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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.


Camp fires Day 8: Kevin Smith can catch

Every day during training camp, Lions beat writer Dave Birkett takes you inside practice at Allen Park with notes, quotes and observations of interest.

• I'm writing about Kevin Smith in tomorrow's notebook, but a few thoughts on the rookie running back before I punch out for the night. Smith, a third-round pick out of Central Florida, took all the first-team reps in a two-minute drill at the end of afternoon practice. Lions coach Rod Marinelli said the staff was simply being conscious of Tatum Bell's work, as it is with a number of veterans during camp. Still, Smith caught the first two passes of the drill then carried on a draw. There's no reason to think he won't start the majority of the season as a rookie.

• Incidentally, no one knew much about Smith's hands coming out of college, when he caught just 55 career passes. But Smith insists he can catch. "I wouldn't be surprised sooner or later in my career if I'm at the slot position," Smith said. "No, I'm serious. Running post routes. If Reggie Bush can do it, I can do it."

• The scouting report on Smith as a runner hasn't changed much. He doesn't have top-end speed, but he's going to be productive in the NFL as long as he stays healthy because of his excellent vision and quick feet. I think he'll be a touchdown machine in time, too. In goal-line work, he always seems to slither through a hole for positive yardage.

• Bell is No. 1 on the depth chart for now, and Smith said he knows his role. "I'm the guy in the preseason game who comes in when all the vets got their reps and I try to show out," he said. "I go in and try to get 100 yards. I'm going to try to go in there and do what I got to do. I ain't going to play with them."

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Camp fires Day 8: Blocking drills

Every day during training camp, Lions beat writer Dave Birkett takes you inside practice at Allen Park with notes, quotes and observations of interest.

• For part of individual period this morning, the Lions matched their running backs and linebackers in a blocking drill that made for good viewing. First player that stood out was Jordon Dizon, who plowed over Artose Pinner one time through the line then side-stepped Jon Bradley the next. I know I wrote about Dizon plenty yesterday, but he's making noticeable strides and has the requisite linebacker instincts. (In a team period later, Dizon filled a gap perfectly and dotted fullback Jerome Felton.) The Lions still insist Paris Lenon, barring injury, will be their starting middle linebacker all year, which means it's not out of the question Dizon plays on the strong side. Ideally, he'd stay in the middle, where he's spending all of his time now. But if Dizon is your third-best linebacker you have to get him on the field.

• One more blocking drill observation: The drill is slanted the defense's way, but rookie running back Kevin Smith won a one-on-one battle with Alex Lewis. For Smith to win the starting job, he has to prove dependable in pass protection and catching the ball out of the backfield. So far, so good.

• Jon Kitna didn't have his best morning at quarterback and has been erratic at times the first week. Still, he's the clear No. 1 and anyone who says otherwise is lying. That said, Dan Orlovsky had a good day Thursday. He made several nice reads, threaded one ball along the sideline and didn't force any bad passes. Drew Stanton also hit Taye Biddle with a perfect deep ball for an easy touchdown. Like many young quarterbacks, Stanton isn't afraid take off and run when pressure comes. That's a great weapon to have, but my sense is coaches want him to stay in the pocket longer. It'll be interesting to see Orlovsky and Stanton when games go live next week.

• Dovonte Edwards worked with the second-team Thursday and looks to have supplanted Stanley Wilson as the fifth cornerback. Brian Kelly sat out the morning session to rest his balky knee, so Edwards and Keith Smith, who moved up to first-team nickel, got plenty of reps.

• On the injury front, everyone who was out Wednesday sat Thursday's morning session as well. Lions coach Rod Marinelli said safety Daniel Bullocks, on the PUP list as he recovers from knee surgery, will not play next week against the Giants but should be ready by the season opener. Felton left practice briefly after his right leg got rolled in a pile. Roy Williams also sat out a few plays with cramps. Both returned to practice and appear fine.


Camp fires Day 7: The Devale Ellis edition

Every day during training camp, Lions beat writer Dave Birkett takes you inside practice at Allen Park with notes, quotes and observations of interest.

• Scary moment in today's afternoon practice when Mike Furrey collided with Devale Ellis in a goal-line punt return drill. Ellis, who missed last season with a knee injury, lay on the ground for a short period while trainers attended to him. He said he felt a little whiplash and the doctors did right to make sure he didn't have a serious neck injury. A few plays later, Ellis was back running under a punt, and in the next team period he caught a touchdown pass.

