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.


Putting Stafford's performance in the proper perspective

Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez will be compared to one another for the entirety of their careers. They declared as underclassmen for the same draft, went top five with plenty of naysayers suggesting the other was the better quarterback, and best of all they're friends in different conferences who could conceivably make for a storybook Super Bowl one day. (Dare to dream, Lions fans.)

Stafford was asked about Sanchez's GQ spread Thursday.

“I haven't had any offers” like that, he said. “My abs aren't as cut as those of Mark Sanchez. But no, I saw that. I'm going to have to give him a call about that later this weekend or something.”

Both quarterbacks returned to their teams earlier this week after a few weeks off following rookie minicamp, and both took part in their third full-squad OTA Thursday. Stafford completed  6-of-12 passes in team drills and 5-of-5 in seven-on-seven, while Sanchez, according to the New Jersey Star-Ledger, was 1-of-9 with one interception in 11-on-11 and clearly was outplayed by veteran Kellen Clemens.

What does all that mean? Nothing, really. It's May, no one's in pads and Stafford was throwing against the Lions' defense. OK, that was cheap. True, but cheap. (Damn, I did it again).

Still, no one walked away from either practice thinking they had the next Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf. Sanchez earned high marks for his footwork and arm strength, though he got taunted by vets and chewed out by coaches for missing open receivers and misdiagnosing reads.

Stafford, meanwhile, has all the requisite tools to be a great NFL quarterback, but so did Jeff George and Tim Couch and so many others. He made a good first impression, but he also slapped his hands in disgust once or twice, something I'm sure he'll do again in the future.

A few other random thoughts:

• I wrote about defensive end Eric Hicks yesterday, but only in relation to the zinger I got in on Stafford. Really though, Hicks is an interesting story as a 32-year-old 6-foot-6, 280-pound defensive lineman who's getting a long look for a backup job. Hicks said he was out of football completely last year. He had a tryout with the Redskins during training camp, and spent his fall working out and volunteering at his son Rocco's kindergarten.

“I actually had a book club group ... so you can see me, 6-6, 280, and scaring the hell out of little kids, 'Read your book,'” Hicks joked. “No, we try to do as much of that as possible. We do a lot of volunteer work. We have our own foundation, so we're kind of philanthropic with the Children's Hospital in Kansas City.”

Hicks worked out for the Lions on the recommendation of defensive line coach Bob Karmelowicz shortly before the draft – he played under Karmelowicz and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham in Kansas City – and signed a week later when the team was still in the market for help up front.

I haven't watched Hicks enough to break down his strengths and weaknesses or chances of making the team, but just looking at the numbers, he's got a shot. Having Karmelowicz in his corner doesn't hurt, either. He could be this regime's Langston Moore.

“I got another chance now and I'm going to hold on to it and just hope for the best,” he said.

• Hicks' charity, by the way, is “The Hicks for Hearts Foundation,” which he formed after his daughter, Shayla, needed three open-heart surgeries in her first six months of life. She just got a clean bill of health this week, and is celebrating her 10th birthday with a party in Kansas City tonight.

• Lions coach Jim Schwartz won over some more Detroiters, no doubt, when was spotted strolling around the concourse of a recent Red Wings game. He said watching a game in Joe Louis Arena was “awesome.” “The thing that's cool about there is you go there and just looking up in the rafters, we were at the very top level so the rafters are like eye level, but to see all those banners and know the consistency you have to play with to do that year in and year out, that's what we all aspire to,” Schwartz said. “You don't aspire to seeing one lonely banner hanging up and then a lot of flags. I think that's the thing that you take most away, it's that consistency of high standard of excellence. You can't help to be impressed.”

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More thoughts from OTAs

A few more tidbits from today's practice:

Lions coach Jim Schwartz complimented Drew Stanton's play Thursday and said Stanton, a second-round pick out of Michigan State in 2007, “has consistently gotten better throughout all these OTAs.”

“He didn't start off very strong, but the thing I've been pleased with him is that when he has had a bad day, he's come back the next time with a better day,” Schwartz said. “And even though he's had a couple bumps in the road, his general graph has been trending up.”

That doesn't mean, however, that the Lions are no longer considering adding a veteran to compete for the No. 3 quarterback job. Trent Green and Gus Frerotte are among those available.

“We're not a team that went deep into the playoffs last year that's coming back set at a lot of positions and we're trying not to upset the apple cart,” Schwartz said. “I'm trying to upset the apple cart as much as we can. Let's create that situation.”

Sticking with that theme:

• Newly-signed tackle Ephraim Salaam took part in individual drills Thursday, but not team work. The 32-year-old can play either tackle spot and spent last season as a backup in Houston. “It goes in with everything we talked about, creating competition on the team,” Schwartz said. “There's no spot set in stone. We want to create competition as much as we can, bring as many people into the equation as we can, make people earn their jobs. We don't want to give anything away for free.”

• Schwartz on the Lions interest in former Arizona cornerback Rod Hood: “We had him in for a visit last week, had good conversations with him. I think he was still in the exploratory range, looking around, checking his options out. We're going to look at everybody. We're at that point, I keep saying the same things, there's no spot that we feel great about that we go in right now saying we're 100 percent set, so anybody that comes available we're going to do our due diligence.”

• Except Michael Vick, that is. Schwartz made it clear the Lions have no interest in the Falcons quarterback, who was released from federal prison Wednesday and will be cut or traded by Atlanta once he's reinstated to the NFL. “No, I think we're pretty happy with where our quarterbacks are right now,” Schwartz said.

• Defensive end Dewayne White missed Thursday's voluntary workout for personal reasons. Defensive tackle Grady Jackson still hasn't taken part in any offseason practices, but Jackson, whose brother, Javorris, was charged with murder and shot himself, is back with the team. “His spirits are good,” Schwartz said. “It's a tough situation. Nobody wants to go through something like that. He's had a lot of support in the locker room. We've given him time to be able to take care of things that are more important than on the football field right now. Physically, he still has a long way to go, but he'll get there.”

• Rookie safety Louis Delmas is working as a personal protector on the punt team. “It's something I never done,” Delmas said. “I always was a gunner on punt, but now I'm a personal protector. I think that's a very big responsibility for me. I think that'll prove a lot to the team, that I can step up and be that role model for the personal protector. I'm looking forward to it.”

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Stafford splits No. 2 reps, 'living up to the hype'

Matthew Stafford has been the butt of some good-natured ribbing since he returned to the Lions for offseason workouts earlier this week. His personal favorite line? When defensive end Eric Hicks couldn't catch him on a bootleg, Hicks ran over and apologized, “Sorry, I was just picking up all the money falling out of your pocket.”

The No. 1 pick in April's draft and owner of the richest guaranteed contract ($41.7 million) in NFL history, Stafford split second-team quarterback reps with Drew Stanton Thursday, rotating behind for-now starter Daunte Culpepper.

