Lions

Lions GM Surprised Best Hasn’t Been Cleared Yet

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TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 11:  Running back Jahvid Best #44 of the Detroit Lions rushes upfield against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the season opener at Raymond James Stadium September 11, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

TAMPA, FL – SEPTEMBER 11: Running back Jahvid Best #44 of the Detroit Lions rushes upfield against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the season opener at Raymond James Stadium September 11, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

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LARRY LAGE,AP Sports Writer

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew prides himself on not sharing too much information.

He laughs at reporters who try to exchange more than pleasantries with him throughout the year when it’s not one of the rare days he makes himself available to the media.

However, Mayhew did take and answer questions on Tuesday morning and couldn’t hide his feelings about waiting for Jahvid Best to be cleared for practice.

“I’m a little bit surprised, a little bit disappointed,” Mayhew acknowledged. “Everything was trending toward him being ready to go the first day of training camp.”

Best had a season-ending concussion on Oct. 16, 2011 — his second of the year and at least his third overall — and seemed to be making progress during the offseason.

Like the Lions, Best isn’t pleased that he’s being held out by doctors despite not having any obvious concussion symptoms.

“It’s definitely frustrating,” he said.

Detroit is counting on Best to help strike a balance with its stellar passing game led by quarterback Matthew Stafford and receiver Calvin Johnson.

The Lions are also banking on defensive end Cliff Avril reporting to camp to sign a $10.6 million, one-year deal after he and the team couldn’t agree on a long-term contract.

“Eventually, I know he will be here,” Mayhew said. “And he’ll be in great condition when he gets here.”

Messages left with Avril, seeking the planned date of his arrival in Allen Park, haven’t been returned.

“If anything is positive or encouraging to me, he’s very optimistic about how he’s going to perform this season,” Mayhew said. “He has his reasons for not being here. We made a very solid offer to him that we felt was a really good offer. He was willing to bet on himself and bet that he’s going outperform what was on the table, and I like that.”

The Lions, ranked No. 11 in the inaugural AP Pro32 NFL power rankings, are coming off their first appearance since the 1999 season. Mayhew said he thinks this team is better than the last one, but he’s not willing to say returning to the postseason is an expectation of his.

“It’s important for us to not start focusing on the playoffs right now,” he said. “My focus right now is to have a good practice today and I think a lot of our teams feels that way. I know Jim (Schwartz) preaches that. The only way you get back to the playoffs is by taking care of the steps along the way.”

Center Dominic Raiola has endured a lot of losing since Detroit drafted him in 2001, including the NFL’s only 0-16 season just four years ago. He said the Mayhew-led front office deserves a lot of credit for turning the franchise around.

“If you look at the talent that we’re bringing in and keeping, it’s night and day,” Raiola said. “They’re giving us everything it takes to win.”

Detroit is missing only one starter from last season, cornerback Eric Wright, who signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent, and he left a void that Aaron Berry was projected to fill this year. However, Berry had his contract terminated last week after being arrested twice this summer. That leaves the Lions with lackluster options — Alphonso Smith, Jacob Lacey, Justin Miller along with rookies Dwight Bentley and Jonte Green — to start opposite cornerback Chris Houston.

“My belief in the spring was that we had a very heated competition at the right cornerback spot,” Mayhew said. “There were a number of players involved and a lot of those guys are still here competing.”

Mayhew said he would be willing to add a veteran running back or cornerback at some point, but believes it is too early to make such a move.

So, what is his biggest concern a little more than a month before opening the season at home against the St. Louis Rams?

“Not saying anything silly right now in talking to you guys,” Mayhew said.

___

Follow Larry Lage on Twitter at http://www.Twitter.com/larrylage

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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