• I've written it before but it bears repeating that Ellis is having a great camp. He should win the fifth receiver job (ahead of Brandon Middleton and fifth-round pick Kenny Moore), and as one of the fastest players on the team could be a weapon in the return game. The Lions' only concern with Ellis is his durability, but Wednesday's performance should help alleviate that fear. "I just wanted to show everybody I can play and I'm durable," Ellis said of his rush to return to the field after the Furrey collision. "I'm only 170 pounds, but I can take a hit. Mike's a former safety, 200 pounds, and we didn't have pads on and I'm fine. That's why I wanted to come back and take that punt to let them know that I can take shot, keep playing."

• Ellis had a drop in Wednesday's morning practice, but those have been few and far between the past seven days. In fact, I think he's got a long future ahead of him as a Lion. He's got good hands, can go the distance on returns, and is quick in his cuts in the Shaun McDonald mold. McDonald's contract is up after this season, so Ellis could be the future at slot receiver.

• McDonald, incidentally, remains on the PUP list while he rehabs from offseason knee surgery. He's also shown up for practice a couple times with his right thumb in a wrap. It's highly doubtful he'll be back for the preseason opener next week against the Giants.

• One last Ellis note, after a week of double sessions he hasn't had his knee swell up once. No draining, no nothing. He's ready to contribute this year.

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Camp fires Day 7: Dizon in the middle

Every day during training camp, Lions beat writer Dave Birkett takes you inside practice at Allen Park with notes, quotes and observations of interest.

• I spent part of the morning watching rookie linebacker Jordon Dizon, who's progression and comfort level is key to the Lions' chances this year. The second-round pick out of Colorado is constantly working to digest the defense. In one sequence with Dizon on the sideline Wednesday, linebackers coach Phil Snow would relay a play call to the middle linebacker on the field, then turn and repeat the hand signals for Dizon and ask him what was being called. Dizon said he's spent about 16 hours a day, from 6:30 a.m. until 10:30 p.m., at the Allen Park facility studying football since he signed last week.

• Here's a telling quote from Dizon, who's taking mostly third-team reps for now behind Paris Lenon and Buster Davis: "I'm stuck in the middle of a big learning curve, but the good thing about it is it's progressing. For me, the biggest thing is not make the same mistake twice." Dizon intercepted a Jon Kitna pass on the goal line in Tuesday morning's practice. Turns out, he was in the wrong place for that particular defense. Maybe that's a good sign, that he'll make plays regardless.

• One more Dizon quote: "They call a defense, I understand it, I know my alignment, I know where I'm supposed to be. But in terms of what the line is doing in front of me, what checks to make if they change to this formation go to this formation — I know the basics, but it's when there's a check involved that's when I struggle."

• Wednesday's morning practice was pad-free as the Lions have some minor injuries mounting and are down to about 72 healthy bodies. Still, there's a competitiveness between the offense and defense. Jon Kitna to an official pleading for a pass interference call after Keith Smith tripped Ron Bellamy on an in route: "What, your flag got stuck?" On Tuesday, it was Dwight Smith angling for a call when Stanley Wilson was flagged for pass interference on Roy Williams. "Where's your job at," he asked the official. The officials in camp now work local college games.

• Center Dominic Raiola was back practicing after a day off to rest a sprained left ankle. The Lions had no botched snaps after fumbling six quarterback-center exchanges with Raiola sidelined Tuesday.

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Saturday's scrimmage

Details of Saturday's open scrimmage were in the paper today, but I'll the post the info here for our Internet readers:

It's a controlled scrimmage first, but it should be interesting to see backup quarterbacks Dan Orlovsky and Drew Stanton plus rookies Gosder Cherilus, Kevin Smith and others in the closest thing they'll see to live action before next week's preseason opener.

"Black and Blue Fan Day" is at the Lions Allen Park facility, just off Southfield Freeway. Gates open at 2 p.m., practice starts at 3:30 p.m., and admission is free but you need a ticket to get in. Tickets can be obtained at Wireless GIANT stores in the Detroit area starting at noon on Thursday.

Just a note, in the event of inclement weather, the practice will be moved inside and closed to the public. For more information, visit or call the team's training camp hotline at 313-262-2882.


Camp fires Day 6: Fan frenzy

Every day during training camp, Lions beat writer Dave Birkett takes you inside practice at Allen Park with a few notes, quotes and observations of interest.