Stafford was far from flawless – by my count, he was 6-of-12 in full-team work Thursday and 5-for-5 in seven-on-seven drills – but he showed in flashes why the Lions believe he'll develop into a franchise quarterback. In one-on-one work with receivers early Thursday, Stafford dropped a perfectly pass over the left shoulder of fellow rookie D.J. Boldin after Boldin beat cornerback Dexter Wynn with a double move. The 40-yard bomb was on the sideline where only Boldin could catch it.

“He's coming out here and working hard and he's definitely living up to the hype, making good passes and showing his leadership out there with the second group,” Hicks said. “You can't argue with that.”

Stafford said he's not reading too much into the way reps are split up yet, and Lions coach Jim Schwartz said snaps have been divided different every day of practice this week. Still, his presence has ratcheted up the competition at quarterback, where he and Culpepper are expected to compete for the starting job in the fall.

“It's one thing when we're working with two quarterbacks and guys that have been here together for the better part of a year,” Schwartz said. “All of a sudden you add anybody into that equation, whether its quarterback, running back, wide receiver, it's going to change the dynamic. Everybody knows in the locker room where the guy was picked, and everybody knows in the city of Detroit and across the country. That's going to change things. That's different than an undrafted rookie free agent entering the sweepstakes.”

My personal impressions Thursday: Culpepper was, as expected, the sharpest, and he had the benefit of working with Calvin Johnson, who makes an amazing catch every practice. Stanton, who was ahead of Stafford in the No. 2 rotation (it went Culpepper, Stanton, Culpepper, Stafford, etc.), had a pretty good day throwing the ball. But Stafford remains the most talented. Even with the veterans, his passes seem to get on the receiver as soon as they turn around.

"I feel really comfortable with the offense as far as what we put in," Stafford said. "I know it's not the whole thing and I got to just keep getting more familiar with it, but as far as the basics go, I feel pretty good."

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Did Schwartz want a different special teams coach?

Maybe it was an honest mistake, maybe Jeff Fisher got his coaches crossed, or maybe there was something to the slip of the tongue Fisher made in a radio interview last Thursday on WJOX in Birmingham, Ala.

During an appearance promoting the Regions Charity Classic golf event, Fisher was asked about losing his former defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz to the Lions. He complimented Schwartz as being “very, very smart,” said he “will be successful there” as a head coach, and commended the “great job” he did “with his staff.”

“To go out and get Gunther Cunningham and Scott Linehan and Scotty O'Brien to coordinate the three different phases of the football team were three top coordinators in the league,” Fisher said. “So from that standpoint, you're as good as the people you surround yourself with. So I think Jim will be just fine up there.”

Cunningham is the Lions' defensive coordinator, Linehan runs the offense, and O'Brien coordinates special teams – for the New England Patriots.

Now, I never heard O'Brien's name come up as a potential assistant coaching hire after Schwartz got the Lions job, but it's possible he was in Schwartz's original plan (something he presumably discussed with Fisher) and never got the chance to be a Lion. O'Brien, who worked with Schwartz in Cleveland and Baltimore from 1993-98, was introduced as New England's new special teams coach in a press release Feb. 3, but the move was reported by the Denver Post – O'Brien coached special teams for the Broncos the last two seasons – on Jan. 14.

Schwartz was hired a day later, and Stan Kwan eventually was retained as special teams coach.

Two more excerpts from the interview caught my attention. Fisher was asked how important it was for Schwartz to be granted some control of the organization considering the management problems the Lions have had in the past.

“It was his biggest concern, but he was very, very pleased with the plan that was in place and with the preparation,” Fisher said. “I think, it's like anything else, in order to be successful everybody needs to work together. When you've got people pulling different directions it just doesn't work. And Jim really felt that everybody was at least on the same page and will remain on the same page.”

On the chances Schwartz can turn the Lions into a winner, Fisher said, “Jim's not going to try to go out and go 13-3 this year, although I think some clubs over the last couple of years have proved that it can almost happen. You can turn it around that fast. I think he's building that club the right way. He's got some key free agents in and of course drafting (Matthew) Stafford, I think he'll be fine. They'll win games this year. Their division's very competitive. He'll have them equipped to play games close to have a chance to win at the end. But Jim will be successful there.”

For the entire interview, visit:

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Ranking the NFC North QBs

The St. Paul Pioneer Press is reporting that twice-retired quarterback Brett Favre is “expected” to undergo surgery to release a partially-torn tendon in his right shoulder later this week. If all goes well with the surgery, the paper reports that Favre will sign with the Vikings.

Nothing totally unexpected here. Favre has had eyes for Minnesota since he was pushed out of town in Green Bay after his first retirement last summer, and the six- to eight-week timetable for recovery puts him on track to be ready by the start of training camp.

For the purpose of this discussion, let's assume Favre signs with the Vikings. If he does, in my opinion, the Lions will once again have the least desirable quarterback situation in the NFC North (for 2009, that is). Here's my rankings. Where do you stand?

1. Bears – Chicago made the bold move of trading for Jay Cutler this offseason, and the Pro Bowler stands as the division's best signal caller. He threw for 4,526 yards last year in Denver, and while those numbers likely will go down, he's the type of talent who can win any game, any where. Interceptions have been a concern in his career, but at 26 and entering his fourth year, he's still maturing.

2. Green Bay – Maybe this ranking is skewed a bit by the two times I've seen Aaron Rodgers play. In two games against the Lions last year, he threw for 636 yards, six touchdowns, no interceptions, and set two career marks for passer rating (117.0 and 132.2). I'd like to see Rodgers play at a high level for another season before I call him a top-10 quarterback, but the 25-year-old has that kind of potential. He played hurt part of last year, and defense, not Rodgers, wasn't the reason the Packers went from 13 to six wins last year.

3. Minnesota – Favre is closing in on his 40th birthday, but he didn't play like he was over the hill most of last season. Before things fell apart the final five weeks, Favre had 20 touchdown passes and had the Jets headed for the playoffs. His struggles were somewhat injury-related down the stretch, though he remains a chance-taking gunslinger. Beyond that, Minnesota has the most depth at the quarterback position with Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels as capable backups.

4. Detroit – Take heart, Lions fans. A year ago everyone thought Detroit had the best quarterback in the division in Jon Kitna and all that got them was an 0-16 record. The Lions are much more stable under center now, with No. 1 pick Matthew Stafford and a slimmed-down, something-to-prove Daunte Culpepper in the fold. But Culpepper didn't look good in his cameo last year, he's had turnover and injury issues throughout his career, and Stafford is the great unknown. Two years from now, he might be the best quarterback in the North, but he's got to prove it first.

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Morris: Lions 'should have won 8 games' last year

Sorry I didn't get a blog up yesterday. Had a previous engagement that occupied most of my day. Figured I'd empty my tape recorder this morning instead. Here's a few morsels for your enjoyment:

Kevin Smith isn't the only Lions running back who thinks the team was that close to making the playoffs last year. I caught up with new running back Maurice Morris at the Lions' bocce ball tournament Wednesday and asked if he had any apprehension about signing with the NFL's first ever 0-16 team.

