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.


Analyzing the cuts

The Lions made the smart move Saturday when they decided to keep rookie seventh-round pick Landon Cohen on their 53-man roster. Cohen had a good preseason — better than some other defensive linemen that made the team — and likely would have been claimed had the Lions exposed him to waivers.

But keeping an 11th lineman at the expense of a third running back (or even a fifth receiver) could prove problematic over the course of a 16-game season. I say "could" because I don't know if the Lions will stay at 11 all year. It's certainly possible they trade or release a veteran like Shaun Cody (or spare fullback Sean McHugh or tight end John Owens once Dan Campbell proves healthy) in order to solidify one of their thinner position groups. Nothing's imminent and I wouldn't expect a Rudi Johnson signing, but if the right move is there it will be made.

For now, Shaun McDonald will handle punt returns and Mike Furrey is in charge of kicks. Kevin Smith will start at running back with Tatum Bell as his backup and rookie fullback Jerome Felton as the emergency No. 3. One injury to any of those five (not to mention top receivers Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams) and the Lions are in trouble, but that would have been the case regardless. It's not like Aveion Cason, Brian Calhoun or Artose Pinner — Cason and Pinner were placed on injured reserve Saturday and Pinner was released — was going to carry the rushing load.

As for Cohen, don't expect big gameday contributions from him this year. He'll likely join fellow rookie defensive linemen Andre Fluellen and Cliff Avril on the inactive list most Sundays, but he has a bright future ahead of him, especially under Rod Marinelli's tutelage.

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Updated cuts: Jonathan Scott released, Aveion Cason on IR

The Lions made their final two roster moves late Saturday, releasing tackle Jonathan Scott and placing running back/return man Aveion Cason on injured reserve with a badly sprained ankle. By placing Cason on IR and ending his season, the Lions enter next week with just two running backs, Kevin Smith and Tatum Bell, and no real return man. Fullback Jerome Felton also can carry the ball, but expect the Lions to explore their trade/free-agent options. In cutting Scott, they opted to keep Damion Cook as the final offensive lineman. Rookie seventh-round pick Landon Cohen also made the team as the 11th defensive lineman. Cohen earned a spot with a strong final preseason game.

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Final cuts - 19 waived so far

The Lions have announced the first 19 of 21 players they released today on their way down to the 53-man roster limit. Most notable among the cuts were linebacker Buster Davis, safety Greg Blue, cornerback Dovonte Edwards and receivers Devale Ellis and John Standeford. They also placed running back Brian Calhoun on injured reserve with what coach Rod Marinelli termed a "thigh muscle tear." Calhoun has finished all three of his NFL seasons on IR.

By cutting Ellis, Standeford and Brandon Middleton, the Lions appear to be going with just four receivers — Calvin Johnson, Roy Williams, Mike Furrey and Shaun McDonald — and extra help at fullback (Sean McHugh) and tight end (John Owens). Rookie fifth-round pick Kenneth Moore was released and is a prime candidate for the practice squad.

Davis had a strong camp but got caught in a numbers game at linebacker. The Lions are committed to second-round pick Jordon Dizon as Paris Lenon's backup at middle linebacker and wanted reserves at both outside positions. They kept Anthony Cannon and Gilbert Gardner, who will back up Alex Lewis on the strong side, over Davis and Leon Joe. If Davis is not claimed, the Lions will try to re-sign him to the practice squad

With two cuts to go, here's the list of those waived so far:

WR Ron Bellamy, LB Darnell Bing, S Greg Blue, LB Buster Davis, OG Frank Davis, DE Victor DeGrate, CB Dovonte Edwards, WR Devale Ellis, DE Rudolph Hardie, TE Clark Harris, QB Drew Henson, S LaMarcus Hicks, OG Corey Hulsey, LB Leon Joe, WR Brandon Middleton, WR Kenneth Moore, RB Artose Pinner, WR John Standeford, CB Kiwaukee Thomas.

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Lions to keep just three backs?

The Lions are in the process of cutting players right now, but one player who already got the bad news is running back Artose Pinner. That means the Lions are likely going with three backs this year, starter Kevin Smith, backup Tatum Bell and return man Aveion Cason. Brian Calhoun is likely on the chopping block, too, and with Cason hurt (ankle) it's possible the Lions could scour the free-agent wire for another runner.

The Lions have until 6 p.m. to get down to the 53-man roster limit. Their moves are expected to be embargoed when they are announced later this morning, but we'll bring you a full update as soon as possible.


Lions-Bills postgame thoughts

Coaches will meet Friday to hash out who's on and who's off the 53-man roster. A couple players helped (and hurt) their cause in Thursday's final exhibition game, a 14-6 win over the Bills. I won't pretend to know exactly what coaches are thinking at this moment, but to the naked here's a few movers and sliders heading into cut day.

• Landon Cohen. The rookie seventh-round pick showed up at defensive tackle. He had a sack early, two tackles for loss and four tackles. He's still got an uphill battle with the depth on the defensive line, but he'll at least make coaches think about keeping an 11th lineman or shedding a veteran like Shaun Cody instead. (I know it's unusual, but I'd keep an 11th lineman over a ninth defensive back. None of the secondary players in contention for a roster spot opened eyes like Cohen did and the Lions have already decided to keep just six linebackers.)

• Daniel Bullocks. Bullocks wasn't in danger of not making the team, but he saw his first live action in more than a year and came out feeling good. The big test will be Friday, when he gets a day-after report on his surgically-repaired right knee, but a healthy Bullocks solidifies the secondary with eight reliable players.

• Brian Calhoun. Calhoun started at running back with Kevin Smith and Tatum Bell out for precautionary reasons, but he lasted just five plays before limping off with a quad injury. Considering his injury history, the Lions will likely cut him a settlement check and move on.

• Gilbert Gardner. I thought Gardner played best of the three linebackers — Leon Joe and Anthony Cannon being the others — in contention for the sixth spot. (Jordon Dizon is a lock to make the team and Buster Davis should earn a spot as well.) He recovered a fumble, made one stop on special teams and had three tackles (though it seemed like more). Cannon is still the best special-teams player of the bunch, and that could tilt the scales in his favor.

• Artose Pinner. Pinner played most of the game in place of Calhoun and ran hard, but was pretty pedestrian at the end of the day. He whiffed badly on one block, too, leading to a sack on Dan Orlovsky. If I'm the Lions I'd keep a second fullback (Sean McHugh) over a fourth running back. In a gameday pinch, fullback Jerome Felton can carry the ball. Lions coach Rod Marinelli said Felton was his emergency plan Thursday if something happened to Pinner.

• Greg Blue. Last one for the night, Blue pulled a hamstring Thursday, but that may save him from the chopping block. He missed a tackle on special teams in the first half, and with Bullocks' solid night there may not be room for a fifth safety. If his hamstring is serious (or even if it's not, I guess), the Lions can hide him on IR for the year and keep that 11th lineman or an extra corner like Dovonte Edwards or Ramzee Robinson, both of who were up and down Thursday.

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Lions to keep 6 linebackers

Lions president Matt Millen told his linebackers earlier this week that the team only plans to keep six backers when it settles its 53-man roster Saturday. That means, assuming the Lions follow the rule of 25 — 25 offensive players, 25 defensive players and three special teamers — the final defensive roster spot will go to a ninth man in the secondary.

Already, the Lions look poised to keep 10 defensive linemen, a position of great depth. If seventh-round pick Landon Cohen is the odd man out, he'll land a spot on the practice squad (if he's not claimed by another team).

At linebacker, only starters Ernie Sims, Paris Lenon and Alex Lewis and second-round pick Jordon Dizon are guaranteed roster spots. Buster Davis, currently running second at middle linebacker, should make the team, too, but that would leave either Sims on the weak side or Lewis on the strong side without a true backup. If the Lions keep three middle linebackers, Dizon is a candidate to move outside to improve his chances of getting on the field.

Gilbert Gardner is the most versatile of the Lions' remaining linebackers, having played both strong and weak side in Indianapolis. Gardner and Anthony Cannon have been alternating as Sims' backup throughout the preseason, while Leon Joe has shown flashes of playmaking ability on the strong side. Cannon made his mark on special teams the last two years, but Millen indicated in his meeting that only five linebackers are likely to dress on gameday.

Cases can be made for safety Greg Blue and cornerbacks Dovonte Edwards and Ramzee Robinson as the ninth defensive back. I'd give the edge to Blue for now for reasons I've already explained, but what happens in Buffalo could be the deciding factor.

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Previewing the Bills

Jon Kitna, Roy Williams, Cory Redding and others might not even play, but with several roster spots still up for grabs there's plenty to watch in Thursday's Lions-Bills game. Here are three things on top of my list:

• Injuries. Dan Campbell and Drew Stanton are out and Daniel Bullocks hasn't played, but the Lions have been pretty healthy thus far this preseason, at least most of their major contributors. The last thing they want is for that to change now, hence the likely benching of Kitna, Williams and Redding. Buffalo has been a house of horrors for the Lions in the preseason. Three years ago, Jeff Garcia broke his leg in the final preseason game against the Bills. Before that, James Stewart went down with a dislocated shoulder. Even the starters that play won't last long, but staying healthy is far and away the major focus of preseason Game 4.

