By: Will Burchfield
Pro Bowl rosters will be announced Tuesday night, and Darius Slay isn't worried about getting the nod.
"I really ain't," he said on Monday. "It should be no question about it. I'm just waiting for that phone call so I can turn up."
Call him cocky. Call him confident. Or just call him correct. Slay is about as close to a lock for the Pro Bowl as a player can be.
The fourth-year cornerback leads the league in interceptions (7) after collecting two more in the Lions' win over the Bears on Saturday. He also leads the league in passes defended (27).
Those are the glamorous numbers, but perhaps the most impressive one is this: Slay is allowing a passer rating of 56.9 when quarterbacks throw his way -- all while defending the opposition's best receiver.
In his mind, that's the money stat.
"If you're getting targeted, somebody can catch a ball on you a lot and you still get some picks. But if nobody is catching it at all and you're making plays," Slay said, "that's a big difference."
Only four cornerbacks have allowed a lower passer rating this season. And make no mistake, Slay's well aware of where he ranks.
"I saw it this morning," he said with a grin. "I got tagged in it (on Twitter). I'm still kind of mad about that because it needs to be in the 30s. That means I let too many balls get caught on me.
"They might be tripping, though, because some of them might have been off-man and we weren't in press coverage."
Slay ranked second among NFC cornerbacks in the final Pro Bowl fan vote, trailing only Minnesota's Xavier Rhodes. Four cornerbacks will be selected. The fans account for one third of the vote, with the coaches and the players each having their say as well.
"It should be a given, but we'll see how it goes," said Slay. "I've seen all the people get flaked about before. I for sure should not. I might have to start a riot."
In all reality, the fan vote doesn't mean all that much. Like in all sports, it's as much a popularity contest as a measure of the game's best players. Slay himself is aware of this.
"It's all about who fans love most," he said.
So, why do they love him?
"I'm a lovable guy," he said -- and it's hard to disagree.
Between his outgoing personality, his boyish love for the game and his patented finger wag after breaking up a pass, Slay has a magnetic persona.
"I stay with a smile, I bring a lot of energy and I go out there and give it my hardest. I think the fans notice that, they see it. I have fun, man -- and I think I'm a great role model for the kids because a lot of kids love the finger wave," he said.
Plus, who can resist his nickname?
"Everyone loves 'Big Play Slay.' Nobody even calls me just 'Slay' no more. It's just 'Big Play,' 'Big Play.'"
He's a fan of the game as much as those who cheer his name. He watches the NFL closely, almost like a scout, and always knows who's making headlines. Asked which three NFC cornerbacks should join him in the Pro Bowl, Slay said Rhodes, Marshon Lattimore of the Saints and Damarious Randall of the Packers.
"I'd throw Pat P (Patrick Peterson) in there too, it's just the fact that he ain't got the picks. But he doesn't get targeted as much," said Slay. "He's one of the best in the game still, even thought his numbers don't say it. I see him as top two right now in the league."
The other being Slay, of course?
"Nah, I ain't top two yet," said Slay, almost scoffing at the notion. "Not in the league. I'll say I'm still top five."
It was an uncharacteristic comment by Slay, but also a glimpse behind the facade. For all his self-confidence, the 26-year-old has plenty of respect for the game. Ask him to rank the best cornerbacks, and he defers to the vets.
"I go by who does it the longest and staying at a high level with it. Anybody can have that kind of year and then have a boo-boo in the next year," Slay said, "so I go by who's been doing it the longest.
"Pat P been doing it since he's been in, guys like Chris Harris, (Aqib) Talib. Those guys right there are going to stay at the top. Everybody has their downfall, but they ain't had their downfall yet," said Slay.
Slay, of course, is still on the rise. He's in line for the first Pro Bowl selection of his career, and believes he should be first team All-Pro as well.
Which distinction means more?
"First team? That's major," said Slay, before conceding of the Pro Bowl, in high-pitched delight, "That is lit, too!"
With the year he's had, why bother choosing?
for more features.