“Not at all because I saw film,” Morris said. “You could see the Detroit Lions, they should have won eight games. They may have lost them in the fourth quarter with a play here and there, but they should have won eight games because they (lost) a bunch of games by a field goal. It's kind of like, it's just a matter of finishing in the fourth quarter.”

To clarify, Morris said most of his Lions' watching came via highlights before his games, which typically started three hours later in Seattle. But he said he wanted to be part of a team that was young and hungry, and that only needed the help of some veterans to get over the hump.

“They lost by a field goal, here, seven points here, gave up a touchdown at the end of the game or something,” Morris said. “They lost a bunch of  games by a slim margin.”

He also said Smith's prediction of the playoffs this year didn't strike anyone in the locker room as odd.

“Not at all,” Morris said.

• I mentioned right tackle Gosder Cherilus on Thursday and how I think he'll be a big key to the offensive line's progression this year. The second-year right tackle, who coach Jim Schwartz called “a giant,” said he's much more comfortable now that he's got one NFL season under his belt.

“I don't feel like I'm all over the place,” Cherilus said. “The one thing I realized is you're trying so hard trying to please everybody. The guy playing next to you, the coaches behind you, your quarterback. And most times you just don't please nobody. Now, you're just like, yeah, I'm just going to count on playing for myself and once you do that everybody will respect what you're doing cause at the end of the day it's 11 guys, once you do your job and everybody else does theirs, nobody's going to point fingers.”

• Schwartz complimented Cherilus' mean streak and compared it to some of the league's top right tackles. Said Cherilus, “Do I look mean to you? You see that smile. Nah, at the end of the day football's football. You can be happy and play, but at the end of the day, they blow the whistle, everybody's going full speed, you have to have it, especially what we're trying to do here. We're in the NFC North. We talk about running the football. You have to really get your noes down hard in the trenches and try to run the ball, and that's not going to come easy.”

Cherilus does have a mega-watt smile, by the way. But Vikings fans remember the play Cherilus made on Jared Allen last season, when he lunged from a kneeling position to block Allen as Allen chased Daunte Culpepper horizontally across the field.

“When you watch me play, one thing you expect I'm always going to give you 110 percent,” Cherilus said. “I'm not dirty, but if I have a chance to really cross you and do my job, make it look good and make sure you have nothing to do with this play, I'll do it. But that doesn't mean I'm dirty like that. I'm not trying to hurt nobody. I'm just trying to get the job done the best that I can.”

• Titans running back LenDale White explained on SportingNews Radio why USC shouldn't lose its national championship if Reggie Bush and others are found to have accepted improper benefits a few years ago: “I don't think if you got money, a flat-screen TV, or however it looks that (those things) will make you go out and play better or beat somebody. I don't think so. We get paid in the NFL, and the Lions went 0-16.”

• Finally, receiver Darrell Jackson, who played last season in Denver, worked out for the Lions on Thursday.

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Culpepper, Stafford, Stanton to split reps initially

Lions coach Jim Schwartz said Daunte Culpepper, Drew Stanton and Matthew Stafford will, at least initially, split the quarterback reps three ways when Stafford returns to the team next week. Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick, and Culpepper are expected to compete for the starting job in the fall, but Stanton still needs work in order to be an able fall-back option.

“It'll probably be fairly even,” Schwartz said Thursday. “Situations like this when we have two two-minute (drills) we'll have to make decisions, but it'll probably be fairly even through the script.”

Culpepper and Stanton have been splitting the work in practice since No. 3 quarterback Drew Henson was released immediately after the draft. Schwartz said Stafford also can take part in additional informal on-field work over the next few weeks that NFL veterans cannot.

Regardless, he's not worried about Stafford being too far behind the veterans.

“That was one of the things that made us so encouraged, that made us feel so comfortable making that pick is when we brought him here for his final physical, we had done some installation with him and his carry-over, his knowledge of knowing that stuff when we went back down to Athens in a month, that retention was really impressive,” Schwartz said. “We sent all the rookies home with introductory materials. Playbooks, DVDs. I would expect all of them to be up to speed. I wouldn't think that any of them should be not remembering what they learned in rookie minicamp.”

A few other notes from Thursday's OTA workout:

• Schwartz on Kevin Smith's prediction that the Lions will make the playoffs next year: “I like his enthusiasm. I don't want to discourage enthusiasm, but the playoffs are a long way away. What's more important is what happens today, how we practice today. Those are the things that we need to take care of on a daily basis. That's been the message. We need to set goals on a shorter scale than further on down the line. We don't want to talk about Super Bowls or playoffs or those kinds of things, or even the opener right now. Let's talk about getting through this next OTA and improving, and when you start building that stuff, that other stuff will take care of itself.”

• Schwartz said linebacker Larry Foote, who's been with the team a week now, is still “finding his way” in a new system, but he lit up when talking about the linebacker unit as a whole. “I like where we are there,” Schwartz said. “We've got some veteran players, guys with a lot of skins on the wall. Larry Foote and Julian Peterson, brought in some other veteran players, guys like Cody Spencer. Drafted some guys, particularly (DeAndre) Levy. It's been an overhaul at that position. It's too soon to say where we are with it, but I've been encouraged by what we've seen so far.”

• I think the play of second-year right tackle Gosder Cherilus will be one of the keys to next season for the Lions. Cherilus showed flashes of dominance last year, but must sustain his play better and cut down on penalties if he's going to be a long-term building block on the offensive line.

“We're going to get him coming downhill a little bit more, not run him laterally so much,” Schwartz said. “Let him use that size. But he plays with a mean streak, and when you talk about the great right tackles in the game and you could go a bunch of them, I've been around a bunch of them, they seem to all have that similar personality. David Stewart in Tennessee last year played with a mean streak and he's a giant. I was with Orlando Brown in Cleveland and Baltimore, did the same thing. A guy like Eric Williams, those guys all had similar traits. Big and really, really tough. He's still working his technique, he's still a young player, he's still got a long way to go, but we're seeing a lot of things we like from him.”

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Culpepper quiet but motivated

Quarterback Daunte Culpepper declined an interview request again Wednesday, saying he'll talk to the media at next month's minicamp. But several of his teammates said Culpepper has appeared extra motivated in the weeks since the Lions drafted Matthew Stafford No. 1 overall.

“He's a very fiery, competitive guy,” receiver Ronald Curry said. “I think he's going to be very successful in this offense. And getting that first overall draft pick kind of lights a little more of a fire up under him, so I think he's going to go out there and show the world that he can still play this game at a high level.”

Curry, who got his own draft-day spark when the Lions took fellow slot receiver Derrick Williams in the third round, played with Culpepper two seasons ago in Oakland. He said Culpepper has “looked as sharp as I've ever seen him” lately.

“When he was in Oakland he seemed like he still was kind of overcoming his injury, but now you wouldn't even know,” Curry said. “He has no ill effects from his knee, he's throwing the ball on time. It's a fairly new system for everybody, but he was in it when he was in Minnesota so he's kind of getting back to his good old days. I think he's going to do very well and he's got a lot of weapons around him so I think the guys are going to help him out a lot as well.”