• Artose Pinner. Aveion Cason is out with a sprained ankle and rookie Kevin Smith probably won't play beyond the first quarter. That means there'll be plenty of opportunity for Pinner and fellow backup running backs Tatum Bell and Brian Calhoun to prove they deserve a roster spot. I think Bell's on the team. The Lions would be foolish not to insure Smith with a 1,000-yard back better than anyone they'll find on the open market. Calhoun ran hard last week, but he's behind Pinner in the pecking order. Pinner's already solid on special teams, and if he looks like he can contribute out of the backfield, there's more reason to keep him over a ninth offensive lineman or extra tight end.

• Bullocks. The third-year safety hasn't seen live action since the third game of last preseason, when he tore his ACL on what was to be his final defensive snap. Lions coach Rod Marinelli said he expects Bullocks to play Thursday, and how far along he is in his recovery could determine what the Lions do with their final defensive roster spot. Greg Blue is in the mix as a fifth safety, but one school of thought says the Lions would be better served keeping a seventh linebacker.

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Cuts are coming

The Lions made their first round of cuts Tuesday, releasing Dave Rayner, Claude Harriott, Carroll Madison, Stephen Howell and Tyrone Pruitt. The real dilemma, however, comes Saturday when they'll need to chop 22 more players off the roster to get down to 53. There are several scenarios in the wind, and much could depend on Thursday's exhibition finale at Buffalo. Do the Lions keep four running backs with the new commitment to the ground game? Five receivers as usual? A second fullback or fourth tight end at the expense of a ninth lineman? And on defense, who gets the 25th spot, safety Greg Blue, cornerback Dovonte Edwards, linebacker Leon Joe or someone else?

For the first time in Rod Marinelli's three seasons, the Lions have some decisions to make. Some of the players they release should get picked up by other teams and keeping 10 defensive linemen looks like a lock. But the one thing that stood out in last week's exhibition win over Cleveland is that none of the bubble guys has jumped out as a must-keep at this point.

An example: Edwards and Blue (along with cornerback Ramzee Robinson) are battling for a possible ninth spot in the defensive backfield. It may have been a case of trying to hard, but both played a hit-and-miss second half Saturday. Edwards played well early, then in the span of three plays in the fourth quarter whiffed on a tackle and was slow to tag Kevin Kasper after he went to the turf to make a catch. No doubt that situational recognition was noticed by the coaches. Blue, likewise, missed an open-field tackle in the third quarter (on a play that was nullified by penalty), then came back the next play to stop Jason Wright on a 9-yard gain.

Going into Game 4, I'd say Blue has a slight edge over Edwards if the Lions do keep nine in the secondary, but that's more because of uncertainty with Daniel Bullocks' knee than anything either player did or did not do. Both guys can be contributors in this league (and should find a roster spot somewhere), but that's how slim the margin is between players.

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Could Foster start at right tackle?

George Foster started at right tackle for the third straight game Saturday and it's not out of the question he stays there when the Lions open the season Sept. 7 at Atlanta. It's a scenario I'm going to examine in tomorrow's paper, but here's a preview:

Though most remember him for his false-start penalties last year, Foster has been "solid" — Rod Marinelli's word — throughout the preseason. He's had one penalty, a false start in the exhibition opener against the Giants, and hasn't allowed a sack in what amounts to four quarters of work. He appears more comfortable in the Lions' new zone-blocking offense, though there still are holes.

"I think he's much more calm," offensive coordinator Jim Colletto said. "We're doing the things he's been used to doing from all his years in Denver so he has less questions. He kind of knows what we're asking him to do."

There's a lot of money and expectations tied up in rookie first-round pick Gosder Cherilus, who's played pretty well this preseason, too. I'd fully expect Cherilus to start at some point this year, but Colletto said last week Cherilus still needs to refine several areas of his game.

"Goz has to learn to play with a little better bent knee, not play so high, learn to control his hands a little bit in pass protection because he hits everybody in the facemask all the time, and little better sets in his pass protection," Colletto said. "As far as his skill and his toughness and his abilities, there's no question. So it's just a matter of him getting comfortable, learning those skills a little bit better."

Cherilus played one series late in the first half Saturday next to starting right guard Stephen Peterman and has taken intermittent reps with the first team all camp. He still could win the right-tackle job, but Colletto said it's not out of the question Cherilus begins his NFL career as a backup.

"Goz is going to be a hell of a player," Colletto said. "I'm not sure he's going to be ready Day 1. He'll end up being the starting tackle at this place eventually. When that'll be or where, I don't know. But I don't know if he's right now ready to carry the load and George has been doing real well."

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Lions-Browns postgame thoughts

The Lions improved to 3-0 in the preseason with a 26-6 win over the Browns. The running game struggled early going against a 3-4 defense for the first time this year, but Jon Kitna led two field-goal drives in his only work and Kevin Smith added a 35-yard touchdown run before leaving in the second quarter. The last time the Lions started 3-0 in the preseason was 1995, when they went on to finish 10-6 and made the playoffs. Don't get too giddy, though. Cleveland was playing without six regulars, including Braylon Edwards, Derek Anderson and Jamal Lewis.

A few thoughts before I get home and watch the TV copy:

• Dan Orlovsky played the final three quarters and acquitted himself nicely. He threw one horrible interception, panicking in the face of oncoming blitz, but made up for by leading four scoring drives and making a great downfield block on Smith's touchdown run. Orlovsky took out two defenders and impeded another with his block, allowing Smith to sidestep the final guy en route to the end zone.

• Devale Ellis had a good game in his pursuit of a job as the fifth receiver. Ellis let a pass slide right through his hands last week, but he caught four balls for 60 yards Saturday. His best catch came in the fourth quarter, when he held on to an Orlovsky pass after being popped from behind by safety Brandon Mitchell. Ellis still didn't get much of a look on punt return. He went back for four punts, two landed out of bounds and two went out of the end zone. He was visibly frustrated at not getting a return opportunity, but I still think it's his job to lose (assuming the Lions keep five receivers) based on his camp performance and history.

• That's not to say Brandon Middleton and even John Standeford did their part to keep it a competition. Middleton made a tough catch for a touchdown late in the third quarter and has return skills, and Standeford continues to catch everything thrown his way. The Purdue product even made a tackle on special teams, which will be the deciding factor in who gets the roster spot. One or both of those guys are destined for the practice squad.

• My first instinct is that rookie fullback Jerome Felton didn't have his best game, but maybe that comes from the lasting memory of him getting trucked in pass protection on a fourth-quarter sack by linebacker David McMillan. The Lions have some roster decisions to make next week. Felton's job is safe, but if the tape proves me right the Lions might be inclined to keep backup fullback Sean McHugh (who can play some tight end) over an extra tight end.

• Shaun Cody had a good game against a stout Cleveland offensive line. He started in place of the injured Cory Redding, and spent a good chunk of time harassing quarterback Brady Quinn.

• Last thing for the night, the Lions opened the game in a four-receiver, no-huddle set in order to work on their two-minute offense. The first team hadn't had a chance to do that live all preseason, so Lions coach Rod Marinelli said they tried to manufacture a situation to get it on film. He also went for a fourth-and-1 he normally would have punted in order to get that on film. Good moves, because the starters will play about a series next week against Buffalo to ward off injuries.


Previewing the Browns

The all-important third preseason game is here, but don't expect the Lions to play their starters into the third quarter like they may have done in the past. They've stayed remarkably healthy so far — most of the first unit and key reserves, anyway. There's no sense chancing that, plus there's enough positions at the back of the roster still up for grabs that the coaching staff will give players the opportunity to win their way on or off the team. That's a good thing. I'll have a position battle breakdown in the paper next week, but there's more competition here than the previous two years combined under Rod Marinelli.

Now, for three things I'll be watching for today:

• The ninth defensive back. In all likelihood, the Lions will keep nine DBs. Cornerbacks Brian Kelly, Leigh Bodden, Travis Fisher and Keith Smith, and safeties Gerald Alexander, Daniel Bullocks, Dwight Smith and Kalvin Pearson are guaranteed spots. No. 9 is up for grabs with corners Dovonte Edwards and Ramzee Robinson and safety Greg Blue in the mix. Secondary coach Jimmy Lake said both Robinson and Edwards have had good camps, but Robinson has been more consistent in games. Edwards rebounded with a good effort last week against the Bengals, but he struggled Week 1 against the Giants. Blue is a monster hitter whose ball skills have gotten perceptively better since last season. Typically, teams lean towards five corners, but both Pearson and Alexander can play nickel corner, which evens the field for Blue. Whoever plays best in the next two games — and contributes the most on special teams — should win the job.

• George Foster. Left for dead after last season than re-signed when no free-agent replacement surfaced, Foster will make his third straight start at right tackle — to many people's surprise. "I ain't a bad player," Foster said. Foster has had one penalty in limited snaps this preseason (his big issue last year) and appears to be closing in on a roster spot, maybe at the expense of Jonathan Scott. Scott was thought to be the Lions' swing tackle, but rookie Gosder Cherilus, breathing down Foster's neck for the starting right-tackle job, has worked on the left side some this preseason. Both Foster and Cherilus should get work with the first team today.

