BEVERLY HILLS, Mich. (AP) – Shaun Hill insisted he wasn’t trying to make a statement.
The Detroit quarterback wore a hat with the initials “GU” on it Tuesday at the Lions’ informal workout. The cap is in honor of Gene Upshaw, the former leader of the players’ union who died in 2008.
“I woke up, my hair was a mess, so I put a hat on,” Hill said.
Hill’s attire may have been coincidental, but the NFL lockout was hanging over the Lions as they gathered at Detroit Country Day School. A federal appeals court ruled this week that the lockout will remain in place until a full appeal is heard on whether it is legal.
“It’s tough on everybody. It’s tough on the fans, I get that. It’s tough on players, it’s tough on the coaches, it’s tough on the owners,” Hill said. “I don’t know if it’s a necessary process that has to happen every 20 or 30 years. I don’t know. I think everybody will be better off once this thing’s over, but that said, players do need to be unified in what we’re doing. I’d like for players to put their Twitter accounts on hold, maybe, for a little bit.”
NFL players aren’t allowed to use team facilities because of the lockout, but the Lions have been gathering elsewhere this week for conditioning work and a few drills. About 35 players were on hand Tuesday, including quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receivers Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson.
Defensive lineman Kyle Vanden Bosch was there, too. He’s been pleased with how the sessions have gone but realizes there’s a limit to what the team can accomplish without coaches and a more structured setting.
“Nothing’s like practice. You can work out all day and it’s not the same as practicing or getting in football shape,” Vanden Bosch said. “I need coaching. I need to be critiqued. I need somebody to tell me what I need to do better. It’s difficult to evaluate yourself and make those improvements by yourself in an offseason without it.”
Johnson and Burleson said they’re enjoying a chance to spend time near their families this offseason. Burleson said he hasn’t been inconvenienced too much by the lockout, but he figures it’s probably harder on younger players who haven’t established themselves. He was impressed by the turnout for the improving Lions at these impromptu workouts.
“I saw some of the stuff that was on ESPN and NFL Network of other teams working out and I didn’t see that many guys,” Burleson said. “For us to have this type of showing, guys coming out here working hard, taking time out of their week and month to work out, it’s a good thing. I’m excited about what we’ve got going on this year. It’s going to be a big year for the Detroit Lions.”
Even Hill was there, less than a week after having back surgery. Hill’s offseason began tragically when his father died in January after a fall. Hill made a point of thanking the organization and the entire Detroit area for supporting him.
“That kind of thing goes a long way with me. I was very touched,” Hill said. “I feel very fortunate to have had 31 years with an unbelievable father. … He taught me everything. He always still wanted to be coach. Sometimes I would hate talking to him on Sunday after games. Now I look back and just wish I could again.”
Hill says he’s already able to jog again after his operation, and he should be back in game shape in about four to six weeks.
Hill threw for 2,686 yards last season while Stafford battled injuries to his right shoulder. The Lions won their last four games to finish 6-10. Their outlook is as promising as it’s been in a while, but as long as the lockout lingers on, their high hopes are in limbo.
“I think the general feeling from both sides was, the mediation and the negotiations, until one side gained leverage, not much was going to be decided,” Vanden Bosch said. “We still don’t know who has that leverage.”
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