Culpepper, whose commanding presence with his teammates was on display at the Lions' charity bocce ball tournament Wednesday, will compete with Stafford for the No. 1 quarterback job in fall camp. I've written it plenty, but I expect him to hold the job at least through the early part of the season.

The Lions seem determined to not rush Stafford onto the field, though at some point they'll have to decide what gives them the best chance to compete for a playoff spot in 2010 (I'm assuming Kevin Smith is wrong and the Lions won't make the playoffs this season), playing Culpepper, who's on a one-year contract, or playing Stafford, who's clearly the quarterback of the future.

Stafford and the rest of the Lions' rookies are eligible to return for offseason workouts next week.

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Smith stands by his prediction

Kevin Smith isn't backing down from the prediction he made on his blog last week that the Lions will make the playoffs this fall.

Coming off the NFL's first ever 0-16 season, that seems like a long shot. But Smith, between tosses at the Lions' annual bocce ball tournament Wednesday, said everything he's seen this offseason leads him to believe a dramatic turnaround is coming.

“It's a new attitude, we got new players, we got Pro Bowlers, we got guys who won Super Bowls,” Smith said. “All those things count, no matter what anybody else thinks. That's the confidence that you're supposed to have. I didn't predict any wins, I didn't say we're going to win this amount of games. My whole point was we're good enough to get to the playoffs, and if we get to the playoffs anything can happen.”

Smith, who lost six pounds this offseason in an effort to get faster for the new offense, said he didn't understand why his online prediction made headlines last week.

On his official website,, Smith wrote “we will definitely make the playoffs this season” and “believe it or not we weren't far off last year.”

The Lions allowed the second most points in NFL history last year and had the worst offense in the NFC. They lost by an average of 15.6 points per game, but squandered early leads late in the season against Tampa Bay, Carolina and Minnesota.

“We should have” won a bunch of games, Smith said. “Tampa Bay, Carolina, we weren't that far from the Saints. We lost to the Vikings, 12-10. Plenty of games. The only team that came up and put up so many points so fast we couldn't catch up was Tennessee. Besides that – one game against the Packers, we threw three interceptions in four minutes late in the game. I wasn't lying, I was just telling the truth.”

Smith said he's prepared for any flack that comes as a result of his prediction, but promised “when we make the playoffs we're going to lift this city up.”

Former Lions quarterback Jon Kitna made headlines each of the last two years when he said he expected the Lions to win 10 games. With three wins this season, they'll finally get there.

“I didn't say we're going to the Super Bowl, I didn't say we're going to win the Super Bowl, I said we're going to the playoffs,” Smith said. “That's just my personal opinion and if anybody on my blog doesn't like it, don't go on my website.

“Are we good enough right now? No, but the way we're working we'll be good enough. But I don't think anybody's good enough at this point, at OTAs. But the way we're working and the consistency that we have, we're working for the playoffs.”

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Raiola on Stafford; Jackson's in the 'management program'

Center Dominic Raiola said last week he had no problem with the Lions drafting quarterback Matthew Stafford No. 1 overall.

“I like the pick,” Raiola said. “I don't know what it means for this season, I haven't even seen him yet. I don't really have anything to say other than I like the pick. We need a young quarterback. We haven't had a young quarterback. I think we've got a good quarterback now in Daunte (Culpepper) and I think that buys Matt some time to grow.”

Raiola wouldn't venture a guess on who starts next year, but he said playing Stafford won't necessarily signal the Lions are headed for another uncompetitive season.

“I don't think this staff's come in and said, 'Let me buy one year,'” Raiola said. “I don't think that's the mindset they have. If there's a rookie quarterback out there, obviously they think he can win. I don't think you go into any season thinking we're just going to put him in so we can put him in the fire and rebuild.”

Of course, coming off an 0-16 season, the Lions are in a rebuilding mode regardless of who's at quarterback.

A few more leftovers from last week before I head off to the Lions' bocce ball tournament:

• Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said he's excited about the opportunity that awaits him, a chance to work with and develop a No. 1 overall pick at his position of expertise, quarterback.

“I'm excited about it,” Linehan said. “I'm excited for not just him, but for our organization. I think it's just such a great thing to be able to draft a player with this kind of ability to bring into an organization and to see how that person comes in right away and fits in, and how that person goes about his business and puts himself in a position to live up to the expectations.

“Not a lot of people are equipped for taking on that kind of pressure. You can talk all you want about the glamor and the fame and the fortune and all that, but you're talking about a guy who all eyes are on him 24-7. He just is so comfortable in that. The thing that I was most impressed about with him, and I talked a number of times with Jim is, he was born to be in that position. So it's going to be fun to see that transpire as a player and as a performer for this organization. He wanted that from the beginning, which is great to see.”

• When the Lions signed 36-year-old defensive tackle Grady Jackson as a free agent this offseason, I was one of many who wrote that Jackson was a two-down player who'd be good for a limited number of snaps every week next season. I was thinking 20 to 25, 30 at most. Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said that number's on the high side. Sort of.

Cunningham said last week Jackson's “part of the management program.”

“Working for Al Davis, I learned that a long time ago,” Cunningham said. “He used to say, 'Gun, I need six plays out of the guy.' I'd say, 'Six plays?' He said, 'Six good ones in one game will do. Take care of him.' And I think that coaches, they want players to go hard every day, but when you have guys that are in their 30s, you got to be careful and you got to know how to do that.”

• Cunningham is a great quote, by the way, with more stories than a library. He's also a little prone to hyperbole. Here's what he said about rookie safety Louis Delmas: “(In Kansas City) we had a guy named Dale Carter, who was an all-pro corner. ... Dale Carter was kind of wiry and long and looked like he was out of control sometimes and then he'd have the ball. And when I look at Delmas now, I go, 'My God, it is like I'm younger and there's Dale in front of me again.'

“We don't want to anoint the guy at all, but he came on the practice field (during rookie orientation) like I believe you should come on the practice field. There were a lot of bad things said about Dale Carter off the field. On the field he was a consummate pro. He loved to practice. From what I see in this young kid, he loves football. I don't know where he got it, but there's something about him that, he's not very big and yet you see him in college just blowing guys up on tackles. Then he comes in here and threatens our first pick in the draft and says I'm going to get (an interception) sooner or later. He missed about three or four early, and then he took it away from him.

“A lot of my buddies have been texting me saying, 'Boy, we were going to draft him.' And I said, 'Well, you should have.'”

Carter played in four Pro Bowls and was the 1992 Defensive Rookie of the Year.

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Rosenhaus: Don't count out Stanton

Agent Drew Rosenhaus finally got around to Twittering about his client Drew Stanton. In a post this morning, Rosenhaus wrote, "Don't count out Drew Stanton in the Lions' QB derby. Drew has all the ingredients to be a top QB in the NFL and he is ready to compete."

