Lions Hit The Ground Running In The Motor City
LARRY LAGE,AP Sports Writer
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Matthew Stafford had Jahvid Best in the backfield, tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler on the inside, and receiver Calvin Johnson on the outside.
Familiar faces and coaching continuity all helped the Detroit Lions hit the ground running in their first of 10 organized team workouts Monday.
“We all know what we’re doing out there,” Stafford said. “We don’t have to sit there and try to teach the whole offense over again.”
Detroit lost only one key player, cornerback Eric Wright, from last season’s playoff team and was missing just a handful of other players for the voluntary workouts that began this week.
Defensive end Cliff Avril skipped the workout, still hoping to sign a long-term contract with the team. Wide receiver Titus Young, linebackers Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy, and safety Amari Spievey also were not on the field with their teammates.
Coach Jim Schwartz said Tulloch is resting knee tendinitis. Otherwise Schwartz was mum about the missing players.
“I’m not going to be commenting on which guys are here and which guys aren’t,” he said. “They are all accounted for. We are aware of the reason each one person is not here.”
Several media outlets reported that Young wasn’t allowed at team headquarters because the second-year player had punched veteran safety Louis Delmas when he wasn’t looking last week. Messages seeking comment were left with Young, his agent, Kevin Poston, and Delmas.
The missing players didn’t slow down a crisp workout that had the pace and look of a practice in the regular season, without pads or hitting.
“You start talking more about the physical nature instead of the learning curve,” Schwartz said. “There were a lot of guys whose heads were swimming, but they were all rookies and first-year players and maybe a player new to the team.”
Stafford and the Lions proved they could move the ball through the air last season, with more than 5,000 yards passing, but couldn’t move the ball consistently on the ground. The running game was sidetracked in large part after Best was limited to six games (concussion) and Mikel Leshoure tore his left Achilles tendon before his rookie season started.
“Leshoure is probably a little bit more limited right now,” Schwartz said. “Jahvid’s not restrained at all by anything we’re doing. He physically looks very good. He looks a lot like when we last saw him on the field for us. But we’re very optimistic about both of those guys and both of them look really good.”
Stafford said for the team to take the next step, which would include helping the franchise win its second playoff game since 1957, each player has to figure out a way to get better during the NFL’s shortened offseason. After weeks of strength and conditioning, the team is starting organized team activities — also known as OTAs — that will lead to a three-day mandatory minicamp next month.
“During OTAs and minicamp, you’re really trying to get individuals better,” Stafford said. “If everyone takes the next step, our team will be that much better.”
Before the minicamp begins, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is expected to appear on a new celebrity dating show called “The Choice” that premieres June 7 on Fox.
“There’s no particular rhyme or reason why I went on it,” said Suh, confirming his part in the show for the first time.
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