Blogs > Lions Lowdown

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


Lions' LB Follett needs a big training camp

Another question at training camp for the Lions defense will be at linebacker. There is no question that DeAndre Levy and Julian Peterson should be solid, but there’s an open end spot because Larry Foote left and Ernie Sims was traded away.

That brings us to Zack Follett, a seventh-round pick out of Cal in 2009.

His motor never quit in his rookie season. He was disappointed to start it on the practice squad, but didn’t get down about it. His work habits and gradual improvement put him on the roster where he played mostly special teams. Toward the end of the season, he got in a few times at linebacker mostly to see how he would do.

He’s a tough guy. He’s a guy that defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham loves and expects to compete for the open starting spot. He was given that chance during OTAs.

Training camp will be crucial for Follett’s chance of earning the starting role. Landon Johnson and Vinny Ciurciu could be in the mix along with rookie Caleb Campbell who is probably more of a longshot at this point.

With his hard-hitting style along with Facebook and Twitter, Follett has become a fan favorite. But it will be his work in training camp that determines how much of a role he will have this season.

(This is part of a series of 20 Lions to watch in training camp which starts July 31. Follow me on @PaulaPasche.)

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Lions training camp a crucial time for Hefney

Cornerback Jonathan Hefney is out to prove that he can play in the NFL. He was humbled last year while playing for the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers. It was a learning experience and he also got noticed.

The Lions had him work out in December and then signed him as a free agent on Jan. 4, the day after the season ended.

He’s also got a bit of a chip on his shoulder (possibly more like a chunk) because he’s been told he’s too short to play corner in the NFL. He’s listed as 5-foot-9, but said he recently measured at just over 5-foot-8. He’s been able to dunk a basketball since he was in high school.

Again, he’s got the athleticism needed, but the question is can he play. He got some good looks during the OTAs, but training camp will be a crucial time for Hefney who was undrafted out of Tennessee.

(This is part of a series of 20 Lions to watch in training camp which starts July 31. Follow me on @PaulaPasche.)


Lions CB Jonathan Wade one to watch in camp

Probably the biggest question going into training camp is the secondary. It’s not like Martin Mayhew did not address the situation, he did. There is talent on the roster, but now it’s up to the individuals to step up and claim a job.

Cornerback Jonathan Wade will have his chance.

Wade, who signed as a free agent, is entering his fourth NFL season. In his three seasons with St. Louis he played in 47 games, but started just a half-dozen games.

Last week during the minicamp, coach Jim Schwartz said Wade had been the most consistent cornerback in the offseason.

Wade, a second-round pick (84th overall) by St. Louis in 2007, had a disappointing third season last year. He played in 15 games, but started just four. He didn’t have much to say about the situation other than that “God works in mysterious ways.”

The 5-foot-10, 198-pound corner worked opposite Chris Houston, another new Lions corner, often during OTAs. He’s got speed and training camp will be an excellent opportunity for him to show he’s got all the tools to start.

(This is part of a series of 20 Lions to watch in training camp which starts July 31. Follow me on @PaulaPasche.)

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Lions owner shows support for Lewand

William Clay Ford, owner of the Detroit Lions, issued a statement Sunday night showing support for team president Tom Lewand following his arrest for suspicion of drunk driving on Saturday.

"Tom made a very serious mistake and he appropriately owned up to that mistake. As he continues to seek professional assistance for this problem, the Lions will support and help him in any way possible,'' Ford said. "I continue to have full confidence that Tom will positively lead our organization as he has since assuming his current role of team president. He has all my support."

Lewand is in his 16th season with the Lions is the chief contract negotiator and oversees day-to-day business operations of both the Lions and Ford Field.

He also has the support of coach Jim Schwartz who also released a statement: "Tom's leadership was very instrumental in my decision to become head coach of the Detroit Lions. I fully support his commitment to recovery."

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Lions skirmishes aggravate Schwartz

ALLEN PARK -- A pair of skirmishes in the Lions’ final minicamp session before breaking for a month, ended Friday's session on a sour note for coach Jim Schwartz.