I'm heading to the Lions celebrity bocce ball tournament later today and Stanton is supposed to be there. I give him credit for talking with the media last week (and saying he intended to fight for his job) when Daunte Culepper would not. I'll see if there's anything new on the Stanton front (doubt it) and if Culpepper is willing to talk (doubt it even more), but his best bet to get on the field in the NFL remains a trade out of town.

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More updates from Rosenhaus

Agent Drew Rosenhaus has sent out tweets about two more of his Lions clients.

On running back Kevin Smith, Rosenhaus writes: "I like Kevin Smith's guarantee that the Lions will make the play-offs in 09. You must have confidence to succeed in the NFL and Kev has it"

On safety Louis Delmas, Rosenhaus writes: "Louis Delmas is creating a real buzz in Detroit. I'm not surprised. Louis is the prototype free safety and should have been a 1st rounder."

He hasn't responded to my tweet asking about another client, Drew Stanton, and what comes next for him now that Matthew Stafford is on board.

You can follow Rosenhaus on Twitter at RosenhausSports and you can follow me davebirkett.

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Rosenhaus on Kevin Smith

Super agent Drew Rosenhaus sent out a tweet on Lions running back Kevin Smith earlier today. The update: "Kevin Smith played much of last season with an injured shoulder for the Lions. He is feeling healthy and expects to have a monster season."

Smith, who finished just shy of 1,000 yards last year, said he's dropped about six pounds this offseason and is looking forward to his role in the new offense.

"Speed kills," he said of his new look.

The Lions signed Maurice Morris to kick off free agency, and while Morris has looked good in camp so far, I still think Smith will get the bulk of the carries. People underestimate his blocking ability, and Smith said he wants to have a bigger impact as a pass catcher.

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Friday odds and ends

The Brett Favre saga continues to churn with ESPN now reporting that x-rays of Favre's injured shoulder have been sent to Minnesota and Favre will return next season as long as he doesn't need major surgery. Can't say that comes as a big surprise to anyone who follows the NFL, but this might: The NFC North is now the best division for quarterbacks in the NFL.

Including Favre, the old black and blue division has gone glam with Jay Cutler in Chicago, Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay and No. 1 overall pick Matthew Stafford in Detroit. Stafford probably won't start from the get, and both Rodgers and Cutler had their struggles last year, but no other division moves the meter under center like the north – even without a singular talent like Tom Brady.

The AFC North is No. 2 in my book with Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, Joe Flacco and Brady Quinn running their respective teams. Interestingly enough, the divisions cross over this year.

Two other Lions notes of interest. First, if you didn't see it already, running back Kevin Smith blogged earlier this week that the Lions “will definitely make the playoffs this year.” Smith is one of the best personalities in the locker room and I don't mind his confidence, but he better be ready for some Jon Kitna jokes over the next few months. His blog, if you're interested, is

Finally, the Lions made a minor roster move today, releasing middle linebacker Chris Graham and signing another receiver, Tommy Saunders, who caught 72 passes last year for Missouri.

Update: The Lions also signed Florida State running back Antone Smith to a three-year contract. Smith, a tryout player at last week's rookie orientation, impressed coaches with his speed.

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Answering your e-mails

Before I get to the Thursday morning mailbag, a quick note from Clark Judge of who reports, indirectly, that the Lions have decided to continue taking part in the league-run pension plan for coaches and executives. Judge reports that a memo circulated Wednesday listed eight teams changing their retirement plans, seven others considering a move, and 17 continuing contributions. The Lions were not listed in the first two categories, so presumably they're in the third.

Considering the state of the economy, that's no small measure. I imagine it's subject to change at some point in the future, but as I wrote in last week's mailbag the Ford family has a good reputation through the league for the way it treats its employees. This is one example.

The full story is here:

Onto the mailbag:

What impact will Zach Follett have next season?
Follett, a seventh-round pick out of Cal, had an uphill battle to make the team even before the Lions signed Larry Foote. Presumably, Foote, Julian Peterson and Ernie Sims are your starters with DeAndre Levy and Jordon Dizon as the primary backups. That leaves probably one spot for Follett, Alex Lewis, Curtis Gatewood or Cody Spencer. I know fans like Follett for his hard-nosed style, but he's a ways away athletically and could wind up on the practice squad. From defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham the other day: “The intangible part is outstanding. He's got the right attitude. He wants to kill you every day. But he's struggling in minicamp. But again, whether a guy looked real good or looked average, it's too early to tell all that. He's got a middle linebacker mentality, I'll say that. He kind of reminds me of myself when I was a kid. I wasn't as big as him, but I liked to play like that and he likes to play. He's going to have to fight for a backup spot.”

Will Cliff Avril be a double-digit sack guy next year?
Can he? Sure. Will he? I think he's still a year away from realizing that potential. Coach Jim Schwartz likes speedy ends and Avril should have plenty of opportunity in the nine technique, but I lean towards “not yet” because I still see Julian Peterson and even Dewayne White playing big roles in rush. The Steelers and Colts were the only teams with two double-digit sackers last year – 10's a lot harder to get than it seems – and the Lions, despite their defensive changes, aren't on that level yet. Still, Avril had an impressive rookie season with five sacks and four forced fumbles. He'll get there before too long.

What's next now that the Lions have signed Foote?
Signing defensive end Kevin Carter is a distinct possibility, but as I wrote last week there's no urgency to get a deal done on Carter's part. He's a veteran, he doesn't need camp. If he decides to play it will be in July or August. Beyond that, the Lions continue to shuffle in free agents at their biggest position of need – offensive line. Toniu Fonoti, Kirk Barton, Dylan Gandy, James Blair and the recently-released Matt Lentz all have gotten looks. There's big concerns with protection up front (another reason Matthew Stafford might not play immediately), and the Lions are hoping to strike gold on the waiver wire. Fifth-receiver option Keary Colbert re-signed today, but I'm not sure the Lions are done looking there, either, if the right guy comes along.

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Lions sign Colbert

The Lions re-signed free-agent Keary Colbert, adding him to the mix of potential No. 5 receivers.

Colbert played four games with the Lions last year and caught five passes for 64 yards. He also spent time with Seattle and Denver last year after playing his first four seasons in Carolina.

He'll battle John Standeford, Will Franklin, Eric Fowler and Chris Hannon for the final receiver position.


Foote excited for a 'fresh start'

New middle linebacker Larry Foote signed his one-year contract and met with the media today. He said he asked the Steelers for a trade shortly after the Super Bowl in February and always hoped to be a Lion, but didn't know if that was possible until after last month's draft.

“I think if they would have took the linebacker (Aaron Curry) No. 1 or the kid at USC (Rey Maualuga), they'd have had three spots,” Foote said. “All spots, you got to earn it, but they'd have had three guys penciled in as starters so I might have been looking elsewhere.”

As it is, Foote's penciled in to start in the middle of the Lions defense, with Julian Peterson and Ernie Sims as his running mates. That's a significant upgrade over a linebacker corps that featured Sims, Paris Lenon and Ryan Nece last year. Lenon and Nece are still free agents.