• The punt return. Kind of a rehash of last week's Devale Ellis watch, but the Lions are still trying to identify their punt returner. Marinelli said Aveion Cason is No. 1 for now, but there's an opportunity for Ellis and fellow receiver Brandon Middleton to win that job and solidify a spot on the team. Ellis has gone back for one return each of the first two weeks; one punt sailed out of bounds and he returned the other two yards in a hailstorm of traffic. Middleton went back for a return last week for the first time since his NFL Europe days. That one, too, landed out of bounds. Both players need more opportunity to be properly evaluated.

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Lions sign Henson

The Lions signed former Michigan quarterback Drew Henson this afternoon to fill in while No. 3 signal caller Drew Stanton recovers from a thumb injury.

Henson was cut by the Vikings last year during training camp. He's completed 10-of-18 passes for 78 yards in his NFL career — all with the Cowboys in 2004.

Don't expect Henson, who left Michigan after his junior season to pursue a baseball career, to stick on the roster long term. Stanton should be out of a cast in the next month and could return as soon as the bye week. More likely, Henson will serve as an emergency quarterback in tomorrow's preseason game against the Browns then take some snaps next Thursday against Buffalo.

Jon Kitna will start against Cleveland and play about 25 plays, followed by Dan Orlovsky. Kitna won't play much next week to prevent injury, and with Stanton down the Lions don't need to risk Orlovsky's health, either.

Analyzing the Stanton injury

Drew Stanton is out at least four weeks with a sprained right thumb, but don't expect the Lions to sign Daunte Culpepper as his replacement.

Lions coach Rod Marinelli said the team planned to "work some guys out today" with the hopes of signing a fourth quarterback, perhaps in time for Saturday's third exhibition game against the Browns. No word yet on who's coming in for workouts, but offensive coordinator Jim Colletto hinted it wouldn't be Culpepper, who's out of work and contacted the Lions last month. Instead, Colletto indicted the Lions are looking for a practice-squad guy to play against Buffalo next week and save the wear and tear on Jon Kitna and Dan Orlovsky's arms once the regular season begins.

Stanton is in a cast for at least the next two weeks and probably a month. Dean Kleinschmidt, the Lions' coordinator of athletic medicine, said Stanton's injury — a ligament sprain — will be re-evaluated in two weeks. At that point, the cast will come off but a new one "in all likelihood" will be put back on.

After missing all of last season following minor knee surgery, the Lions don't want Stanton to waste another season on injured reserve. He probably won't be back until the bye week Sept. 28, but that's just three games missed so there's no need to bring in a veteran. If the injury doesn't heal as expected or if something happens to Kitna or Orlovsky, that could change. For now though, the Lions aren't panicking.

As for what this means to Stanton, the shame is that he won't play in two preseason games he otherwise would have seen plenty of work in. That's big development time missed, but nothing that changes the Lions' plans. Orlovsky was going to be Kitna's backup this year anyway, with Stanton on deck in 2009. It will, however, make evaluating Stanton's future harder for the front office, which has to decide how to supplement the quarterback position next year, with a veteran journeyman or a rookie draft pick.

Beyond that, Stanton will have to answer some durability questions before he's handed the keys to the team. Along with his thumb injury and last year's knee surgery, Stanton had knee, shoulder and thumb injuries and two concussions at Michigan State. He said he doesn't feel snake-bitten.

"I don't view it as that at all," Stanton said. "I think (my thumb sprain is) one of those things that it was out of my control and it was just one of the things that happens throughout the course of practice or a game. So put a cast on it and try to let it heal, and it's going to heal as fast as my body will allow it to."

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Stanton out 4 weeks

Drew Stanton will miss the rest of the preseason and start of the regular season with a sprained ligament in his right thumb.

Stanton suffered the injury in practice Thursday when he banged his hand on a teammate's shoulder following through on a pass. It's a significant setback for the third-string quarterback, who spent all of last season on injured reserve after knee surgery and will not get any more live repetitions this fall. He was competing with Dan Orlvosky for the No. 2 job behind Jon Kitna.

Dean Kleinschmidt, the Lions' coordinator of athletic medicine, said Stanton will not need surgery but will in a cast for the next four weeks. He'll be re-evaluated after two weeks, but probably will not be ready for game action until after the Sept. 28 bye.

Tight end Dan Campbell (hamstring), defensive tackle Cory Redding (strained rib-cage muscle) and kicker Jason Hanson (hip flexor) also will miss Saturday's preseason game against the Browns. Safety Daniel Bullocks' status is undetermined after experienced pain his surgically-repaired knee. Kleinschmidt said Bullocks' pain was normal a year removed from ACL surgery.

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Stanton injured?

Third-string quarterback Drew Stanton suffered a thumb injury in practice Thursday, the extent of which was not immediately known. Stanton is scheduled to be examined by Dr. Kyle Anderson later this afternoon.

In his first real taste of the NFL, Stanton, who spent his rookie season on injured reserve, has looked good in two preseason games. He ran for 26 yards to set up a game-winning field goal in the Lions' exhibition-opening win over the Giants, and last week passed and ran for touchdowns in the fourth quarter of a win over the Bengals. He is competing with Dan Orlovsky for the backup quarterback job behind Jon Kitna.

Stanton said he hurt his thumb following through on a pass when his hand hit a teammate. He fractured the base of his right (throwing) thumb three years ago as a junior at Michigan State.

Millen shocked by Upshaw's passing

Lions president Matt Millen said he was shocked when he heard the news of NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw's death early Thursday morning. Millen and Upshaw played together for two seasons in Oakland, and Millen said they talked as recently as last month.

"He was so good for football," Millen said. "We were talking about it earlier, I can't think of anybody who's had as big an impact, both on and off the field in the National Football League. He's been a huge figure since 1967 when he showed up. He's had a big impact on the game and he's had a big impact on a lot of players. They don't even know. There's a lot of guys who have no idea all the stuff, all the sacrifices, all the foundation of work, all the stuff that's been done that he's been behind."

According to reports, Upshaw, 63, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on Sunday. He served as union chief since 1983, two years after his playing career ended.

Millen said teammates called Upshaw "The Governor" during his playing days and defended his record as an executive. Upshaw led players through a strike in 1987, and came under fire recently as owners opted out of the most recent labor deal.

"You can look at that body of work that he had when he played and he's in the Hall of Fame," Millen said. "You look at the body of work since he's played and it's Hall-of-Fame material, too. You're going to get a fight from me if anybody wants to dog the guy because I think the guy did a fantastic job."

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Hanson healing

Jason Hanson kicked a few field goals each of the last two days in practice and should be back for this weekend's third preseason game against Cleveland. Hanson pulled his left hip flexor booting a 50-yard field goal in the exhibition opener and sat out Sunday's win over Cincinnati. He said he thought he was headed for a multi-week absence when the injury first happened.

"It wasn't just an oh-that's-sore, it definitely pulled and I was like, 'Oh no,'" Hanson said. "But I've been getting good care and taking care of it so that's what'll happen. I kicked some field goals and that's a good step, but I need to make sure."

Hanson said he hasn't attempted any kickoffs yet and probably will leave those duties to Dave Rayner against the Browns.

A few other quick notes from today:

• Receivers Devale Ellis and Brandon Middleton were back practicing Wednesday in their bid for the fifth receiver spot. Tight end Dan Campbell did some light running, but he's still bothered by his hamstring. Lions coach Rod Marinelli said Campbell will not play Saturday, but receiver Shaun McDonald and safety Daniel Bullocks should get 15 to 20 snaps each. For Bullocks, it'll be his first live action since tearing his ACL in the third preseason game last year. "They need the work, too," Marinelli said.

• I'll have a longer breakdown on some of the position battles yet to be decided, probably next week, but there appear to be spots up in the air at linebacker, defensive back, offensive line, receiver, running back and on the defensive line. Marinelli wouldn't rule out keeping four running backs Tuesday, which may be possible if the Lions decide against keeping a fifth receiver. As I told you yesterday, Kevin Smith is No. 1 on the depth chart, Aveion Cason has a job wrapped up, and Tatum Bell and Artose Pinner are both deserving of spots. "What I don't want to do is keep a guy for a depth number when maybe there's a better player at another position at the very end," Marinelli said. "I'm looking to get the best 53 players. Maybe not the most talented, but the best guys to help us win. ... It might be a guy who can really do something special in special teams."

• Don't read anything in Bell not playing on special teams. As a rule, Marinelli said he prefers to keep his top two backs out of the special-teams mix. Both Pinner and Cason can have significant roles on special teams.

• Great quote from Smith today on receiver Calvin Johnson. This will appear in a story sometime before the season, but I had to share. "He's like Jordan," Smith said. "He can fly." There's so many layers to those six words, and they're all true.

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Tatum Bell's chances; Kevin Smith listed No. 1

I left it out of my earlier blog, but I talked to Tatum Bell this afternoon for a story for Wednesday's paper. Bell's been kind of reclusive this camp, turning down most interview requests, but he finally spoke for a few minutes about his battle for the No. 1 running-back job.

He said he thinks he's "had a solid camp" and believes he'll win the starting job when everything shakes out. Rookie third-round pick Kevin Smith started Sunday's game against Cincinnati after Bell got the nod in the opener against the Giants.