He found himself in the middle of both dust-ups trying to pull bodies out and end it. The second one was all he could handle, so he stopped the drill two plays short, huddled up the players and let them have it.

Schwartz was clearly agitated when practice ended.

“That was too intense. We had that situation come up before in OTAs and everybody laughed that you can’t fine the players, but guess what there are going to be a lot of fines from today. It’s not acceptable what happened. ... When you can’t finish practice and when you have guys enter fights that aren’t involved in it, it’s unacceptable and they’re going to get taxed pretty heavy.’’

After Schwartz addressed the players he had offense and defense line up across the field. Whichever unit could produce a player who could kick a field goal would not have to run gassers. It was supposed to be a fun way to end minicamp.

Rookie Ndamukong Suh, who has a soccer background and kicked field goals in high school, split the uprights with a 35-yard field goal. It wasn't enough to put a smile on Schwartz's face though.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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Lions' Pettigrew expects to be limited at camp

ALLEN PARK -- Tight end Brandon Pettigrew was not in attendance at the morning session of Thursday's mandatory minicamp. Coach Jim Schwartz said he was excused for personal reasons. Pettigrew was at the afternoon session and would not elaborate.

The Lions tight end is one of a few Lions coming back from ACL knee surgery. He is progressing well. "I'll definitely be ready for training camp, but that doesn't say how much I'll be doing during training camp. I'm pretty sure I'll be limited,'' Pettigrew said.

He has been down this rehabilitation road before. He knows rehab is more than just the physical therapy. He has to get his mind ready too.

"That's a huge part of it, the mental part of it, telling yourself to just not think about it and practice, you'll get along a lot better without thinking about it,'' Pettigrew added.

The Lions finish minicamp on Friday with one morning session. And then they break until they report for training camp on July 30.

(Follow me on @PaulaPasche.)

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Lions' LB Follett could be dangerous

ALLEN PARK -- If Lions linebacker Zack Follett was forced to take two years off football he would be dangerous. Just ask him.

“That would be tough. My body would love it. I’d probably get arrested because football is my only time I get to go out there and hit people as hard as I can and I need that once a year,’’ Follett said on Thursday.

What would happen?

“Just getting a little angry road rage, traffic. That’s why we need football, we can’t have the strike we’ll be in trouble,’’ Follett added.

Follett’s teammate Caleb Campbell was forced to sit out two years from football after graduating from West Point due to Army regulations.

Follett played mostly special teams last year in his rookie season, but now he’s got a crack at starting at linebacker. It’s hard work, but he seems up for the challenge.

“I think it’s knowing the defense. Last year I didn’t have a good grasp of it. So I think something I‘ve worked on quite a bit is getting in the playbook, knowing my plays and then just being a smart football player,’’ Follett said.

“It’s one thing Gunther (Cunningham, the defensive coordinator) likes. It’s OK if you make your mistake once, but are you going to make it the next time, and after that mistake are you going to get back and make a play,’’ Follett added.

(Follow me on @PaulaPasche.)

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Lions' OTAs were too intense for league standards

ALLEN PARK -- When the league punished the Lions by scrubbing their final two OTAs, it wasn’t because a player complained to the NFLPA which is often the case

“They actually saw a headline in one of our newspapers that said, ‘Suh and Peterman battle it out in OTAs.’ They flagged that and said they wanted to see the practice film. I assume they were looking for one-on-ones which you’re not allowed to do with the offensive and defensive linemen which we weren’t doing,’’ Lions coach Jim Schwartz said after Wednesday’s morning minicamp session.

The minicamp features two practices each on Wednesday and Thursday and one on Friday. The OTAs which were canceled were supposed to be held earlier this week.

“They just generally said practice was too intense, the pace of practice and practice was too intense. I’m extremely proud of our offseason program. I think if I was a player I’d want to be in this offseason program,’’ Schwartz added.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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Years later, Lions' Delmas still chirping

If Louis Delmas wasn’t so good playing safety, then all of his chirping might be annoying. He was chirping even as a Lions rookie, a second-round draft pick.

