ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) – Former Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher still has at least one NFL rooting interest.
Fisher has been taking in some of training camp with the Detroit Lions, who are coached by Jim Schwartz, his former defensive coordinator with the Titans. Detroit also hired Fisher’s son, Brandon, this offseason to assist its defensive coaching staff.
Fisher, who parted ways with the Titans following last season, says he’s impressed with the job Schwartz is doing after taking over a team that went 0-16 the season before he arrived.
Detroit went 2-14 in Schwartz’s first year before improving to 6-10 last season. The Lions won their final four games last season despite injuries to quarterback Matthew Stafford and running back Jahvid Best.
“Obviously he took over a challenging situation,” Fisher said Wednesday. “To see them come on like they did last year despite the injuries was quite impressive. Clearly he’s got his stamp on this team. He’s got a great relationship with the front office and they are doing a great job building this team.”
Fisher’s son, Trent, plays for Auburn, so he said he’ll be rooting for the Tigers and Lions this season. This is clearly a different Detroit team from the one that lost 47-10 to Fisher’s Titans in November 2008.
“Things can change quickly,” Fisher said. “You can have an attitude change, a personality change, a commitment and a re-commitment. Things can turn. There is a great deal of excitement here. These guys like to come to work. It’s great to see.”
The biggest obstacle facing the Lions so far this preseason is injuries, and although they’re hardly alone in that regard, quite a few quality players are on the mend.
Detroit’s top three draft picks are all hurt. Defensive lineman Nick Fairley had surgery on his injured left foot last week, and wide receiver Titus Young has been battling a hamstring problem. Running back Mikel Leshoure tore his left Achilles’ tendon on Monday, ending his season before it began.
Tight end Brandon Pettigrew missed practice Wednesday with what Schwartz called a mild ankle injury. Calvin Johnson appeared to be having his left leg worked on toward the end of practice, although Schwartz said the star receiver isn’t hurt.
“His tape was cutting into his ankle,” Schwartz said. “They cut it off, and we just shut him down. It’s not an injury.”
One player who has been healthy is Stafford, who had surgery on his throwing shoulder in the offseason after he was limited to only three starts last season. Now his teammates are struggling to stay on the field.
“It’s tough. It’s part of the game,” Stafford said. “It seems like every year there’s something that happens to every team that you have to overcome and deal with. Obviously, we’ve lost some guys early on, and hopefully some of them can come back and still be effective for us.”
The Lions announced some roster moves Wednesday. They signed safety Michael Johnson and center Rudy Niswanger and released linebacker Quentin Davie.
Detroit plays its first exhibition game Friday night against Cincinnati. Schwartz wouldn’t go into detail about how much his top players will play, but he said Stafford’s health isn’t a concern.
“You don’t talk about that,” Schwartz said. “If we go into a game thinking, `stay healthy,” that’s not a good attitude to have going in.”
Schwartz did acknowledge that the lockout affected the way teams have been able to prepare for the first preseason game.
“A lot of the situations that we get into with preseason games we haven’t addressed yet,” Schwartz said. “We’ve addressed them maybe in walkthroughs, but those are things that would have been done in OTAs and would have been done early in training camp. Our approach at the beginning of camp was a little bit different. Rather than being in situations and things like that, we just practiced plays a lot more, again, sort of like your offseason.
“We’ll get there. The finish line isn’t the first preseason game. The goal is: Be ready for the opener and to use the preseason to be ready for the opener.”
Copyright 2011 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.