"I just feel like I got to stay consistent in practice and I feel like practice will be the ultimate factor," Bell said. "I know games, you got to play in the game, but grind it out, pop a big run and be consistent in practice and keep taking care of the ball and no (missed assignments) and I think I should be the starter. That's how I feel."

Bell has carried 12 times this preseason for 17 yards, a not-so-impressive 1.4-yard-per-carry average. "I ain't did nothing in the preseason," he said.

Smith has 13 carries for 31 yards, nothing to write home about but he appears to have more juice in his cuts. He was listed No. 1 on the depth chart Tuesday for the first time this year.

No starting running back has been named yet, either for Saturday's third preseason game or beyond. And while I think Smith will eventually get the nod, it'd be a mistake to cut Bell. He's the second best runner on the team, has had success in a zone-blocking system before (two years ago he topped 1,000 yards in Denver), and with a bona fide commitment to the run the Lions can't rely solely on a rookie.

Either way, Bell, who fell out of favor with former offensive coordinator Mike Martz through no reason of his own, said he's content he's been given a fair opportunity in camp — something he didn't get from Martz.

"I don't think nothing's predetermined," he said. "I think whoever the starter ends up being, he'll work for it and I'm going to give my props. Ain't going to be nobody throwing nobody under the bus over here on my side."

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Camp fires: Back to work

Training camp is officially over and so are the detailed practice reports for two reasons. No. 1, we reporters are only allowed to watch the individual portion of practice now. No. 2, even if we could stay for the whole thing, teams start to get into gameplanning now and everything proprietary is off limits. The blog's not going away, however, as I'll continue to update it (nearly) every day during the season.

Lions coach Rod Marinelli said Tuesday he was pleased with the progression of the run game from the first to second exhibition game. After rushing for 84 yards on 35 carries in the opener against the Giants, the Lions finished with 112 yards on 31 attempts against Cincinnati.

"It's not what I want, but it was better," Marinelli said. "They're getting more comfortable. I think the more you do the same thing over and over and over, the better it's going to get. And you can kind of see it. With the run game you just got to keep pounding it and keep pushing it."

Of less significance to Marinelli was the Lions' 2-0 record.

"It's more meaningful to me that the pad level's down, the hustle, effort, we're getting the correct run fits on defense, I think we're punting the ball very well." Marinelli said. "That's what's meaningful to me."

A few other daily notes of interest:

• "Chain Gang" was back playing at the start of practice today. Players might be a little tired of the Sam Cooke song by now, but Marinelli continues to get his point across. As well as the Lions played against the Bengals, it's all for naught if they don't get back to work.

• On the injury front, Ron Bellamy (concussion), Devale Ellis (hamstring) and Dan Campbell (hamstring) sat out Tuesday's practice. The Lions were so down on healthy receivers they decided to cut Taye Biddle, who missed most of the last week with an abdominal injury, and re-sign Grand Valley State's Eric Fowler, who was released to make room for Biddle originally. They also put fullback Jon Bradley on injured reserve with a shoulder sprain that wouldn't heal and signed tight end Clark Harris.

• Marinelli said Aveion Cason is the No. 1 punt returner right now. That doesn't bode well for Ellis, who's fighting for a job as the No. 5 receiver. In Ellis' defense, it isn't fair to judge him on one return, effectively his haul in the first two games. (He went back to catch the first punt against the Giants, but it went out of bounds. Against Cincinnati, he tried to make something happen on a punt in traffic and was hauled down after a 2-yard gain. He did make the first gunner miss in Cincy.) Doctors held Ellis out Tuesday, and he said he'll be back on the field Wednesday. Ellis did well as a punt returner two seasons ago.

• Defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis also practiced with his lower left leg wrapped Tuesday. He suffered a twisted knee against the Bengals.

• George Foster continues to work at No. 1 right tackle, though rookie Gosder Cherilus took a few reps next to first-team right guard Stephen Peterman during a run drill. One veteran offensive player on the team said he's been impressed with Cherilus so far in camp.

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Camp fires: Ex-Lion check in

With the Lions off today, I wrote about the defense's success so far this preseason for tomorrow's paper. On the blog here, I wanted to take a minute to check in a couple familiar faces the Lions could see on the schedule this year.

Just got done watching the NFL Network replay of the 49ers-Packers game (the DVR is a wonderful thing) and I have to say it's hard to believe J.T. O'Sullivan is the No. 1 quarterback in San Francisco. Judging by the reports, O'Sullivan has played better than his competition in camp, but there's a reason no one in the Lions organization (aside from Mike Martz) thought much of the journeyman last year.

O'Sullivan isn't the most strong-armed or accurate quarterback to begin with, and he showed little in his first four series against Green Bay. His final numbers were fine — 8-of-17 for 154 yards with one touchdown and one interception — but he couldn't move the ball early against the Packers' first-team defense.

I don't think that game Sept. 21 is a guaranteed Lions victory by any means, regardless of who's at quarterback. Frank Gore is too good and I can see Martz, now the offensive coordinator in San Francisco and O'Sullivan's biggest cheerleader, running 35 times just to prove a point. But I think starting O'Sullivan is the best-case scenario for the Lions.

I also DVR'd the Falcons-Colts game to get a glimpse of Mr. Blue Skies, Joey Harrington. At this point everyone knows what Harrington is, which isn't much of a quarterback. He played two drives against Indianapolis and led Atlanta to two field goals, though really it was Michael Turner doing all the heavy lifting.

Harrington could start the opener (he's led the Falcons to four scores in five drives this preseason) or he could get cut if Atlanta decides to keep D.J. Shockley as its third quarterback. Either way, how the Lions fare in their Sept. 7 opener will have less to do with Harrington (or Matt Ryan or whoever) and more to do with stopping Turner.

Lions-Bengals postgame thoughts

The Lions are a good-looking 2-0 this preseason after Sunday's 27-10 win over the Bengals. There's reason to believe they could be in for a surprise season. Calvin Johnson is fast becoming one of the best receivers in the league, the defense played well against one of the NFL's best quarterbacks (keeping Carson Palmer off the scoreboard for four drives), and the offense is turnover-free through two games. Of course, it's still the preseason so I'll hold off on being too enthusiastic.

Now, the good from tonight's game:

• Johnson is unstoppable one-on-one. Opposing defensive coordinators will have to gameplan for him this year like no Lion since Barry Sanders. On the first play of the game, Jon Kitna just threw a jump ball to Johnson against cornerback Leon Hall. Forty yards later, Johnson made a twisting catch and the Lions had plenty of breathing room.

• Kevin Smith started at tailback. He didn't get a lot of work — four carries for 19 yards, with 17 of them coming on the third play of the game — but he should be the starter when the season opens Sept. 7. He goes in and out of cuts with much more authority than Tatum Bell.

• Smith should be joined in the starting lineup by first-round pick Gosder Cherilus next week. Lions coach Rod Marinelli was diplomatic when talking about Smith's role as starter after the game. "(We) let both guys work and there's really nothing more to it," he said, referring to Smith and Bell. "Let guys compete in each huddle." Well, I'd expect the Lions to do the same with Cherilus and give him first-team work at right tackle over George Foster. If Cherilus is going to start the opener he needs reps with the rest of the No. 1 line to get his timing down. Coming off a penalty-free game and under the guise of letting guys compete in each huddle, next week against the Browns would be the perfect opportunity.

• In case you missed it — and another reason to believe it's only a matter of time before Cherilus takes over at right tackle — he played alongside starting right guard Stephen Peterman during his first series Sunday. Every other offensive starter was out of the game at that point, and Peterman left after that series.

• Cherilus will be the No. 2 left tackle behind Jeff Backus this year. Good decision by the Lions as Cherilus is the team's most formidable run blocker and he fared well in pass protection Sunday. Of course, that's bad news for Jonathan Scott, who looked to be the backup tackle for his ability to play both positions. Scott's in a battle to make the team now with Foster and the recently-signed Damion Cook, who played both right tackle and right guard Sunday. Cook spent the last two years in the Canadian Football and Arena leagues, but he has a history with offensive coordinator Jim Colletto. If he grades out well the next two weeks, he'll make the team.

• Defensively, the Lions really did play well. Brian Kelly ripped an interception out of Chad Johnson's hands to set up the Lions' first touchdown, the front finished with five sacks and the second unit kept Palmer out of the end zone in the second quarter.

Now, a couple negatives that caught my untrained eye:

• Dan Orlovsky threw for a game-high 137 yards, but he struggled with the Bengals sitting on bootlegs. Orlovsky just isn't athletic enough to make the first defender miss and was lucky to avoid a safety on play.

• The Lions finished with 112 yards rushing on 31 carries. That's much better than last week's anemic performance, but their final numbers were inflated by a strong fourth quarter (64 yards). They'll need to run the ball better more consistently to contend for the playoffs.

• Devale Ellis was up and down in his bid for the fifth receiver spot. Ellis let an easy ball skip through his hands and returned one punt for two yards. Ellis probably should have fair caught the punt, but he was trying to make a play. Aveion Cason had a 21-yard return and could win the job. Ellis, to his credit, rebounded to finish with three catches in the game.

Last thing for the night, congratulations to fellow Lions reporter Mike O'Hara of the Detroit News, who retired after tonight's game. O'Hara is a genuinely good person and a fine reporter, and best of all he got a shaving cream pie in the face from offensive linemen Dominic Raiola and Jeff Backus in a light moment after the game. Good luck in your future endeavors, Mike.


