appreciate that, that God’s given me the opportunity to go out there and really to go earn everything that I want.”
In Detroit, Robinson was a part-time starter and solid run defender who never quite had the impact the Lions envisioned on their defensive line.
He totaled five sacks in 58 games, then left the Lions for a two-year, $17 million deal with the Rams in free agency in 2020.
Robinson missed the start of the 2020 season with COVID-19 concerns related to a previous medical condition. He started last season on the non-football injury list, agreed to delay the start of his contract by one year, and returned midseason on an incentive-laden deal to play sparingly — 111 snaps in eight games — down the stretch.
“It really made me think about life and how fragile things is,” Robinson said Wednesday. “About anything can be taken away from us like that. Anything that we love, so when I had the opportunity this year I knew that I was going to just try to give it my all, and I can’t do nothing but give it my all so that’s just my mentality.”
Playing alongside Donald, Robinson has flourished this season. He had a career-high 67 tackles while starting 14 regular season games, and has saved some of his best football for the postseason.
In the Rams’ wild-card win over the Arizona Cardinals, Robinson had a team-high seven tackles and was a key cog in a defensive effort that held Kyler Murray to 6 yards rushing.
In L.A.’s NFC championship game win over the San Francisco 49ers, Robinson had six more stops and the 49ers, owners of a top-10 rushing offense in the regular season, finished with 50 yards on the ground.
Robinson said Thursday he’s thankful for his time in Detroit, where he got to learn from two players he considers future Hall of Famers, Dwight Freeney and his good friend Haloti Ngata. And he said winning a Super Bowl on Sunday might finally put some respect on his name.
“To have this, it’s good. But the job ain’t done, so it doesn’t really matter until we finish the job,” he said. “So to get the respect that I want, we got to finish.”