Foote said he has more to offer as a player than he showed the last seven seasons in Pittsburgh and wants to “spread my wings a little bit.”

“I'm just coming in with some tape on my helmet with my name on it and a fresh start,” he said. “The playing time and the football part will take care of itself.”

Other highlights from Foote's media session today:

• On why he preferred a one-year deal to multi-year contract: “I wanted a one-year deal, basically. I wasn't fighting with my agent, we wasn't fighting with (general manager Martin) Mayhew last night, we just said whatever it takes let's get it done. I told Tom Lewand, in a couple months you're going to wish you signed me longer because I'm going to be worth a lot more in a couple months.”

• On the transition from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense: “I had my first meeting with the linebackers coach and we put in a couple of the base defenses and it was similar to some of the stuff we did at Pittsburgh. My mind wasn't as lost as the other guy that was next to me, so hopefully – I ain't going to say his name – hopefully I can learn everything faster.”

• On what he brings as a middle linebacker: “Just a good football player. I bring leadership, experience, I'm a vet and I don't got to say I'm tough, but I definitely am tough. I'm just going to bring quality football at that position.” He said he's ready for a lot more collisions, too. “I don't mind collisions. You can ask my mother that since I've been a kid.”

• Foote, who'll wear No. 55, said he intends to be heavily involved in the community and stay in the area after he retires. He's already working on a plan to build a charter school in Detroit. “I'm excited to be home full time,” he said.

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Foote a done deal

Free-agent linebacker Larry Foote has agreed to a one-year contract with the Lions, he told The Associated Press tonight.

Foote, who turns 29 next month, should start at middle linebacker for his hometown team. He'll be flanked by Julian Peterson and Ernie Sims, with rookie third-round pick DeAndre Levy as the primary backup. That's a significant upgrade over a linebacking corps that included Paris Lenon and Ryan Nece a season ago.

Foote has started the last five seasons for Pittsburgh, winning two Super Bowl titles. He played at Michigan and Detroit Pershing, and is scheduled to take a physical today.

His agent, Ken Kremer, did not return e-mails or phone calls seeking comment.

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Levy, Sims, Foote options at MLB

Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said he feels comfortable with where the Lions are at middle linebacker after seeing third-round draft pick DeAndre Levy in last weekend's rookie orientation.

“Levy really impressed me in our camp,” Cunningham said. “The thing that shocked me is that he looked more like Julian Peterson on tape playing for Wisconsin, and then when I saw him on a couple running plays, there are no pads on, but he was able to read through the bodies in front of him and show up right at the ball. It really surprised me that he acted like a middle linebacker. He never acted like he was an outside linebacker, so I'm excited to see what he can do.”

Levy, who started three years at outside linebacker for the Badgers, is penciled in as the Lions' No. 1 middle linebacker for now. Backups Cody Spencer and Chris Graham also are on the roster, free agent Larry Foote will visit tomorrow, and Cunningham said Ernie Sims is a candidate to move inside if Levy doesn't work out.

Cunningham said Foote is “a good football player,” but it remains to be seen if the Lions will offer him a contract. Foote, a Detroit native who'll turn 29 in June, might find a more attractive offer elsewhere.

“I've watched Pittsburgh for a lot of years and I evaluated him when he came out.,” Cunningham said. “He's done a good job, he's had a good career at Pittsburgh. Whether he fits here or not, we'll have to see if we ever do get to that point and then we'll address it then.”

Cunningham also indicated Sims is a better fit in the new defense than he was in the Tampa 2 system last year.

“I've tracked everything and I understand what happened,” he said. “Tampa plays a different kind of scheme than most people do and they did it because they had one great player, Derrick Brooks. And I think they thought he was going to fall out of a tree again, and there's going to be like 50 Derrick Brookses running around. There aren't. He did some unusual things, and God bless Monte Kiffin and those guys for putting together the scheme.

“But basically the way Ernie had to play last year, I call it bluff, he bluffs one way and falls back the other way. ... I think Ernie's finding out we're letting him play with his eyes and he's hitting the ball fast, both in coverage and on the run. And I'm really happy that he's come along as far as he has.”

Cunningham also lavished some unprompted praise on second-year linebacker Jordon Dizon, who'll play outside and in the middle on nickel situations for the Lions.

“I heard he made a statement that he probably got drafted too high,” Cunningham said. “This morning I said, 'Well, we had you in the top of the third round and the Lions took you in the top of the second, does that mean we were stupid, too?' And I think he needed to know that he's pretty good. And what I've seen him do on the practice field has been really impressive. He's a good student of the game.”

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Stanton speaks on Stafford, his 'uphill battle'

Drew Stanton, the odd man out in the Lions' quarterback mix now that No. 1 pick Matthew Stafford is on board, spoke about that draft choice and his lack of anything resembling an opportunity in his two seasons in Detroit after the Lions' OTA workout Tuesday.

“It's one of those things that's going to be an uphill battle, I'm aware of that,” Stanton said. “But it's a challenge that I'm going to have to try and overcome. But you get challenged every day you come out on this football field. It's not just me, there's a lot of other guys. And the draft's going to change everybody's playing field, we're aware of that, and you got to come in here and perform.”

Stanton took the No. 2 quarterback reps behind Daunte Culpepper Tuesday, but he'll no doubt be relegated to third string when Stafford is eligible to return to the team in two weeks. Culpepper is the starter for now, and the Lions are sending Stafford the film and script of the six offseason workouts he'll miss in order to keep him up to speed.

Culpepper declined to speak to the media Tuesday, and Stanton said no one from the organization has said let him in on their plans for his future.

“Hopefully we'll get a better understanding of what direction we're headed in, but that's not going to change what I'm about and who I am and how I go about my business,” he said.

He said he has no plans to ask for a trade or his release, and said “that's not even a fair question” when asked if he'd have a more realistic opportunity to succeed somewhere else.

In his first two seasons, Stanton has played in just three games and attempted 17 passes. He was stashed on injured reserve as a rookie, had his mechanics overhauled by Mike Martz, and is on this third offensive coordinator and third quarterback coach as a Lion.

“I'm still here, so until I'm no longer here and don't get a shot, that's when we can look back and say that, but right now I'm a Detroit Lion and as long as that is a fact then I'm going to go about my business,” Stanton said. “This is only going on my third season, so it's one of those things that it doesn't always happen the same way for everybody in this league. Not everybody's Matt Ryan, not everybody's Peyton Manning, some people are Tom Brady. Everybody else has a unique case. It's one of those things if you continue to work hard good things are going to happen.”

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More thoughts from Mayhew; Foote's a free agent

We should find out soon how much interest the Lions have in Detroit native Larry Foote, who was cut by the Steelers Monday.

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew couldn't talk specifically about Foote when he met with beat reporters after rookie orientation Sunday, but he was asked if he'd be interested in adding a Foote-type linebacker to the middle of his defense.

“Anytime there's a good player out there who can help us win football games, we're going to do all the research that we have to do and do everything we can to investigate that player and we're going to place a value on that player and we'll pursue that player until it gets to the point where the cost to get that player exceeds that value that we placed on him,” Mayhew said.