Kevin Smith to start

As expected, rookie Kevin Smith will start at running back in tonight's preseason game in place of Tatum Bell. Smith took most of the first-team reps in practice this week and rushed for 22 yards on eight carries in the exhibition opener last week against the Giants.

Bell is active and will play. He was held to eight yards on seven carries in the opener.

Rookie fullback Jerome Felton will start in place of Jon Bradley as well. Bradley is inactive with a shoulder injury, but Felton is expected to win the first-string fullback job.

Safety Daniel Bullocks, tight end Dan Campbell, kicker Jason Hanson, receiver Taye Biddle and receiver Shaun McDonald also are inactive.


Camp fires Day 24: Previewing the Bengals

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 off to Cincinnati for Game 2 of the preseason, but I wanted to leave you with a three things I'll be watching closely in tomorrow's game:

• The run game. The Lions carried 35 times for a measly 84 yards against the Giants. Take out four kneel-downs and a failed end around, and the final numbers (30 for 94) still weren't good. Kevin Smith should see more playing time in his bid to overtake Tatum Bell for the starting job, but the real focus here is the offensive line. Rod Marinelli wants a physical, overpowering front. The personnel isn't there for that completely yet, but things should be better with more work. Edwin Mulitalo is back at left guard, which should help some, and if rookie Gosder Cherilus plays well he could join Smith in the starting lineup next week.

• Devale Ellis. Ellis has established himself as the No. 5 receiver with a very good camp catching the ball. The Lions, however, need him to be a force in the return game. He didn't get the opportunity last week against the Giants — no one did, really; Taye Biddle had a return of 2 yards, Aveion Cason of minus-2, and rookie Kenny Moore had one for no gain — but two years ago he filled in admirably for Eddie Drummond, returning a punt 48 yards against Chicago. Ellis has the explosiveness to be a weapon as a return man, he just has to show it.

• Jordon Dizon. The rookie second-round pick was on my list last week, too, and he made a great fourth-down play, stuffing a run to turn the ball over on defense. With the season opener three weeks away, the Lions have to figure out what to do with their middle-linebacker position. I wrote yesterday that I'd move Paris Lenon to the strong side and keep Dizon at the position he's spent the whole preseason learning. I'm not sure how the coaches feel on the matter, but I do know they'll need to feel extremely comfortable in Dizon's knowledge of the defense to make that switch. Lenon is a good linebacker. I've said it before, he's underrated simply because he's not the fastest, strongest prototype for the position. But — and Marinelli can appreciate this — Dizon is like Cory Redding, Dewayne White, Leigh Bodden, Ernie Sims and Dwight Smith in that he makes plays every day during practice. There's something to be said for that.


Camp fires Day 23: Prepping for Cincinnati

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

• The Lions worked out in shells this afternoon, their last full practice before Sunday's second preseason game at Cincinnati. Safety Daniel Bullocks, tight end Dan Campbell and kicker Jason Hanson will not play against the Bengals, and the availability of receiver Shaun McDonald and fullback Jon Bradley is to be determined.

• Hanson, who has a strained left hip flexor, wore pads and did some light running Friday but did not kick. As valuable as he is, there's no reason to rush him back at this point. The Lions would be wise to give Dave Rayner most of the work next week, too. First cuts from 80 to 75 players aren't until Aug. 26, two days before the exhibition finale.

• Lions coach Rod Marinelli said his starters can expect to play around 20 plays Sunday, but nothing will be set in stone until tomorrow's walk-through. You might see the offensive line play a bit more together as that group needs all the work it can get with the new blocking scheme. To that point, left tackle Jeff Backus was in taking extra snaps with the second-team offense and right guard Stephen Peterman ran a few plays alongside Gosder Cherilus on the No. 2 unit in practice Friday.

• Speaking of Cherilus, he's at least a week away from starting (judging by Friday's rotation, at least). There's no way coaches could have elevated him from backup after his three-penalty performance against the Giants, even if he excelled in other areas like the run game. If he turns in a flag-free performance Sunday, the Lions would be wise to name him the starter. That way the first-team offensive line could work together for the remainder of the preseason, including next week's all-important third game.

• Funny sight from practice: Roy Williams, holding six footballs, trying unsuccessfully to catch a seventh. Williams tucked three balls under his left arm and three under his right, and when Keith Smith or Dan Orlovsky tossed a ball high in the air he put one between his legs and tried to catch the seventh with his right hand. That didn't work, but later the playful Williams caught a goof-around punt behind his back from Nick Harris.

• A final football thought for the day: Jordon Dizon covers a ton of field side-to-side. Dizon intercepted a Drew Stanton pass in the final period of team drills with a nice pass drop, but Dizon's strength is flowing horizontally and making plays. If I were the Lions I'd keep him in the middle and move Paris Lenon to the strong side. Lenon can handle a move to SAM at a moment's notice. He's that bright. Dizon would need to move there soon if he's to play the position when the season opens just because of his inexperience. By keeping Dizon in the middle, the Lions can give their future at that position three more weeks of reps, plenty of time for him to find his comfort level in the defense.

Lions lowdown

Check or our YouTube page for a new edition of Lions Lowdown, my video take on the team, every week during the regular season. The next edpisode airs after Game 3 of the preseason.



Camp fires Day 21: The p.m. 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.

• After three straight two-a-days, Lions coach Rod Marinelli gave players Thursday off except for a morning weight-lifting session. They'll return for one practice Friday and a walk-through Saturday leading up to Sunday's second preseason game at Cincinnati.

• During the afternoon special-teams period, quarterbacks Jon Kitna, Dan Orlovsky and Drew Stanton engaged in a spirited game of garbage-can toss. The quarterbacks took turns throwing balls at a garbage can resting inside another, on a 45-degree angle, 42 yards away. Orlovsky put a pass in the can on one of his first attempts, but lost to Kitna on points, 9-8. Passes that landed in the can were worth five points, passes that hit the can three. "At the beginning it was a point for hitting it and five points for putting it in," Orlovsky said. "I hit it, I put it in, so I'm up 5-0 and then Jon hits it and he's like, 'Hitting it's three points.' Figures. So that's how it plays out."

• One more quote from Orlovsky: "It's unbelievable how he weasels his way into things. He's in mid-life crises. He realizes it's winding down now."

• Kitna got another laugh in at the end of practice when he doused safety Dwight Smith with baby powder. Smith, who's already emerged as the vocal leader of the secondary, turned 30 on Wednesday.

• Injury update: Roy Williams was back taking part in team drills after sitting out 11-on-11 in the morning. Linebacker Gilbert Gardner said he's fine after suffering a concussion last week against the Giants and will play Sunday against the Bengals. Garder is playing both outside linebacker spots. Wednesday's second practice was in helmets only.

• Recently-signed offensive lineman Damion Cook has been taking reps at right tackle, with Gosder Cherilus on the left side. I covered Cherilus yesterday. Coaches want to dual-train him in case something happens to starting left tackle Jeff Backus during the season. As for Cook, they need to see if the eight-year veteran can play on the outside if necessary. Jonathan Scott is favored to win the third tackle spot, but Cook played under Lions offensive coordinator Jim Colletto for parts of three seasons from 2002-04.

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Camp fires Day 21: Music man

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

• As the Lions went through stretching Wednesday morning, the song "Chain Gang" blared over a loudspeaker. It reappeared briefly during drills and for a few seconds again at the end of practice. The music was of coach Rod Marinelli's choosing, and while Marinelli said there was no significance to it, the song could serve as a theme for this years Lions. "It's nothing," Marinelli said. "Just music."

• Wednesday's morning practice, the third straight with full pads, was as physical and spirited as the Lions have had in a while. Ernie Sims upended Mike Furrey on the second play of 11-on-11, Dwight Smith barked at the offense about how he's been "whipping your tight ends all camp," and Jon Kitna and Buster Davis exchanged heated words after Davis popped tight ends Dan Campbell and Buster Davis in a goal-line drill.

• Kitna chalked it up to competitors being competitors, which it was, on the final two-a-day of camp. Roy Williams said he appreciates Kitna "taking care of his players," but hopes he'll exercise discretion in the future. "He probably would have got knocked out so I would rather have him just stay back and be the quarterback," Williams said.

• On to actual football-related notes from today. Rookie defensive end Cliff Avril has great balance and body control. I watched him in position drills today, specifically a fundamental drill where players run a figure-eight around two large plastic hoops and hit a tackling dummy at the end. Avril glided through drill while other linemen struggle to run with that body tilt to the ground.

• Williams did not practice today, but Calvin Johnson (knee bruise) and linebacker Gilbert Gardner (concussion) returned. Williams said he's healthy. "Getting old, that's all," he said.

• Johnson and cornerback Leigh Bodden, the Lions' best cover man, went one-on-one for one deep ball. Bodden played good defense. Johnson had maybe a step on him, but Jon Kitna underthrew the ball for an incompletion. Devale Ellis beat Bodden deep on the next play with a hesitation move. Safety Greg Blue, who's vying for the final spot in the secondary, was a step late on the help. Blue said he's working hard on his ball skills. He has a chance to make the team, especially if there's some lingering concern over Daniel Bullocks' knee. Bullocks, who'll compete for a starting job if healthy, took a few reps with the third-team nickel and base defenses Wednesday, two days after he was removed from the physically unable to perform list.