• The Lions just wrapped up their morning practice, their first public workout of the summer (previous sessions were open to invited guests and scheduled season-ticket holders) and drew more than 500 fans. One walked away with an autographed Mike Furrey football (courtesy of the team) and anyone who stuck around filled their autograph book with signatures. Just about every player stopped to sign. Kevin Smith and Dwight Smith were two of the most accommodating, while coach Rod Marinelli signed or chatted with anyone who said hi.

• The biggest cheers of the day came when Mike Furrey beat Ramzee Robinson down the middle of the field for a deep touchdown pass. Safety LaMarcus Hicks tipped a ball on the next play, and a group of defensive players turned to the crowd to encourage cheers for their unit, too.

• Jordon Dizon made his first interception of camp, picking off Jon Kitna in 11-on-11 team work. Fellow middle linebacker Buster Davis had the hit of the morning, blasting fullback Jerome Felton a few periods later. Felton had the hit of the day Monday when he knocked off Davis helmet with a ferocious block. That play was highlighted (and replayed) several times by Marinelli in the Monday night team meeting. No doubt it served as the impetus for Davis' good day.

• Two other football-related observations: First, Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams weren't flawless Tuesday by any means, but they ooze so much talent it's silly. Johnson beat Robinson for a deep touchdown and just ran away from him in the final 10 yards with the ball still in the air. I don't imagine he'll be a Pro Bowler this year, but it won't be long. Second, Dovonte Edwards has a shot to make the team if the Lions keep five corners. Edwards has had a better camp than Robinson and Stanley Wilson so far.

• Lastly, add two more names to the injury report in center Dominic Railoa and defensive tackle Langston Moore. Raiola has a sprained ankle and should be fine, though his absence Tuesday led to six fumbled quarterback-center exchanges. Moore sprained his shoulder Tuesday and is due for an MRI later today.

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Camp fires Day 5: An earful

Every day during training camp, Lions beat writer Dave Birkett takes you inside practice at Allen Park with a few notes, quotes and observations of interest.

• Looks like the Lions will go conventional with their use of the new defensive speaker system. Middle linebackers Paris Lenon, Buster Davis and Jordon Dizon have had their helmets outfitted for the system and practiced using it for the first time today. During team drills, defensive coordinator Joe Barry used a walkie-talkie to relay play calls to Lenon and Co. At the same time, linebackers coach Phil Snow hand-signaled in the plays. The nuts and bolts of how that will work during the season still is being ironed out, but Lenon reported no hiccups with the dry run today. Hand signals aren't going away, but Barry said he hopes to test the speaker system another nine or 10 times during the preseason. On game days, two helmets will be wired for the system but only one player can have it on the field at any given time.

• Devale Ellis continues to have an eye-catching camp. Competing for the No. 5 receiver spot and return duties, Ellis made a few nice catches in traffic during full-team drills this morning. On special teams, I don't think he's dropped a punt yet. Passing-game coordinator Kippy Brown indicated the other likely candidate, fifth-round draft choice Kenneth Moore, has a ways to go as a receiver the other day. Moore was drafted for his return skills.

• The Lions are counting on Ikaika Alama-Francis to contribute at defensive end this year, and Rod Marinelli is after him to be more consistent. An example from morning practice: In one drill, Marinelli praised Alama-Francis for having good pad level and good get off (he got under right tackle George Foster's pads and knocked him backwards with ease). In the next, Marinelli hollered that Alama-Francis needed to get off the ball better and "I haven't seen you make one play all day."

• Dewayne White and Jeff Backus had two good, clean battles in one-on-one line work. There was a little pushing, however, between Langston Moore and Matt Butler.

THIS NOTE UPDATED 12:30 P.M. TUESDAY A football man watching practice with a more trained eye than I said rookie defensive tackle Andre Fluellen looked quick and had good hips after seeing him in position drills. A third-round pick, Fluellen should make the team, but something tells me the Lions wouldn't mind if the left elbow injury he suffered last year flares up during camp. That way they could stash him on injured reserve for the year and keep Shaun Cody, who's having a great camp, and Moore as backup tackles.

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Camp fires Day 4: Backus and White fight

Every day during training camp, Lions beat writer Dave Birkett takes you inside practice at Allen Park with a few notes, quotes and observations of interest.

