Blogs > Lions Lowdown

One thing you can count on with the Detroit Lions is that they are never, ever boring. Follow the latest news including injuries, roster moves and more here daily from Oakland Press beat writer Paula Pasche. Plus you'll find regular commentary about the team.


Lions' fortunes rest with Redding

A little follow up on my story today on Cory Redding.

As everyone knows, Redding had something of a disappointing season last year. He set a career high with 78 tackles, but went 14 games without a sack and wasn't the playmaking force the Lions expected after signing him to a seven-year, $49-million deal last July. Part of the reason Redding disappointed was a bum right shoulder that hampered his play much of the season.

Redding said he had "a significant tear in the rotator-cuff area" and underwent surgery after the season. He's back taking part in OTAs (organized team activities) now, but won't be full strength until training camp opens in July.

"I feel good," Redding said. "I'm still rehabbing, still building my strength. The flexibility's 100 percent but it's all about getting my strength back and not going out there and letting some young guy put his facemask in my shoulder and set me back for a month."

Redding said there's no chance he starts camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list, even for precautionary reasons, though the Lions will do everything in their power to keep perhaps the biggest key to their defense healthy. If Redding plays like he did two years, when he had eight sacks in little over half a season at the under-tackle position, the defense could be special. If he plays like he did last year, when his first sack came Dec. 23, the line will struggle to get adequate pressure on opposing quarterbacks. In the Tampa 2 defense, that's the single biggest factor to success, and something the Lions saw first hand last year.

"We had time (last year) where we were sensational in our four-man rush and there's time it disappeared," Lions coach Rod Marinelli said. "You got to have that consistency. ... It's hard, but that's part of the deal. If you're saying, 'Man, we can't rush these guys. We have to blitz,' now you have problems. To me, you have problems. Eventually that stuff catches up with you because they get paid, too."

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Foster, Bell, Williams miss OTA; Cherilus, Smith starting?

With for-now starters George Foster and Tatum Bell not in attendance, rookies Gosder Cherilus and Kevin Smith took most of the first-team reps at right tackle and running back, respectively, during Thursday's OTA workout. Foster and Bell were No. 1 on the depth chart during last week's minicamp, and while jobs won't change hands between now and July, many believe it's just a matter of time before Foster and Bell fall to second string. Cherilus, the Lions' No. 1 pick, is a natural right tackle with big paws and a bigger mean streak, and Smith has been as impressive as any rookie in digesting the playbook.

"He's looking good," defensive tackle Cory Redding said of Cherilus. "Strong, got a good attitude, short fuse. I like that. He's a rookie but he's shown flashes of greatness, it's just right now he's in that learning curve."

Lions coach Rod Marinelli said attendance at Thursday's workout was abnormal. Along with Foster and Bell, receiver Roy Williams, linebacker Ernie Sims and tackle Jonathan Scott were among the no-shows and tailback Brian Calhoun spent part of the afternoon riding a stationary bike. OTAs, as always, are voluntary but highly encouraged, and the Lions have had good turnout so far. In fact, attendance was perfect at the first OTA open to the media earlier this month.

"We had a couple guys miss today and I know where they're at," Marinelli said. "I'll leave it at that. I put all of my attention on the men that are here, every ounce of energy that I got for the guys that are here and trying to get as much work as we can do."

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Lions lowdown


Lions minicamp: Day 3

Final thoughts and musings from Day 3 of Lions minicamp:

n Keith Smith had the interception of the day, outwrestling Calvin Johnson for a slightly underthrown ball deep down the right sideline during Thursday's first 11-on-11 drill. Smith won't start over Brian Kelly, but for my money he's still the best cover man on the team. Maybe some of Kelly's tackling ability will wear off.

n Rookie running back Kevin Smith — no relation to Keith — made a good first (or is second?) impression. As advertised, Smith makes his cuts at full speed. "He's very decisive," Lions coach Rod Marinelli said. "He doesn't dance a lot." If he stays healthy — with that upright running style, he'll take a lot of shots — I think he'll get 1,000 yards and the bulk of the carries this year.

n He wasn't lights out, but Drew Stanton had his best practice of minicamp. Like I said, I'm reserving judgment on the Lions' backup quarterback situation until midway through training camp. Stanton needs repetitions to get comfortable with his new throwing motion and with an NFL offense. Mike Martz changed everything Stanton did last year, and throwing on the sideline is nothing like taking live practice reps. Don't write him off yet.

n Lions executive vice president Tom Lewand said the NFL owners' decision to opt out of their labor agreement with the players' union will not affect how the team negotiates with its rookies. "It's an environment that we've operated under before," Lewand said. One salary-cap item of note, the current agreement allows signing bonuses to be prorated over a maximum of five years (last year the maximum was six). That means if first-round pick Gosder Cherilus signs a six-year deal with $10 million up front, $2 million of the guaranteed money will count against the cap this year. Last year, that number would have been $1.67 million.