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Camp fires Day 20: Examining the defensive line

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

• Departed nosetackle Shaun Rogers was the best talent on the defensive line last year, this no one will deny. Still, the Lions feel they're better up front defensively this year for several reasons. First, Dewayne White, who started 2007 on a tear, is fully healthy after playing the final eight games last year with a triceps injury. Second, coaches believes an in-tune Cory Redding — he missed last offseason with a contract dispute that affected his play — will be closer to the eight-sack playmaker of 2006 than the one-sack disappointment of last year. Third, Chuck Darby is essentially Rogers light, but without the baggage. Darby doesn't have a full game's worth of snaps in him, but he'll give his all when he's on the field. He's also more suited to handle double teams (assuming they come his way) because he plays with consistently better leverage than Rogers. Finally, and not to overlook fourth starter Jared DeVries, but second-year end Ikaika Alama-Francis has had a good first three weeks of camp. His versatility — he plays tackle in nickel situations — should make the Lions more dangerous rushing the quarterback.

• White may be the key to the whole defense. He plays the critical right end position, is easily the team's best rusher, and we all know a four-man push is essential to the defense's success. I don't know if White's a double-digit sack guy — just 16 players had 10 or more sacks all last year — but he's had a very good camp.

• No mention of the rookies yet because, like Alama-Francis last year, it's impossible to count on young defensive linemen (even Mario Williams can attest). Andre Fluellen won't play a ton unless Redding gets hurt, Cliff Avril will be a good rusher in time, and while it's not impossible Landon Cohen makes the team, the Lions probably will be hoping he survives waivers come Aug. 30.

• Rosters don't have to be trimmed to 53 for another 2 1/2 weeks, and I'm still on the fence how the defense will shake out. They'll keep at least six linebackers, eight defensive backs and nine lineman. The 25th defensive spot (plus 25 offensive spots and three special teams makes 53) could be at any position. Chances are the Lions would get more special-teams value out of an extra linebacker or defensive back, but they're deep at line and injuries always seem to be an issue there. Plus, Corey Smith, Avril and Alama-Francis are all athletic enough to contribute in the kick game.

• A couple quick thoughts from practice. Gosder Cherilus worked a few plays at left tackle each period. It was his most extensive practice time there this camp. The Lions still view him as a right tackle (and the presumptive starter) but need him to be ready in case something happens to Jeff Backus.

• Leigh Bodden had another interception today, picking off a Jon Kitna pass when a receiver fouled up a route. His cover skills will be on display the next two preseason games when he goes against Chad Johnson and Braylon Edwards.

• On the injury front, Calvin Johnson sat out team drills this morning. With a special-teams practice scheduled for the afternoon and his knee still hurting, it made sense to limit his contact. No one's hitting the panic button on Johnson just yet.


Camp fires Day 19: Thoughts for the day

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

• Now that linebacker Takeo Spikes has officially spurned the Lions — he signed with San Francisco late Sunday— it's time for the Lions to figure out which middle linebacker will change positions. The way I see it, there's two choices. Either Paris Lenon moves from starting middle linebacker to starting on the strong side, or Jordon Dizon moves from Lenon's backup to the SAM position, where he'd eventually start as well. In my opinion, Buster Davis is a backup middle linebacker, either to Lenon or Dizon.

• For the 100th time this camp, defensive coordinator Joe Barry said Monday a change of position has not even been approached yet, though he acknowledged it could happen. "We'll keep however many linebackers we keep, six or seven," Barry said. "Those will be the best six or seven linebackers. And the three guys that start will be the three best linebackers that we have on this team." Dizon, the rookie second-round pick, isn't in the top three yet, but he will be by the end of the year. He needs to be on the field. Barry said he wouldn't expect a player to change positions and be ready to start a week later at their new spot. In other words, if Dizon stays in the middle until cut day Aug. 30, it's unlikely he'll start on the strong side in the season opener Sept. 7. "We've still got three preseason games left to play," Barry said. "There's not been any talk of moving anybody, middle linebackers included, to another position."

• Dizon put a great spin move on Sean McHugh in a one-on-one blocking drill today. In the drill, a running back stands seven yards from an oncoming linebacker and tries to prevent him from reaching a nearby tackling dummy. Kevin Smith fared well in protection, winning battles with Lenon and Leon Joe but getting steamrolled by Ernie Sims.

• Sims, by the way, is virtually unstoppable in the drill. He practices with such violence and intensity it's fun to see.

• Coaches aren't standing for any penalties in camp after having six in the preseason opener. Michael Gaines false-started on one play and was immediately replace. Same with John Owens a few plays later.

• Fullback Jon Bradley and receiver Taye Biddle were held out of practice Monday for injury reasons. Owens, Cory Redding and Calvin Johnson were back after resting minor ailments, and safety Daniel Bullocks, tight end Dan Campbell and receiver Shaun McDonald came off the physically unable to perform list. Campbell will be a welcome addition to both the passing and running games this year.

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Camp fires Day 19: Lions err by booting fan from practice

A Lions fan standing in the top row of bleachers was kicked out of practice Monday morning after he heckled receiver Roy Williams for not running his route to its completion.

"Look alive Roy," yelled the fan, Mike Lazzara, 42, of Novi,

"Huh?" replied Williams as he turned back toward the huddle.

When the fan answered, "If the play's not for you, run your route," Williams walked over to the fence and confronted the man. The two exchanged words for a few seconds — "During the season you take plays off. Stop taking plays off," the fan said. "You come out here and do my job, I'll do yours," Williams said — before linebacker Paris Lenon ushered Williams back to the field and Lions assistant general manager Martin Mayhew told a member of the team's security detail to boot the fan from practice.

"A guy makes a comment to Roy about taking plays off, which is the truth — you guys know it, he knows it, Detroit Lions know it; everybody lets him get away with it — and I get kicked out," Lazzara said. "Can you guys believe though, seriously, that they kicked a fan out for just telling Roy to stop taking plays off? Guys, that is the truth. The truth hurts."

While Williams would have been better served waving the fan off, he wasn't at fault here and he insists he has no problem with fans heckling at practice.

"I had no problem with the dude," Williams said. "If I had a problem I would have climbed over the fence and climbed up the stands. I didn't have a problem with the dude. I like to interact with the fans. He had a little problem with me. I didn't have a problem with him, I just wanted to hear his opinion. So it wasn't a big deal to me. I'm sorry the guy got kicked out, but he did that not me."

The Lions, on the other hand, were wrong to expel a fan for jeering, even if a training-camp practice isn't the right forum for negativity. Fans cheered Williams loudly on his way back to the huddle. They were handling the situation themselves. There was no foul language, no threats of any kind, and, according to the fans in Lazzara's section, no immediate complaints about his comments to Lions security, despite a Lions statement otherwise.

"After many outstanding experiences we've had with thousands of fans who have been guests at training camp, a situation occurred during today's morning session involving one fan who behaved in an unruly and disruptive manner," the statement read in part. "Following complaints from fans in the immediate area, members of our security team discussed the situation with the gentleman and explained the appropriate expected fan code of conduct, as set forth by our organization and the NFL. The gentleman declined to modify his behavior and was asked to leave the morning session."

Lazzara said he would have stayed quiet had he been allowed to remain at practice. Still, he said the whole experience hasn't soured him on the organization and he'll continue to attend games.

"I understand it, I'm not oblivious to it," he said. "But jeez, to flat out kick me right out of the whole thing? Just tell me to quiet down, no problem. I don't want to be kicked out, I just want to go to camp and watch camp. I just want to be constructive."


Camp fires Day 18: A new starting running back?

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

• Rookie running back Kevin Smith took the first three snaps in most team periods Sunday morning and appears to have passed Tatum Bell for the No. 1 job. Lions coach Rod Marinelli wouldn't say as much after practice, but Smith and rookie fullback Jerome Felton could be your starters next week against Cincinnati. "We're just rotating guys in," Marinelli said. Pressed on the issue, Marinelli said angrily, "If you want to read something into it, read it. That's on you."

• Bell declined to talk after practice, as he has much of the preseason, and Smith said, "Don't know" when asked about any depth chart changes. "I don't get caught up in that," he said.

• It should be noted that Smith took first-team reps Saturday, too, but most of the media was in the press room when practice started — Marinelli was available before the workout — and weren't ushered onto the field until after practice ended.

• Jon Bradley, who had been No. 1 at fullback, sat Sunday with what Marinelli termed a bothersome shoulder. Receiver Calvin Johnson also sat out Sunday's practice with a leg bruise. Johnson dressed for practice, while Bradley did not. "It's just a bruise so I was just being on it," Marinelli said of Johnson, who was hampered last year by a bad back.

• Offensive coordinator Jim Colletto has decided he will call plays from the coaches box this year. Colletto said last week he was going to alternate between the field and box this preseason to determine where he'd spend his gamedays. He spent Thursday's win over the Giants on the field and said "that experiment ended real fast." "I thought I'd try it, get on TV one time, that's it," Colletto said. "It's a zoo down there. It's too hard to think and they don't need me ragging on them, the coaches don't need me ragging on them. I'm going up there."