• The big news of the day — or, at least, the news; this happens every camp — was a morning skirmish between left tackle Jeff Backus and defensive end Dewayne White. White got angry and knocked Backus to the ground after Backus was holding his jersey during one play in team session, and a couple periods later the frustration boiled over. After White caught Backus near the helmet on a rush, Backus pinned him to the ground and started punching. The altercation lasted a few seconds as players jumped in (offensive lineman Frank Davis came in swinging at another unidentified teammate), but it was enough to deflate the energy when practice resumed. Lions coach Rod Marinelli appeared to cut the session short.

"It's training camp, man, it happens," White said. "He said his peace, I said my peace. It's over with."

"Just training camp," Backus said.

• Incidentally, Backus and White are two players the Lions are counting on for big things this year. Backus got hurt and struggled in protection last year, while White started the season possessed, got injured, then watched the Lions' pass rush slump without him. To contend for the playoffs, they need both players healthy and productive in 2008.

• Manny Ramirez took most of the reps at No. 1 right guard during Sunday's morning session. Stephen Peterman pulled the wrong direction on the first play and was relegated to second team. Ramirez slimmed down and is competing with Frank Davis, who's starting at left guard for the moment with Edwin Mulitalo on PUP, to be the No. 1 guard off the bench. Both will get plenty of playing time in exhibition games.

• Mike Furrey tried his best to get fans cheering during position drills. They took his cue and celebrated when Calvin Johnson beat Travis Fisher down the sideline for a touchdown. Jared DeVries took issue. "That was a sack," he yelled to the fans.

• Final nugget for the day, Stanley Wilson made a perfect read when Drew Stanton audibled to a quick hitch route at the end of the first team session. He broke on the ball, but hesitated a split second into his break and Ron Bellamy turned the other way with a completion. If Wilson's going to make this team, he's got to get his confidence back to where he trusts his first instinct.

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Camp fires- Day 3

Every day during training camp, Lions beat writer Dave Birkett takes you inside practice at Allen Park with a few notes, quotes and observations of interest.

• The defensive line, one of the biggest question marks entering the season, has looked good through the first five practices of training camp. Shaun Cody had a very disruptive day today, Cory Redding looks sharp, Chuck Darby's a strong man and players like Ikaika Alama-Francis have had their moments. I'm just not sure what to make of it, though, since the biggest question is the offensive line. They've been average at best so far, but it's a chicken-and-egg thing and we probably won't have an answer to until we see some new teams.

• Alama-Francis had the rush of the day in one-on-one line drills, bull-rushing Chris Patrick and knocking him on his back to end the period.

• Rookie Kenneth Moore showed up well in a rapid-fire receiving drill where receivers coach Shawn Jefferson pelts passes at receivers through tackling dummies from close range. It'll be an interesting battle for the fifth receiver spot between Moore, who was drafted for his return skills, and Devale Ellis, who's had a great three days. Ellis will have to assuage injury concerns to win the job.

• Receiver Reggie Ball is likely out for the season with a knee injury. Aveion Cason limped off the practice field Saturday with an apparent ankle injury.

• Quick sound bite: Keith Smith jumped a Jon Kitna pass to Roy Williams for an interception in 11-on-11 work and new secondary coach Jimmy Lake turned to the few hundred spectators on hand and said, "Hey, where's the crowd? He just got a pick." When Brian Kelly tipped a pass for a near-interception on the next play, he got a handful of applause. Note to fans, if you're coming out, it's OK to cheer.

• Lastly, if there was any doubt, the Lions will not receive a compensatory pick in next year's draft for the selection of Army linebacker Caleb Campbell, who, in a change of policy, was told earlier this week he would have to wait two years before he's eligible to play. In an e-mail to The Oakland Press, Randall Liu, the NFC information manager for the NFL, wrote, "There is no compensation. Teams draft at their own risk."


Camp fires - Day 2

Every day during training camp, Lions beat writer Dave Birkett takes you inside practices at Allen Park with a few notes, quotes and observations of interest.

• It's only two days in, but the most impressive player in camp so far is cornerback Leigh Bodden. When Bodden intercepted a deep pass in Friday's morning session, staying with receiver Brandon Middleton on an out-and-up route, safety Dwight Smith barked, "That's our money man."

• I know I've said this before, but the additions of Bodden, Smith and Brian Kelly make the secondary much, much better (and that's without even considering a potentially healthy Daniel Bullocks, who remains on the PUP list). I stand by my prediction that if the Lions are able to generate a consistent pass rush they'll be a top-half-of-the-NFL defense this year.

• By my count, the defense made five interceptions in the morning session, including one each by linebackers Paris Lenon and Buster Davis.