I don't know what value the Lions have placed on Foote, who'd have to transition to a 4-3 defense but is more accomplished and presently better than any middle linebacker currently on the roster, but it's clear Mayhew is not done working on his team. He said several veterans will be in for workouts this week, roster tweaking could go on for months, and the team clearly is interested in defensive end Kevin Carter (though Carter isn't likely to sign and go through workouts anytime soon).

“There's no finish line in May,” Mayhew said. “We have a lot of work to do in terms of getting the right players and the best players before the opener. Early on we said after free agency we'll still have holes, after the draft we'll still have holes, and we do. We still have holes, we still have things we have to get taken care of.”

A few other leftover thoughts from Mayhew's sitdown Sunday:

• Mayhew said it won't be a problem trying to land a veteran quarterback to back up Daunte Culpepper and Matthew Stafford if that's the direction they choose. “Job, no job,” he said. Among the free agents still on the market are Brad Johnson, Gus Frerotte and Trent Green, who played for Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan in St. Louis last year.

• The Lions have two vacancies on the management side they expect to fill in the coming days. Mayhew said he plans to hire a west-coast scout and a pro personnel assistant. Of the pending geographical realignment of the scouting staff, Mayhew said all regional talent evaluators will now live where they work. “We really kind of got, over the years, out of our areas where we had guys scouting areas that they don't live in. So what we're going to do is kind of realign that and get guys back in the areas that they scout. It helps you with the contacts and the background information, it helps guys get familiar with the schools and develop relationships, that kind of thing.”

• Of safety Louis Delmas' strong camp: “Delmas did some good things in practice, and likewise did some bad things. He got punked out on a Cover 2, got beat up the sideline (Saturday). But you saw him make two really big splash plays on the interceptions the last couple practices. He's got a lot of ability, but again he's a young guy who has a long way to go.”

• On the draft as a whole: “I thought the process was a good process. I thought when we were on the clock we had a good discussion about the players who were available and I thought we made good decisions for the franchise for now and for the future. I feel good about the class of guys from top to bottom.”

Update: The Lions made a handful of minor roster moves Monday, cutting running back Brian Calhoun and receivers Travis Taylor and Steve Sanders, and signing defensive lineman Eric Hicks.

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Rookie camp: Day 3 thoughts

Louis Delmas had his second interception as the fourth and final practice of rookie orientation wound down Sunday, staying home on a pass Matthew Stafford overthrew for Derrick Williams.

“Before the play I told him, 'Throw me one now, throw me one now,'” said Delmas, who joked earlier in the week he was going to get Stafford's first interception. “And then I looked at him and then next thing you know it was in the air. I was just like I appreciate it. He gave me a gift there.”

“Let's not talk about it,” Stafford said. “No, he got me today on the last play. But I just felt bad for him, he hadn't got one all week, needed to shoot him a bone.”

Delmas and Stafford had the most impressive camps of any rookie, not a surprise considering where they were drafted (first and 33rd overall). Delmas finished with two interceptions and for the most part showed good speed and play recognition, though he was going against players who'll mostly be out on the street tomorrow looking for 9-5 work. Stafford's most impressive attribute is the zip he puts on his passes. As soon as a throw comes out of his hand, it seems to be on his receiver's chest.

“It was about like I thought,” general manager Martin Mayhew said. “I thought a couple of times he rushed himself and he missed a couple of things. I think there were a couple of times he threw some balls and I was like, 'Wow, I haven't seen anybody throw a ball like that in a long time.'

“I think that's the way it's going to be for a while with him. He's going to do some things that are really exciting and get everybody energized and enthused, and he's going to make some rookie mistakes. And I think that's a natural part of the plan with him, that's how it's going to go.”

Neither Mayhew nor coach Jim Schwartz revealed much in the way of a depth chart at quarterback, though the assumption is Daunte Culpepper will remain the starter and Stafford will take No. 2 reps when he returns to the Lions in mid-May.

Drew Stanton is the third quarterback for now, though Mayhew said he's “actively looking” to add another veteran backup to the mix.

“All the starters and all that, it's May,” Mayhew said. “We got plenty of time to figure all that out. Daunte is a guy that's a vet, that's been around, that's a pro. I trust Daunte. He's got a lot of ability, and I anticipate that if we had something to do today, Daunte'd be the guy. Today. But we got a lot of time to work and we'll see where it goes.”

A few other notes:

• By my count, Stafford completed 8-of-13 passes in 7-on-7 drills. Besides the Delmas' interception, he had one drop and Marcus Demps bobbled another pick. “It was good,” Stafford said of his camp overall. “Learned a lot. That was the main thing I wanted to do when I got here. Definitely did that, so I was happy with it.”

• Middle linebacker DeAndre Levy was held out of most of Sunday's practice with a sore groin. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew (hamstring) and lineman Lydon Murtha (back) also sat out for the second straight day. “We have a lot of that out here, guys that really didn't pull or didn't get hurt but they couldn't finish practice because they couldn't warm up,” Schwartz said. “It's what I mentioned before, guys aren't in football condition. When you come out once on Friday, twice on Saturday, once on Sunday, you have weight-lifting sessions in between, if you're not ready for that you can get real sore and it's hard to loosen up.”

• I wasn't all that impressed by the receivers in camp, including Williams and D.J. Boldin. Williams looked fine in team drills, but he double-caught a lot of passes in a four-cone drill the Lions, where receivers run a box around cones spaced five yards apart and catch rapid-fire passes at short distances. Boldin had problems hanging onto the ball in the drill, too. Eric Fowler, who spent last year on the practice squad, had the best hands in camp, in my estimation.

• Schwartz complimented running back Antone Smith, a tryout rookie from Florida State. “He made a couple of plays, particularly in the passing game, take a check down and you run after the catch,” he said. “He was definitely a guy that stood out.” I think the Lions are set at running back, with Kevin Smith and Maurice Morris the clear 1-2, and Aaron Brown the likely No. 3 back, ahead of Aveion Cason, for his pass-catching and kick-return skills.

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Rookie camp: Day 2 thoughts

A lot less media attention on Day 2 of the Lions' rookie orientation Saturday. No. 1 pick quarterback Matthew Stafford had another solid day. He completed both of his passes during team run drill, and was 8-of-12 during 7-on-7. Most of his completions were underneath routes to receivers in the flats or backs coming out of the backfield, but he's still got a howitzer for an arm.

Two minor injuries of note. Seventh-round offensive lineman Lydon Murtha did not practice as he's still dealing with a lingering back issue, and first-round tight end Brandon Pettigrew was limited with a hamstring.

“It's not pulled, it just had a hard time loosening up and he's going to be fine,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “Again, our philosophy this time of the year is to err on the side of caution, so I don't know, we probably won't put him back out here this afternoon and we'll see tomorrow where it is.”