• Rookies Gosder Cherilus and Jordon Dizon have a chance to join Smith and Felton in the starting lineup, but for now they remain second- and third-string, respectively. Marinelli praised Cherilus for his performance at right tackle against the Giants, despite drawing three penalties. "Gos played pretty well," he said. "He knocked some people off the ball now." Dizon still isn't locked in on defense, but he's a playmaker. In Sunday's morning practice, which was without pads because the Lions are down on healthy bodies, Dizon deflected two passes over the middle with two good reads.

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Camp fires Day 17: Injury report

The Lions waive-injured Stanley Wilson Saturday after the cornerback suffered a torn left Achilles tendon against the Giants. Wilson will miss the season. Once he clears waivers, he will revert to the Lions' injured-reserve list.

In Wilson's place, the Lions signed cornerback Kiwaukee Thomas. They also added offensive lineman Damion Cook and former Michigan State kicker Dave Rayner. To make room, they cut punter Eddie Johnson, who made the game-winning 41-yard field goal against the Giants, and center Nick Jones.

Johnson was cut because he is primarily a punter and the Lions need a healthy leg to handle field goals and kickoffs this week in practice and next Sunday in Game 2 of the preseason against the Bengals. Jason Hanson suffered a strained left thigh when he made a 50-yard field goal against the Giants late in the first half.

"It's his drive leg," Lions coach Rod Marinelli said. "We're not going to practice him. Let him just get healed up."

Marinelli said he expects tight end Dan Campbell and receiver Shaun McDonald to come off the physically unable to perform list Monday. Safety Daniel Bullocks remains on the PUP list and will be re-evaluated Monday.

Defensive tackle Cory Redding also was held out of practice Saturday with a sore groin.

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Camp fires Day 15: Lions-Giants recap

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

First thoughts from the preseason opener, a 13-10 win over the Giants:

• If Calvin Johnson stays healthy, he will be the best receiver in the league in three years. He's that good. And he's headed for a huge year in the meantime. Johnson played about a quarter Thursday and caught four passes for 78 yards. On one 25-yard gain that should be a typical play this season, Johnson was running down the sideline in one-on-one coverage with Corey Webster. Jon Kitna threw the ball up, and Johnson had it tucked away before Webster could even bother making a play. If the Lions can keep Kitna clean, either Johnson or Roy Williams will make the Pro Bowl.

• Rookie Gosder Cherilus is going to catch some heat for his three penalties, as he should. But Lions coach Rod Marinelli said he was pleased with Cherilus' blocking and Cherilus said he felt like he could play against everyone he was matched up against. "I think he did some good things on his blocking," Marinelli said. "I felt it a couple times."

• The rest of the Lions' rookies were up and down, too. Kevin Smith doesn't dance much, that's a good thing, but averaged just 2.8 yards on his eight carries. Jordon Dizon is a great instinct guy, as everyone knows, but Marinelli said "we just got to make sure he's going the right way all the time." Got to watch the tape more before I comment on Cliff Avril and Andre Fluellen, defensive linemen who it's not going out on a limb to say aren't expected to have much of an impact this year.

• Drew Stanton ended his first rushing attempt Thursday with — get this — a slide. Stanton said he never slid at Michigan State. Former MSU quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier always told Stanton to be the aggressor and dive at a defender's legs. He's always been a gutsy runner and sometimes ended up on the wrong end of collisions. In the NFL, he'll be smarter about things. "They hit with a different authority" in the NFL, he said.

• One player who stood out in a good way that no one mentioned post-game: Buster Davis. He made four tackles, deflected a pass and proved he can deliver a hit. One player who struggled (in my estimation): Dovonte Edwards. Don't know the numbers off the top of my head, but the Giants seemed to pick on him a couple plays in a row. In Edwards' defense, he'll take the blame for a deep completion he allowed, but I think safety Greg Blue was late with the help.

• A quick injury report before I punch out for the night. Cornerback Stanley Wilson is likely done for the season with an Achilles tendon injury. He had to be carted to the locker room. Things don't look good. Jason Hanson left with a strained left thigh and will be re-evaluated Friday, and Gilbert Gardner suffered a concussion. That means more playing time for a backup like Tyrone Pruitt.

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Camp fires Day 13: Previewing the Giants

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

A couple housekeeping items first. Ernie Sims took part in Wednesday's walk-through, but as expected Lions coach Rod Marinelli said Sims will not play in Thursday's preseason opener against the Giants. Cory Redding, Edwin Mulitalo and Langston Moore are out as well, but linebacker Buster Davis has been cleared to play. Jon Kitna will take about 10 snaps with the first-team offense then give way to Dan Orlovsky and Drew Stanton for a 1 1/2 quarters each. Other starters may play slightly more, but expect rookies Gosder Cherilus, Kevin Smith, Jordon Dizon, Cliff Avril and the rest to log significant playing time. "I'm going to get a lot of work in with those guys," Marinelli said.

Now, whether the Lions win or not is of little concern. Instead, here's three things I'll be looking for and coaches will have a better handle on after the game:

• Stanton and Orlovsky. One (Stanton) has never taken an NFL snap, the other (Orlovsky) hasn't taken one in three years. Truthfully, the Lions don't know what they have in either quarterback and need to find out in order to plot their future. Both will get plenty of reps this preseason and both have had their moments in camp, but there's nothing like when the lights come on for real.

• The running game. Running the football has been the focus of training camp and Marinelli insists it will be the backbone of the team this year. The commitment is there, but is the personnel? Smith will get plenty of work behind Tatum Bell, but the bigger question is the offensive line. Is Cherilus ready to start at right tackle? Can either Frank Davis or Jonathan Scott be a serviceable backup? And will the line give Kitna any time to throw? Don't expect answers Thursday, but maybe a nudge one way or another.

• Dizon. The rookie linebacker has drawn praise across the organization for his play-making ability. He always seems to be around the ball, but as with Stanton and Orlovsky you can only tell so much from two-a-day practices. Dizon's physical skills are apparent, he just needs to master the mental side of the game. He'll play exclusively middle linebacker against the Giants, and coaches need to discern soon whether he'll stay there this year. If Dizon proves he can handle the defensive calls and adjustments, there's no reason to move him. If he can't, the Lions would be wise to make use of his talents by getting him on the field elsewhere.

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Camp fires Day 12: Tee off

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

• It was a light day today with one practice and the second and third teams taking the bulk of the reps. As Rod Marinelli pointed out, that's who'll play most of Thursday's preseason opener against the Giants so that's who got most of the work Tuesday. To no one's surprise, a big emphasis of the game will be running the football. "We got to go out and see if we can get a few runs and see if we can execute them really well and just see where we're at in terms of pad level and getting off the ball," Marinelli said. "We should know who to block. My grandson might be able to know who to block by now. We've done this stuff every day, a million times, so now we just got to go out and execute and tee off."

• Rookie defensive tackles Landon Cohen and Andre Fluellen will get plenty of work Thursday with Cory Redding and Langston Moore out and Chuck Darby expected to play only a handful of plays. Both Cohen and Fluellen had their moments Tuesday. Cohen beat Dominic Raiola in one-on-one work with a quick first step, but got off balance and pushed to the ground. Marinelli said Monday he's been a pleasant surprise. Fluellen appears to my untrained eye to play with good leverage, but he needs to be more consistent. Still, he's a keeper this year.

• Rookie receiver Kenny Moore, a long shot to make the team, caught a quick slant route Tuesday. The ball hit his chest, and Mike Furrey, kneeling on the sideline, yelled for Moore to "get your hands out there." As Moore trotted back, receivers coach Shawn Jefferson stopped him and fired a pass into his hands. The next time he caught the ball, Moore kept the ball away from his body. "See what happens when you use your hands?" Jefferson said.

• If I've written this before, forgive me, the days kind of run together now, but Jefferson is a hands-on teacher who players seem to respond to. His drills are very pertinent to game situations, and he's big on the fine points like footwork. Calvin Johnson, for one, has said he's seen an improvement in his technical side of the game.

• No. 2 quarterback Dan Orlovsky pulled out of a center exchange shaking his hand at one point. He was fine and finished practice, but it's just another example of the snap problems Corey Hulsey's been having at backup center. If Raiola goes down, the Lions' already-suspect line is in deep trouble.

• Last thought for the day: Johnson slipped on the indoor turf trying to make a cut during the second-to-last team period. As talented as he is, it was the scariest moment of camp. Don't fret, though. He's fine.

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Camp fires Day 11: Back to practice

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

• A few familiar faces returned to the practice field Monday morning for the Lions. Ernie Sims was back after missing a week with a bruised right knee. The plan was for him to take things easy, but he was out there dotting teammates. He collared Mike Furrey around the neck on one pass and popped Tatum Bell in the flat on another. "Got a little stress out of me," he said. Sims will not play in Thursday's preseason opener against the Giants.

• Guard Edwin Mulitalo won't play Thursday, either, but he came off the PUP list and was back practicing lightly Monday. Brian Kelly (knee), Manny Ramirez (knee) and Artose Pinner (neck) also returned from injuries, while Cory Redding (groin), Buster Davis (concussion) and Langston Moore (shoulder) continue to be sidelined. The Lions also put linebacker Teddy Lehman on injured reserve-minor Monday with a strained hamstring. They'll pay Lehman an injury settlement and will not be able to re-sign him until six weeks after an agreed-upon date.