But as we saw last season Delmas is not all talk.

It’s all a part of his character that hasn’t changed since he was a freshman at Western Michigan. New Lions tight end Tony Scheffler was a fifth-year senior and remembers Delmas well.

“He came in as a true freshman, green as they come, but he was chirping,’’ Scheffler said. “It was one of the things that was a welcome back, was to hear his voice chirping over there in the locker room. He hasn’t changed at all — great player.’’

Still Scheffler calls him a rookie and seems to enjoy it.

(If you had one question to ask Jim Schwartz about the 2010 season what would it be? Please comment or send an e-mail to Also, follow me on @PaulaPasche.)

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Lions' Mr. Irrelevant is 'in the mix'

To watch the Lions offseason workouts, Tim Toone is just another wide receiver hoping to make the roster.

But Toone, who was the final pick in April’s draft, is also the NFL’s Mr. Irrelevant. This accomplishment will be celebrated with an annual celebration June 30-July 2 in Newport Beach, Calif.

Good thing he seems to have a sense of humor about it.

So does coach Jim Schwartz.,

“That’s not going to determine whether he makes the football team or not but he can have some fun in the next couple months,’’ Schwartz said.

Toone, the 255th pick out of Weber State, has shown the coaching staff something.

“He’s been returning kicks, he’s been playing in the slot, he’s adopted pretty quickly. He’s got really good quickness, he’s a savvy player (who) knows his way around a little bit,’’ Schwartz said. “He’s going to be in the mix. He’s a guy who has some play-making ability, he has some quickness, he brings some tools to the field that will help him in certain roles for us.’’

(If you had one question to ask Jim Schwartz about the 2010 season what would it be? Please comment or send an e-mail to Also, follow me on @PaulaPasche.)

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Lions' Schwartz: Camp a tough grind mentally too

While coach Jim Schwartz readily admits that the rookies — draft picks and unsigned free agents — were quick to blend in with the veterans during OTAs, he also knows that they are just getting started.

Because there are so many things on their plates, Schwartz said it is tough being an NFL rookie. He doesn’t expect the physical and mental aspects to intersect during the first season.

“I think the first thing that comes is physical. Those guys are great athletes, they wouldn’t be here if they weren’t. ... A big part of it is mental, it’s not just the mental part of knowing what to do, it’s the mental part of being resilient and being able to go through the grind that is training camp. Unless you’ve gone through it before, it’s tough to describe,’’ Schwartz said.

The veterans and rookies will have a pair of OTAs next Monday and Tuesday followed by three days of minicamp. It’s an effort to get them prepared for training camp which begins the end of July.

(If you had one question to ask Jim Schwartz about the 2010 season what would it be? Please comment or send an e-mail to Also, follow me on @PaulaPasche.)

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Lions' Raiola is cautious with his optimism

Lions center Dominic Raiola has had his hopes and dreams dashed way too many times when the Lions have drafted or signed players deemed to be the saviors of the franchise.

So you’ll have to pardon Raiola if it sounds like he’s not getting too excited about the coming season.

“You don’t want to put too much into it, we’ve been down this road so many times,’’ Raiola said. “... Deep down there is a little more sense of this could be it, this could be the team that really turns the corner.”

Raiola might be the biggest Stafford supporter on the team. He was from the start of last season.

When asked about a particular jaw-dropping fade that Stafford threw to Calvin Johnson in a recent OTA, Raiola had just one thing to say: “He’s been doing it every day.”

(If you had one question to ask Jim Schwartz about the 2010 season what would it be? Please comment or send an e-mail to Also, follow me on @PaulaPasche.)

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You tell me: How many games will Lions win?

The Lions have shaken up their roster yet again. Last year basically they were filling some holes just with healthy bodies because they weren’t quite sure what they had. After a 2-14 season, they knew exactly where the deficiencies were and made trades and signed free agents to help them make their way to respectability.

The question is: How much better will they be?

My guess at this point — this could change before the season starts — is that they will win 6-8 games this season.

Now it’s your turn.

I’m working on a special Oakland Press project that will come out on July 4. Included will be fans projections for Lions wins in the 2010 season.

