Players and coaches have been singing Daunte Culpepper's praises for weeks. He's slimmer, he's throwing well, he looks like a new quarterback.
They weren't lying.
Culpepper was the most impressive revelation of the first day of Jim Schwartz's first mini-camp. He was listed at 260 pounds and said that weight is very accurate (and six pounds less than his playing weight from his season as starter in 2000). Last year, he weighed right around 290when he signed and, frankly, looked sloppy. He's much more put together now.
Basically my whole mindset from the beginning of this offseason, from basically as soon as the last game was over was to basically get myself in the best shape that I can, Culpepper said. Everybody's getting evaluated, but I feel like I'm kind of coming out of the draft again, believe it or not. It's kind of strange, but I feel like with the sense that everybody's proving themselves here, everybody's coming here to work, everybody's starting from scratch, it's kind of like, hey, it's the beginning again. I feel like my rookie year again, so I'm very excited.
Skill-wise, I'd always caution against reading too much into camp. There's no contact, no pads, and the defense isn't in midseason form. But Culpepper did have plenty of zip on his fastball. He completed 11-of-15 passes in one-on-one drills, with two drops and only one errant pass. He was easily the best-looking quarterback. Drew Stanton was erratic most of the day, and Drew Henson has a sidearm sort of snap to his motion I didn't notice last year.
Schwartz said both Stanton and Henson have thrown the ball well in conditioning, but admitted we're going to take a real hard look at this tape. The other stuff has been more controlled, just throwing routes on air. Today all of a sudden it was defense and it hit them a thousand miles an hour. That's something we'll look real hard at.
I've said it before but it bears repeating, the Lions' quarterback of the future is not on their current roster. I still believe they'll draft Matt Stafford. If they can't get a contract done, they'll take a developmental guy late, go QB somewhere next year, and add a veteran backup in free agency.
Culpepper, who's in the last year of his deal and started six games in Oakland two seasons ago after the Raiders drafted JaMarcus Russell No. 1 overall, said he's not worried about vying with another top pick for playing time.
That's a possibility, but I feel comfortable no matter what, he said. I'm here to help this team be the best we can be. And honestly, that's how I'm approaching it.
Other Friday thoughts:
Several players sat out most or all of practice Friday for unspecified injury-related reasons, including guards Stephen Peterman and Junius Coston, running back Kevin Smith and defensive tackle Grady Jackson. Smith said he's healthy and appeared anxious to go as he shadowed nearly every play during team run drills. I'm fine physically, he said. I guess the coaches have a plan.
One player who did practice Friday was safety Gerald Alexander, who's coming off a serious neck injury. I think he's done a good job of rehabbing, they felt strong and confident about it, and he was itching to get back on the field, Lions coach Jim Schwartz said.
Julian Peterson is wearing No. 59, the number he wore two seasons ago in Seattle. Linebacker Alex Lewis, who had 59, switched to 52 and didn't require any compensation for the switch. Just trying something new, Lewis said. Peterson wore 98, Landon Cohen's number, last year.
Jeff Backus talked extensively about the possibility of playing guard next year (more on that in the paper Sunday). He'd prefer not to, but acknowledged the irony of solving a position the Lions have been trying to fill long term since they drafted Backus in 2001. Joking about that and the new look of the Lions locker room his corner stall is next to the equipment room, across from where it was last year Backus said, They figure if I can't play tackle I'm going to be doing the laundry.
The Lions have two more practices today and close camp Sunday. Their second mini-camp, with their entire draft class, is in June.
Labels: Alex Lewis, Daunte Culpepper, Detroit Lions, Drew Henson, Drew Stanton, Gerald Alexander, JaMarcus Russell, Jeff Backus, Jim Schwartz, Julian peterson, Kevin Smith, Matt Stafford, Stephen Peterman