• Linebacker Gilbert Gardner took some No. 1 reps at weak-side linebacker with Ernie Sims still being careful with his surgically-repaired shoulder. Unless Takeo Spikes signs, there should be roster space for both Gardner and Buster Davis, who's had a good first two days.

• Rookie Kevin Smith is catching the ball well coming out of the backfield. Tatum Bell's a solid pass protector, which might give him the edge in the running-back competition to start, but Smith is primed for a very productive season.

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Inside the Bodden deal

One way or another, the new four-year contract extension Leigh Bodden agreed to Thursday should provide the cornerback the sense of stability he desires. Only, it may not come in a Lions uniform.

Bodden's deal is worth a total of $27 million. He gets $2 million when he signs and another $8.6 million in the form of a roster bonus when the NFL calendar flips come March. That's the key component of whether Bodden will be a Lion long-term or not.

If Bodden has a good season, it's entirely possible the Lions decide to pick up that bonus, steep as it is. If he doesn't, and as of now he's not assured a starting spot (though one is likely), the Lions can simply wash their hands of the cornerback acquired in the Shaun Rogers trade. Along with his signing bonus, Bodden is due a salary of about $1.7 million this year. He has two years left on his original contract.

Even if the Lions cut ties with Bodden after the season, the 26-year-old (he'll be 27 on opening day) should land a sizeable, multi-year contract as a free agent. He's had injury problems in the past, but is coming off his best season and no one questions his ability to cover. The Lions would like him to be part of their future, but they have their other top cornerbacks tied up beyond this year as well. Keith Smith, maybe the team's best cover man, signed a two-year deal this offseason. Brian Kelly, a Tampa 2 disciple, came aboard for three seasons as a free agent. And nickel back Travis Fisher re-signed for three years in the offseason.

Bodden got his deal (he wanted one in Cleveland, which is why he was available through trade) and one way or another he'll get paid, but only time will tell who's signing the checks.


Lions, Bodden agree on 4-year extension

The Lions and cornerback Leigh Bodden have agreed to a four-year contract extension, his agent Alvin Keels confirmed Thursday afternoon.

"He's definitely excited about the upcoming season," Keels said. "He hopes to be in Detroit for the remainder of his career."

Keels would not comment on the terms of the deal, but a league source said the contract is worth $27 million overall and includes $2 million up front and an $8.6-million roster bonus due in March.

Bodden, acquired from Cleveland in the Shaun Rogers trade this offseason, has two years left on his original contract. The new deal runs through 2013.

Camp fires - Day 1

Every day during training camp, Lions beat writer Dave Birkett takes you inside practices at Allen Park with a few notes, quotes and observations of interest.

• On one of his first carries of 11-on-11, rookie running back Kevin Smith got hit hard and knocked to the ground by safety Greg Blue. Blue's a pile driver, no doubt, but I highlight this to tell you Smith is working on running with better leverage, a knock of his coming out of the draft. "It was just a lesson learned, get low," Smith said. "First day in pads, baby. Sometimes you just got to take that. You smile at it, you get up and my mind is it won't happen again."

• In case you wondered, Smith said hits like that weren't a problem in college. "It's kind of different because (at) Central Florida I was the man so you couldn't really touch me in practice," Smith said. "Out here it's a free-for-all. Everybody can take the shots that they want. I'm at the bottom of the barrel right now." I know I've said this before, but if Smith is productive on the field his personality will make him a star.

• Don't write Devale Ellis off yet in the battle for the fifth receiver spot. Ellis made a couple nice catches — and moves after catches — in Thursday's morning practice. He's finally healthy, so if he proves a capable return man he'll make the team.

• In his first one-on-one of the day, rookie Gosder Cherilus set too deep and got beat inside by second-year end Ikaika Alama-Francis. Cherilus got beat inside by Cliff Avril on his second one-on-one, but the big right tackle is a presence in pads.

• Alex Lewis intercepted a wobbly Drew Stanton pass in 7-on-7s. Lewis looks like he'll start at strong-side linebacker — unless the Lions sign Takeo Spikes. We should know more on Spikes in the coming days, but Lewis stayed in town most of the offseason to prepare for his opportunity.


Lions sign top pick Cherilus

The Lions agreed to terms on a five-year contract with first-round draft pick Gosder Cherilus about 45 minutes ago. No other details of the deal were immediately available.

Cherilus, the 17th overall pick, will be in camp Thursday morning, his agent Greg Diulus said. He is expected to compete for the starting job at right tackle. George Foster will enter camp as the starter.