Lions minicamp: Day 2

More random thoughts and musings from Day 2 of Lions minicamp:

n First-round pick Gosder Cherilus held his own in one-on-one drills against defensive end Jared DeVries Wednesday. Cherilus also took a few No. 1 reps at right tackle. It's highly likely he'll win the starting job come August, but George Foster is first on the depth chart for now. The bigger question is what becomes of Foster. Considering Cherilus' youth, I think the Lions keep Foster as a fourth tackle (Jonathan Scott is the swing guy capable of playing both positions), but it's possible Manny Ramirez, Corey Hulsey and Frank Davis win backup spots instead.

n One other name to watch on the offensive line, Carroll Madison, a 6-foot-2, 308-pound undrafted rookie from Syracuse who drew unsolicited praise from offensive coordinator Jim Colletto on Wednesday.

n Defensive tackle Chuck Darby sat out part of Wednesday's second practice for undisclosed reasons. He joined Ernie Sims and Cory Redding, both recovering from minor offseason shoulder surgeries, safety Daniel Bullocks, receiver Shaun McDonald and tight end Dan Campbell on the sidelines. Campbell did run a few routes in one team period, but just to go through the motions. No passes (or contact) came his way.


Lions minicamp: Day 1

A few random thoughts and musings from Day 1 of Lions minicamp Tuesday:

• Bear in mind this is without pads, but the Lions look much faster and much more capable of playmaking on defense than they did a year ago. In two practices today, the defense forced a number of turnovers. The secondary is much improved and the speed at linebacker has been upgraded. If the Lions can generate a pass rush, they will rank in the top half of the league defensively.

• Now that Mike Martz is gone, Dan Orlovsky looks like a weight has been lifted off his shoulders (or maybe it's just that he's taking reps). Either way, he was crisp in team drills and appears to be clearly ahead of Drew Stanton for the No. 2 job. This is Stanton's first real NFL action and he has to get used to throwing into a smaller window. Still, I'll reserve judgment on both players until I have a larger sample to judge.

• Tatum Bell said he's lost 12 pounds since the start of the offseason conditioning program two months ago. I still expect him to open the year as starting running back in a bit of a time share of rookie third-round pick Kevin Smith. Clearly, Smith will play a ton as well and will start at some point.

• If not this year, Calvin Johnson will be a Pro Bowl receiver in 2009.


Stanton hosting quarterback camp

Lions quarterback Drew Stanton and former Michigan State star Mill Coleman, both Farmington Hills Harrison products, are teaming up to host the C&S Air Assault QBR Academy. The camp runs June 13-14 at Harrison and is open to campers in grades 6-12. Cost is $190 for quarterbacks and $130 for receivers.

Along with Stanton and Coleman, Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, quarterback Dan Orlovsky and quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler are scheduled to appear as guest instructors. For more information or to register, visit

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New Lions season ticket plans

I don't have any hard numbers to report, but the anecdotal evidence that the Lions are experiencing a drop in season-ticket sales has been piling up for a long time.

I have four season tickets in my name that a few high school buddies and I went in on years ago. One of our group moved to Arizona and I cover the games, but my other two buddies kept all four seats the last couple years. Well, no longer. They decided not to renew this year for a number of reasons, the increase in price and constant losing chief among them. Since the tickets are in my name, I've received a few calls from the ticket office asking (pleading?) to renew. Doesn't look like that's going to happen.

Two more friends who have season tickets also have decided they're done spending money up front for games. Both usually attend just a game or two a year and sell their other seats, but figure the premium they pay for preseason games (no one wants to buy those, at least at anywhere close to face value) isn't worth the benefit of being able to go whenever they want. Instead, they figure they can scalp tickets on an as-necessary basis.

Another drop in the bucket came today when the Lions unveiled a pair of new five-game ticket plans for fans who can't or don't want to commit the $660 up front for a season's worth of tickets. (I know some plans come cheaper, but most of the seats range from $660-$900 for the year). If you're interested, contact the Lions ticket office at 313-262-2002 or visit

The plans start at $230 for upper-level seats and are as follows:

Joe Schmidt Plan: Aug. 7 vs. Giants (preseason), Sept. 14 vs. Green Bay (home opener), Oct. 26 vs. Washington, Nov. 23 vs. Tampa Bay, Dec. 21 vs. New Orleans

Lem Barney Plan: Aug. 23 vs. Cleveland (preseason), Oct. 5 vs. Chicago, Nov. 9 vs. Jacksonville, Nov. 27 vs. Tennessee (Thanksgiving), Dec. 7 vs. Minnesota


Lions have a logjam at RB

The Lions have upgraded their depth to the point where they'll have some interesting position battles come training camp. Either George Foster or Jonathan Scott could be out of a job at tackle. There may not room for all of the veterans vying for time at linebacker (much will depend on the progression of rookies Jordon Dizon and Caleb Campbell). And currently there's a logjam at running back.

