© Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Slay Hoping To Play Against Brady -- But Still Riding With Peyton

He sounds like a guy who expects to suit up on Sunday.

September 21, 2018 - 3:51 pm

Without saying all that much, Darius Slay talked on Friday like a player who expects to play Sunday night versus the Patriots. 

Slay left last week's loss to the 49ers with a concussion, but returned to practice on Friday, albeit in a non-contact jersey. He wouldn't say if he's been given the go-ahead yet for Sunday, but he was in an upbeat mood in the locker room.

He bantered with his teammates in typically boisterous fashion, chatted with reporters for about five minutes and even cleared space for Glover Quin when the media scrum spilled toward the veteran's stall. Before hitting the showers, Slay pulled off his shirt and flexed in satisfaction. 

"Chillin', livin', breathin'," he said. 

The All-Pro cornerback, who's currently listed as questionable for Sunday, has to be cleared by an independent neurologist before he can return to action. If he passes that test, he'll run into another one Sunday night in Tom Brady. 

"That would be fun," Slay said. "Great quarterback, one of the best to ever do it. Shoot, amazing, man. I’m going to be grateful just to say what’s up to him." 

Like most defensive backs, Slay relishes matchups against the top quarterbacks in the game. He could hardly contain his excitement prior to facing Peyton Manning in 2015, and said Brady is in the same class. 

Well, just a tick below. 

"Them two are the gurus," he said. "(But) I’m picking Peyton, that’s my guy. I’m going to ride with Peyton every day, unless it’s (No.) 9. If it ain’t 9 out there -- Stafford -- I’m picking Peyton Manning every day."

So, is Manning the best ever? 

"Yes, ever," said Slay.

His loyalty to Manning dates to his childhood. 

"I ain’t disrespecting Brady at all, it’s just that I’m a big Manning fan. I’ve been a big Manning fan since (I was a kid). I mean, Brady’s the GOAT, but I’m just a Peyton fan," Slay said.

With or without Slay, the Lions will be in a tough spot Sunday night. The Patriots are looking to avenge a double-digit loss to the Jaguars last week. Detroit, meanwhile, is desperate for a win, before the season slips away.

"Every win is important, every one of them is important. We need this, though, as a team, as a fan base," Slay said. "Sunday night, man, we’ll be live, hope the fans bring a lot of energy. Shoot, we need this, and I know the fans need it too." 

Last Sunday was the second game in a row in which Slay was evaluated for a concussion. He wasn't interested in revisiting the latest collision -- he said he skipped the play during his film review -- but admitted the trend is at least somewhat concerning. 

"You worry about it, but it’s a contact sport. I signed up for it, I know what the risk is. I’m just trying to take care of myself," he said. 

Asked if a concussion weighs on him to a greater degree now that he's married and has kids, Slay said, "It weighs on everybody. It’s something serious, all injuries are serious."

Slay is one of the Lions' few defensive players who hasn't looked out of sorts during the transition to a new defense. If Detroit has any hope of upsetting New England, his return is crucial. 

"He studies the game a lot," Matt Patricia said on Friday. "We’re in a bunch of different packages, a bunch of different groups. The great thing about him is he has an unbelievable confidence that he’s going to go out there and execute at a high level, which you need when you play that position. He does a great job for us week in, week out.

"But if he’s not out there (Sunday), someone else is and they have a skillset that’s just as important to us to help us win. Whether it’s (Teez) Tabor or (Nevin) Lawson, it doesn’t matter. Those guys are going to go out and execute at a high level or the best of their ability to give us a chance to win."