For more on this story, read tomorrow morning's Oakland Press.

Was Dizon the pick if DUI charges were known?

Lions president Matt Millen acknowledged Tuesday that the team was not aware of second-round pick Jordon Dizon's arrest for driving under the influence six days before April's NFL draft.

"We do all the background checks, we run all that stuff right up to the draft," Millen said. "None of that came through."

Dizon was cited April 20 for DUI and driving the wrong way on a one-way street. His blood alcohol level was .097, above the legal limit of .08. Two days before training camp opens, the question remains whether that would have been enough for the Lions, had they known, to pass on Dizon in the draft?

"I don't know" how it would have impacted our decision, Millen said. "I don't even want to think about it because it didn't happen."

Given all the facts, it's quite possible the Lions would have bypassed Dizon and drafted running back Ray Rice, taken 10 picks later by Baltimore, with the 45th overall choice. The Lions liked Rice and needed a running back, and traded up at the start of the third round to grab Kevin Smith.

Still in the market for a middle linebacker, Dizon likely would have been available at the top of Round 3 — no other linebackers went between Dizon and Tavares Gooden, who went 71st overall to the Ravens — and, with his judgment in question, the Lions probably would not have needed to trade up to draft him as they did Smith. There's a lot of projection involved, but that, in turn, might have saved the team its fourth-round pick next year, which the Lions sent Dallas' way to move up and draft Cliff Avril.

All that said, we're still in the giddy stage about draft picks (soon to change once pads come on). Smith will be the starter at some point this year and had an ultra-productive career at Central Florida, Dizon will have an opportunity to contribute at some point this season, even Avril looks like a solid add as a situational rusher. Still, the Lions won't know if they made the right call until the careers of Dizon, Smith and especially Rice play out.

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Lions sign 7th-round pick Cohen

The Lions signed their second of nine draft choices, agreeing to terms Monday with defensive tackle Landon Cohen, a seventh-round pick out of Ohio. A representative of Cohen's agent, Robert Roche, confirmed the deal, which has not been announced by the team yet. No terms were immediately available.

Cohen, the 216th overall pick, is considered a longshot to make the roster after missing most of the offseason practice program because of school conflicts.

"It's hard," Lions coach Rod Marinelli said in June of how far behind Cohen was. "He's got all the stuff. The movement, bright, and all those things, now he's just got to practice football."

Cohen is a good bet for the practice squad as the Lions already have a logjam at defensive tackle. Chuck Darby, Cory Redding, Langston Moore, Shaun Cody and third-round pick Andre Fluellen are vying for probably four spots. Ikaika Alama-Francis also can play tackle in nickel situations.


Roe feeling fine; MSU's Canada trip off

Summer's over, at least for me, and I'll be back to blogging about the Lions all week, but first I had a quick update on incoming Michigan State forward Delvon Roe.

Had the chance to talk to Roe last week and the freshman from Lakewood, Ohio, said he's doing great in his rehab from microfracture knee surgery and has been cleared for all basketball activity. He's not doing everything yet. For precautionary reasons, he won't participate in contact drills and live scrimmages until school resumes. But he insists "I can do the same things I did in October, November, before I got hurt. I still got the same amount of explosiveness, which I'm surprised about. But everything's looking great."

Roe, it should be noted, had a less invasive form of the knee surgery that effectively ended the NBA careers of Chris Webber, Penny Hardaway and Jamal Mashburn. He said he had only about 10 percent of his meniscus removed — others have 40 percent of more. In some ways, he said the injury was a blessing that forced him to work on his jump shot and ball handling, the two rawest areas of his game.

Roe said he expects to average a double-double this year but will be "a pretty small piece of the puzzle compared to" Raymar Morgan, Kalin Lucas, Goran Suton and the rest of MSU's returnees. I know Purdue is most pundits' pick to win the Big Ten, but the Spartans, assuming Roe is healthy and ready to go at the start of the season, are my choice to win their first conference crown since 2001.

As a side note, the Canada trip MSU coach Tom Izzo talked about at the end of last season, basically a foreign tour that affords teams an opportunity for early practice time, is now a no-go (despite a spring report in the Victoria Times Columnist that MSU would play the University of Victoria on Aug. 30). The only feasible time to make a trip was Labor Day weekend, but NCAA rules would prohibit Roe and fellow freshmen Korie Lucious and Draymond Green from playing. With three of this year's expected contributors unavailable, the trip became much less useful.