Tell me how many wins, your name and town. Either comment on this blog or e-mail me at Results will be posted July 4 and printed in the Oakland Press July 4 edition.

I’m curious to see what Lions fans are thinking after all the off-season moves.

Thanks for your support — Paula.



Lions' Schwartz keeps close eye on OTAs

In the past week the whistle has been blown on the Baltimore Ravens and Oakland Raiders. For the Ravens it was for getting too physical during OTAs. It’s a costly mistake. The Ravens had to forego their final week of OTAs. The infraction against the Raiders was unspecified, but cost them a pair of OTA days. It’s not a first for the Raiders who were called out for too much contact in the offseason three years ago.

Chances are good this will never happen with the Detroit Lions as long as Jim Schwartz is the coach. A team source said he’s never seen a coach who is so careful and is well aware of the limitations. He prepares the drills with this in mind, keeping one-on-ones to a minimum.

It did happen to the Lions in 2006 under coach Rod Marinelli when a guard, who was with the team for a week or so, complained to the NFLPA.

Schwartz is a detail guy. It’s one reason he’s a good coach and should never cost the team some valuable offseason workout time.

Another reason? How can any player on a team coming off a 2-14 season complain that he is being worked too hard?

(If you had one question to ask Jim Schwartz about the 2010 season what would it be? Please comment or send an e-mail to Also, follow me on @PaulaPasche.)

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Lions: With 33 new faces, could black cloud be lifting?

When you’re looking for changes from last season to the upcoming one, obviously the first place to start is the Lions roster which features 33 names that weren’t with the team last season. They all won’t make the final cut, but plenty will. You know the names — Ndamukong Suh, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Nate Burleson, Jahvid Best, Chris Houston. The list goes on.

Still, there’s another change too.

Maybe it’s because it was a sunny day and he was at a golf course, but on Tuesday at the Lions golf outing, coach Jim Schwartz had the biggest smile on his face. (Don’t believe me? See the video at

No one on the Lions, from Tom Lewand down, is going to get too excited about this team until they win one game — and then another and another. But it almost feels like some of the black cloud that hung over the Lions for many years, has started to dissipate.

(If you had one question to ask Jim Schwartz about the 2010 season what would it be? Please comment or send an e-mail to Also, follow me on @PaulaPasche.)

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Atogwe to Lions? Forget about it

If Lions fans are still harboring thoughts that Detroit will sign unrestricted free agent safety OJ Atogwe, forget about it.

Atogwe, who has spent his entire five-year career with the St. Louis Rams, became an unrestricted free agent on June 1. Obviously he wanted to test the waters.

Well, if anyone was interested and at his perceived price range he would have signed with them by now. He’s got a few injuries that are a concern — a shoulder and a groin — and he apparently is not worth as much as he thought he was.

Best bet is that he works out a deal and remains with St. Louis.

(If you had one question to ask Jim Schwartz about the 2010 season what would it be? Please comment or send an e-mail to Also, follow me on @PaulaPasche.)

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Lions' Best will be in the mix for kick returns

Lions running back Jahvid Best has his hands full learning the play book. He not only is a featured running back but also lines up in the slot.

It’s enough for the rookie to think about just now. He doesn’t need to add kick returning to the list just yet.

Although, he will.

“There’s a lot of ground to be covered before we actually return a kick this year, but he’ll definitely be in the mix,’’ coach Jim Schwartz said.

Best used his speed to return kicks at Cal and it has to be one of the reasons he was so attractive to the Lions that they made a trade to draft him late in the first round just to make sure they got him.

It’s early and Schwartz said it’s really tough to evaluate running backs until they actually run against opponents, but Best has not disappointed so far.

He can run and he can run fast. But he can also catch. When you see some of his receptions, he definitely looks more like a wide receiver than a running back.

(If you had one question to ask Jim Schwartz about the 2010 season what would it be? Please comment or send an e-mail to

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Your turn: Seeking questions for Stafford and Schwartz

We’re working on a special project at The Oakland Press which will appear in the July 4 editions of the paper and also on-line. I need your help.