With a mandatory minicamp and 11 OTAs to go, there's plenty of time to set a pecking order in the backfield. Still, it was interesting to hear coaches this week praise Brian Calhoun's running ability and admit Tatum Bell was a tad overweight. Rookie third-round pick Kevin Smith is going to make the team and eventually become a starter. He's a special-teams demon, too. Beyond that, it's anyone's guess how the depth chart plays out.

Bell has had the most success (1,025 yards two seasons ago in Denver) and is the Lions' best option at running back if Smith can't win the starting job out of camp. Only problem is he's not much of a special-teams player (at least the Lions never tried him there last year when he was demoted to third string) and Lions coach Rod Marinelli values that in his reserves. Calhoun was a productive runner in college, but he's not an every-down back in the NFL. He does add a dimension as a pass catcher and Marinelli said this week he can cover on returns. Still, I'd be worried since his last two seasons were cut short by knee injuries.

If Calhoun proves he can be more than a third-down back, Bell's days could be numbered (especially if he shows up for camp overweight). If not, Calhoun, Aveion Cason and Artose Pinner would seem to be competing for probably two spots. Both Calhoun and Cason can return kicks, while Cason and Pinner are best suited for downfield coverage. Pinner doubles as a tough inside runner, but rookie fifth-round pick Jerome Felton could easily fill that void. Felton should make the team as one of two fullbacks, probably with Jon Bradley, though Sean McHugh's versatility at tight end could be a factor.

Bottom line, the Lions have a number of options at running back and they have until late August to sort them out.


Lions open OTAs

The Lions held their first of 14 Organized Team Activities Tuesday, but rookies were not allowed at the voluntary (but heavily attended) offseason practices per NFL rules. Most will take part in full-team minicamp two weeks from now (because of school commitments, seventh-round defensive tackle Landon Cohen won't be back until June), and that will be their introduction to most of the team's vets.

Linebacker Ernie Sims said Tuesday he doesn't know much about second-round pick Jordon Dizon, his probable sidekick at middle linebacker this year (at some point, at least).

"The only one I know is the one I played with," Sims said of third-round pick Andre Fluellen, his former roommate at Florida State. "Other than that, best of luck to them. Let the games begin."

Sims said Fluellen is "just a natural, gifted athlete as a big person. I can't wait to see him in front of me." Asked if he had any advice for Dizon, Sims, who started all 16 games two years ago as a rookie, said, "It's a lot of stuff to take in, especially the first year. I already know Coach Marinelli's putting a lot of pressure on him but it's going to be a long season for him. Only thing I can tell him is just try to take in as much as you can."

Like Sims, quarterback Jon Kitna said he didn't pay much attention to the draft, but he gave the Lions high marks for their approach.

"I think that's the nuts and bolts of how you build your football organization is building it from the interior, the linemen on both sides of the football," Kitna said. "That's where you have to be solid and I think that's what they did."


King: Lions have that 6-10 look

Sports Illustrated's Peter King unveiled his post-draft NFL power rankings Monday and to no one's surprise the Patriots and Colts top the list. The Lions? Your lovable local team with seven straight losing seasons checks in a disappointing 26th.

King writes: "I give up. Every year I think this has to be the season Detroit finally gets over the hump. Nope. Won't get fooled again. The Lions are staring down the barrel of 6-10. But there's something different in Detroit, I think. It's Marinelli-ball. We're not seeing the quick fixes of the past."

King is right that Lions coach Rod Marinelli has taken a different approach to this offseason for the betterment of the franchise. He filled holes in the draft and free agency with unsexy but stable names, and the Lions will have a different look this year. They could be dangerous on offense with an improved running game and two of the game's most talented receivers in Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams. As always, though, it will come down to defense and scheduling.

I made my early-spring prediction of 8-8 when the schedule came out and don't intend to re-evaluate that until training camp. King ranked the Lions last in the NFC North (my division winner Minnesota was seventh, Green Bay eighth and Chicago 25th) and ahead of only two teams on their schedule, No. 28 San Francisco and No. 32 Atlanta.

You can read the whole article here:


Cherilus was nearly a Spartan

A quick edition of What Could Have Been, Michigan State style.

New Lions offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus said he wasn't sure he could play Division I football until he made a tour of college football camps the summer before his senior of high school. He visited Michigan State, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, Notre Dame and a handful of other schools, and left with his first scholarship offer — from MSU.

A few months later, Cherilus followed up with an official visit to East Lansing. Former offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland was his primary recruiter, linebacker Mike Labinjo was his host, and Cherilus thought long and hard about committing. He didn't, of course. Eventually, Cherilus signed with Boston College, his home-town school, but he said things might have been different if not for a tumultuous 2002 season that ended with Bobby Williams' firing.

"They were in my top five," Cherilus said after the Lions first rookie mini-camp practice Friday. "They had a good chance."