A few other thoughts from the morning workout:

Derrick Williams dropped the first punt during special teams period and let a fieldable next one hit the ground. Still, he's the Lions' likely punt returner next season and will play some slot receiver as well. “It's an important position in the NFL,” Schwartz said of the slot. “It's traditionally a lead receiver on third down. His skill set I think fits that. Probably a little bit quicker than fast, really good body control. Can drop his weight and stop on a dime. The things that make him a good returner also make him a good inside slot receiver.”

• Defensive tackle Sammie Hill – he said he prefers Sammie and joked that people started using “Sammie Lee” during the draft process because he's from the South – spent most of the individual period working one on one with defensive line coach Bob Karmelowitz. Hill said today's lesson was using his hands and hips in one motion against lineman rather than loading his arms for a push. “I did way better than I did yesterday,” Hill said. “That one-on-one with Coach Karm was great because when I got into the team and one-on-ones I actually felt confident and I used my hands more because I just got finished with it.”

• Schwartz on new middle linebacker DeAndre Levy: “Physically looks like he fits there, but again I want to caution that until we get mouthpieces and shoulder pads and those kind of things, you're taking on fullbacks live and you're taking on running backs live, you have a hard time completing that evaluation. But drill work, athletically, hitting the sleds, those kind of things, he looks like he's right at home in there.”

• There aren't many tryout players who have a shot at making the team. One who does, or at least earn a spot on the practice squad, may be cornerback Mark Parson of Ohio. “Parson did a lot of work with Deion Sanders and we'd had a lot of feedback from his camp, I think it's Prime U,” Schwartz said. “He was a guy that the scouts had a feel for and he's shown very well in this camp.”

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First impressions on Stafford

Matthew Stafford appeared to be a tad nervous early, but he showed in his first practice why the Lions drafted him No. 1 overall.

At Day 1 of the Lions' rookie orientation Friday, Stafford, by my count, completed both of his throws in 11-on-11 work, 7-of-13 passes in 7-on-7 and was 10-of-16 in 1-on-1 passing drills. His first pass in warmups was a wobbly toss to special teams assistant Brad Banta, but by and large he was crisp with his throws and appeared to make the right reads and progressions.

“What happens, and it's Matthew and it's probably 90 percent of the guys out here, when you go through a first practice as a rookie you're so anxious to get get going and you're out of control and things like that,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “Then all of a sudden later in practice you start settling down a little bit. I think we saw that with Matthew today, just chomping at the bit early, was wild with some throws, but then he started settling into a groove, started working together with some of the wide receivers, then all of a sudden you started seeing some better things later on in practice.”

Stafford best pass of the day came in full team drills when he went to his second read and threaded a perfectly thrown ball to tight end Brandon Pettigrew, just beyond the reach of linebacker Zack Follett. On several occasions, his passes got on the receiver so quickly they were dropped. One pass in 7-on-7 bounced off the facemask of receiver Sean Bailey, a former teammate of Stafford's at Georgia.

“My impressions were, please don't take my head off today,” said receiver Derrick Williams, a third-round pick. “I tried to make sure that I had my head around. He's really good. He's going to be a great quarterback.”

Schwartz said he was “pleased” with Stafford overall, and complimented his footwork, his release and his demeanor off the field.

“It's easy to start off school the first day well,” he said. “We've all been in that situation. The key is not going to be what happened today, the key is going to be maintaining that pace. And that's really the tale of the tape, it's not what we today, it's the body of work and just building one day after another.”

A few other thoughts:

• Safety Louis Delmas was very vocal in the secondary, something Schwartz said he doesn't expect to change when the second-round picks gets in with veterans. “He's a loquacious guy,” Schwartz said. “He loves the game. He has a lot of fun around it. He did that at Western Michigan. It shows through here. I don't think that's something you can manufacture, you either have it or you don't.”

•Schwartz said the Lions had “an issue” with former MSU safety Otis Wiley's physical that prevented him from practicing Friday. “As soon as we get that cleared up we'll try to get him on the practice field,” he said.

• First impression of DeAndre Levy: He can run, but he struggled covering a running back out of the backfield twice today. Still, I'm not going to read too much into his Day 1 at rookie minicamp.

•Former Lion Paris Lenon no longer has a stall in the Lions locker room.

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No Wiley on roster

Just got handed the official roster for the Lions' rookie orientation this week, Michigan State safety Otis Wiley is not in camp. No word on where he is yet. Several stories earlier this week indicated he would sign with the Lions or try out as an undrafted free agent instead of taking an opportunity with the Giants.

Also, for the Paris Lenon conspirators, Lenon's No. 53 still hasn't been handed out. Third-round pick DeAndre Levy is wearing No. 54 and seventh-rounder Zach Follett has No. 55.

Other numbers of note: Matthew Stafford, of course, is wearing No. 9, Brandon Pettigrew is No. 84, Louis Delmas No. 26, Derrick Williams No. 13, Sammie Lee Hill No. 79, Aaron Brown No. 41, Lydon Murtha No. 71 and Dan Gronkowski No. 47.

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Sammie Lee Hill - the next Leon Lett?

Rookie orientation starts later this afternoon and I'll have a full update on Matthew Stafford's first practice and how some of the other draft picks look, but here's a quick thought from coach Jim Schwartz on fourth-round defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill out of Stillman.

Hill isn't quite as unknown a commodity as Johnny Baldwin was two years ago when the Lions took him in the fifth round out of Alabama A&M. He was invited to the East-West Shrine game, but lasted just one practice when he tweaked a hamstring. He went to the combine, and he worked out Alabama's pro day.

“He wasn't a secret,” Schwartz said. “When you're 6-foot-4 and you're 330-some pounds, you have a hard time hiding, so scouts are going to find out about you. That's part of their job is to discover guys like that. But he wasn't a secret. ... Thirty-two teams all knew about him, so it wasn't like we were lifting or picking up rocks to find him.”

Still, Schwartz said watching scouting tape of Hill, who played mostly defensive end at Stillman, reminded him of another Alabama-born product he scouted years ago, Leon Lett of tiny Emporia State.

“He was playing teams like Northern State and some of these others; I can't even remember some of the schools,” Schwartz said. “The film was real grainy. You don't have the nice sideline and end zone (views), you got end zone that looks like it was filmed from the moon. And you just saw one guy that was twice as big as everybody else and then there'd be a pile and then you'd see somebody get knocked out of the pile the other way and you'd know that Leon was there.

“With Sammie, it was a lot of the same thing. Part of the film – literally, they took it from the booth and you can see the reflection of the guy filming it more than you can see down on the field. But then again, you see guys get knocked backwards a lot. You see him show up around the quarterback. He played end in a 3-4 and they used him to sort of shut down half the field.”

In camp this week, Schwartz said he'll be watching Hill's handwork and trying to gauge his awareness, his ability to match blocking schemes and stay on his feet.

“At the East-West game, he wasn't out of place, and that was one day, but he wasn't out of place,” Schwartz said. “You don't want to read too much into that, but he didn't look like a fish out of water there among major college players. He didn't look like a fish out of water at the combine. So we'll keep an open mind on him.”

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