If you had one question to ask Lions QB Matthew Stafford and/or coach Jim Schwartz about the upcoming season what would it be. Please keep each question to 25 words or less ... but submit as many questions as you would like.

Please e-mail your questions to

Thanks so much. Readers are what keep us going and we appreciate your input. — Paula

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Lions rookies quickly adapt

It’s been almost three weeks since the Lions rookies were allowed (by NFL rules) to join the veterans for OTAs.

The first few days were a little spotty which was to be expected since even the best college players have to learn how NFL practices are run.

On Thursday the rookies — draft picks and undrafted free agents — proved that they are fitting right in.

“I think today you would have a hard time, if you didn’t have a roster and you didn’t know the team, of looking out there and seeing who the rookies were,’’ coach Jim Schwartz said on Thursday. “... They’re in much better condition, they’ve adapted quickly. They know what to do, it’s not a fire drill when they’re out on the field.’’

Thursday was the Lions’ last OTA until June 21 and 22. Those two OTAs will be followed by a three-day minicamp. Then they will break until training camp opens the end of July.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche.)

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Lions close-lipped about S O.J. Atogwe

ALLEN PARK — If the Lions are interested in signing free agent safety O.J. Atogwe, they are not saying. The 28-year-old veteran, who has played five seasons with the Rams, could be a perfect fit to play alongside Louis Delmas.

“I’m never going to say who we are or who we aren’t interested in because it doesn’t help us in any way at all,’’ Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said on Thursday.

Atogwe became an unrestricted free agent when he did not reach a deal with the St. Louis Rams before midnight on Tuesday.

Coach Jim Schwartz would not be specific about Atogwe, but said, “Every chance we have to improve the team we’ll explore and we’ll leave it there.’’

He has said repeatedly that the Lions could sign a player between the draft and the start of training camp who will help win a game next season.

Atogwe’s salary demands are reportedly high, but that wouldn’t necessarily prevent the Lions from signing him.

“Mr. Ford has been incredible to giving us the resources we need to get this job done. We couldn’t have done what you mentioned before — (Kyle) Vanden Bosch or (Nate) Burleson — without strong commitment from the Ford family. That’s stuff that Tom (Lewand) and Martin (Mayhew) have to weigh and things like that,’’ coach Jim Schwartz said. “Everybody needs to be on the same page.’’

The Rams could eventually re-sign Atogwe, but other teams have shown interest also.

(Follow me on Twitter @paulapasche.)

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Injuries have slowed progress of Lions CB Spievey

No question the secondary was a huge issue going into the offseason and remains a question mark. They have added veterans like Chris Houston and Jonathan Wade, but they also looked for help in the draft.

The Lions drafted CB Amari Spievey in the third round to give them help where they need it most.

Spievey, who played at Iowa, was hampered early in the offseason by “tight hips” and could not participate fully in workouts.

“He’s like all the rookies he’s spotty, does some good things and does some not-so-good things. His learning process, he’s going against veteran players and gets beat sometime. ... He’s still not where he needs to be physically, not through his own fault because of injury he was nursing going into the draft. He’s behind a little bit there,’’ coach Jim Schwartz said.

Spievey didn’t lift at the Combine because of a left shoulder stinger. He’s been participating in OTAs, but we’ll get a much better idea of how he can fit in once training camp starts.

(Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche)

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It's tough to evaluate Lions D-Line just yet

This season’s version of the defensive line looks nothing like last year’s which we know is a good thing for the Lions. With Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams mucking it up on the inside and Kyle Vanden Bosch on the right side it should be a strength of the defense and maybe the team.

So far in the OTAs, it’s tough for coaches to evaluate players on the defensive line. First of all, they’re not wearing pads.

Coach Jim Schwartz said that right now it’s about technique.

“The true evaluation will come in training camp when they have pads on and you can see what they’re going to do on a football field,’’ Schwartz said.

There’s competition for the left defensive end spot and don’t forget defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill who had a good year as a rookie. (Follow me on Twitter @PaulaPasche)

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