• Kelly broke up one pass to Roy Williams and intercepted another Monday. It's not going out on a limb or anything, but the Lions have improved their secondary enough that they should tally the most picks of the Matt Millen era this year. They had 17 last season and 19 in 2005. The post-1970 franchise record of 25, set in 2000, could be in jeopardy, too.

• Jordon Dizon had the hit of the day playing second-team middle linebacker. Dizon read a run perfectly and met Kevin Smith head-on as he came through a hole. Smith won the collision, but Dizon was not trying to make a tackle. He got a pat on the helmet from defensive coordinator Joe Barry for the play.

• Dizon's development in the middle — as I blogged yesterday, he's receiving some worthy praise — does not take the Lions out of the Takeo Spikes sweepstakes. The team is still waiting for Spikes to decide when and where he wants to play this year. Spikes is a veteran who would play strong-side linebacker in Detroit and could easily adjust to the Tampa 2 defense. Don't expect any movement until at least after the first weekend of exhibition games.

• Change your plans if you wanted to see the Lions practice tomorrow. Their Tuesday workout has been moved inside and is closed to the public.

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Camp fires Day 10: The rookie linebacker

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

• Today's an off day so I'm keeping it short, but I asked one veteran player if anyone had surprised him so far during training camp. He said, no, thought for a second, then said, "The rookie linebacker." That, of course, is second-round pick Jordon Dizon.

• Incidentally, the player said he figured Dizon was too small at first — the same knock everyone had on him coming out of Colorado — but has been impressive with in way he moves around the field and his nose for the ball. Dizon has worked mostly as the third-team middle linebacker so far, though he'll move up to second string this week if Buster Davis can't go because of an apparent concussion he suffered Saturday.

• The Lions are going to have some decisions to make with their linebackers and soon. Ernie Sims and Paris Lenon are locks for starting jobs. Lenon wants to stay in the middle. Dizon is the Lions' middle linebacker of the future. If Dizon is the third-best linebacker, ahead of current strong-side starter Alex Lewis, they'll be forced to move Lenon outside. That would be best for the team, but it'd make for an unhappy Lenon (and Lewis).

• No word on how bad Teddy Lehman is hurt — he hurt a hamstring in special-teams practice Friday — but if he's out an extended period it will greatly impact his chances of winning a job. The Lions have plenty of capable linebackers in camp, and I'd guess Lehman is eighth right now on a team that will keep seven.

• Dizon will play plenty this year — he's on the kick-return team and may be the personal protector on punts — but I'm gonna hold off anointing him the starting middle linebacker for now. Maybe it happens in the bye week. Maybe injuries mount and a change has to be made out of necessity. Maybe it doesn't happen until next year. I want to see him play in live games and hear reports from coaches and players then.

• By the way, it looks like the Lions will get four starters out of the 2008 draft in Dizon, running back Kevin Smith, right tackle Gosder Cherilus and fullback Jerome Felton. Cherilus might be the only one who starts Week 1, but all will have major roles this year. Felton's won't be as big as the others, but he's a physical run blocker who will impact the running game.

• Last thing, Smith said Saturday his legs "are dead." "I'm going to get in the cold tub as much as I can," he said. "I don't have that burst that I had that first day of camp, put it that way. But in a game, the adrenaline, it'll make up for some of that stuff." Sunday was an off day and Smith said he planned to take full advantage, sleeping, watching movies, eating veal. "I'm going to take advantage of my days off," he said.

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Camp fires Day 10: Stanton's progress

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

• Drew Stanton is starting to look more and more comfortable under center. Stanton, who struggled this spring and early in camp, has strung together three of his best days recently. His passes are crisp, his reads correct, and he can make plays when necessary with his feet. In Saturday's controlled scrimmage, Stanton took 12 snaps and threw two touchdown passes to John Standeford.

• There's two reasons for Stanton's progression. One, he said he's talking to himself less in the pocket. "The game is starting to slow itself down a little bit as opposed to me thinking, 'OK, are my hips and shoulders in a position where I can throw this (pass) if it presents itself? The way the cover rotation's going that way, I don't want to throw that. How do I get back to here? ... You multiply that with the fact that I didn't really know the offense and it's changed and a lot of it's on the quarterback's shoulders, it was difficult to get in there at first and get into a rhythm." There are still times when Stanton takes off too early running, but after spending last season on injured reserve he's effectively 10 days into his NFL career. That will come.

• The other reason Stanton feels more comfortable is that Mike Martz is gone. It can't be understated the negative effect Martz had on some players last year. In Stanton's case, he changed his entire way of quarterbacking. Stanton said he's kept one mechanical tweak Martz taught him — moving his index finger higher up on the ball. "People throw the way they throw," he said. "There's things you can do to help aid that to be more efficient with it, but there's obviously different schools of thought out there, as last year was a prime example of."

• Jon Kitna is still tops on the depth chart at quarterback and, barring injury, that won't change this year. Stanton may be hard-pressed to pass Dan Orlovsky for the No. 2 job, too. Orlovsky's still ahead in his grasp of the offense and the Lions need to figure out what they have in him. But Orlovsky's a free agent after the season and it's hard to see the Lions sinking big bucks into him, so Stanton still is in position to be the Lions' quarterback of the future. Having said that, the Lions will need to add another arm next year, either through the draft or a veteran. How Stanton progresses over the next five months will determine which way they go.

• Just throwing it out there: Michael Vick should be available when he gets released from prison next year. He'd have to be reinstated, of course, and I don't think he'd fit with the Lions and Coach Rod Marinelli regardless, but you never know.

• Standeford, by the way, won't make the team but has looked better the last three days as well. The Purdue product had a lot of drops early in camp. On Friday and Saturday, he caught most everything thrown his way.

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Camp fires Day 9: The best?

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

• Today's afternoon practice was special-teams only, and if you're coming out for one of the public practices in the next two weeks please realize it means exactly that — only special teams players take part. You still may get some autographs at the end, but you won't see Calvin Johnson or Roy Williams or Jon Kitna on the field.

• Now, for the topic du jour, Williams was asked earlier if he thinks there's a better receiving tandem than him and a healthy Calvin Johnson. His answer: "Yes, I do. Marvin (Harrison) and Reggie Wayne are up there, and Chad (Johnson) and T.J. (Houshmandzadeh), I put them in front of us. We haven't proven ourselves as a duo yet. So I put those two in front of us, but we do have the best four wide receivers in the league."

• Give it to Roy, he's honest. He also spoke glowingly about Johnson, who I still contend was the right draft choice with the No. 2 overall pick last year. "I just hope we can run the football and bring that safety down and that guy's going to run by every corner in this league," Williams said. "Like I said before, he's the Randy Moss of this league when Randy Moss was in his beginnings."

• An afternoon injury update: Manny Ramirez could return as early as Monday from a mild knee sprain. Same for Langston Moore (shoulder) and same for Brian Kelly, who had fluid drained from his left knee recently. Artose Piner also missed practice Friday with a stiff neck.

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Camp fires Day 9: Shake, shake, shake

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

• There's plenty of times I use this blog to be critical of the Lions for whatever reason, but coach Rod Marinelli deserves credit for his sincere interaction with the fans. If there were 700 spectators at Friday's open morning practice, I'd be surprised if Marinelli didn't meet 690 of them. He made his way along the fence on the the near side of the practice field, not just signing autographs but stopping to chat with anyone who asked. On his way over to the media, he made time for one final little girl in a pink Roy Williams jersey. "How you doing today? Did you enjoy practice? What's your name?" And it's not just for show either. At the NFL combine in Indianapolis this year, Marinelli made time for a man and his son in a Lions jersey in the hallway leading into the RCA Dome. The place is filled with autograph dealers and their runners, but when Marinelli spotted a couple true Lions fans he spent a few minutes shooting the breeze.

• On the field, Kevin Smith took most of the No. 1 reps with Tatum Bell excused for medical reasons from the morning session. Smith is neck and neck with Roy Williams for the most charismatic player on the team. If there's a local business with endorsement money to spare, Smith is a guy who can move product. He's engaging, funny, and he's going to have a productive season. "If it was up to me I would have had" some endorsements already, Smith said. "I feel like I deserved it. I thought I was going to have some coming close to Barry's record. I thought they were going to make this big commercial. It would have been nice, but maybe that life wasn't for me. Maybe I would have took that endorsement and I wouldn't have been focused out here, I would have got Hollywood before I made it to training camp. So everything happens for a reason." In time, Smith could own this town.

• Marinelli said he doesn't expect any of the Lions on PUP, Edwin Mulitalo, Shaun McDonald, Dan Campbell or Daniel Bullocks, to play in next week's exhibition opener against the Giants next week. Mulitalo said he'll probably come off PUP early next week, but he's a 10-year veteran so there's no point subjecting him to the grind of camp yet.

• I wouldn't expect cornerback Brian Kelly to play next week either. Kelly missed his third straight day of practice Friday. He had his left knee drained and likely will miss a few more days.

• Leigh Bodden had another interception this morning, giving him at least four so far this summer. He's a good bet to start opposite Kelly when the Lions open the season Sept. 7 in Atlanta.