Detroit Lions Training Camp: Thursday's Light Work Party

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Detroit Lions Training Camp: Thursday's Light Work Party
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Well Lions fans, your eyes and ears at training camp is back with more news, and observations for your enjoyment.

This morning was cloudy and rain threatened, but held off. It was very pleasant, and you could sense autumn in the air. I hooked up with Ali Hammoud, our intrepid Bleacher Report featured columnist, and some great fans from Jackson. Brad Pieh, his son Noah, and Todd Pletcher were a blast to party with, and with Ali in the mix we kept one another in stitches all morning.

Lets do this!

As the players emerged from the facility, I noticed that none were in pads. This was going to be a light workout that would end a half hour early.

It has been the custom of late for the punt return specialists to take reps from machine generated punts prior to team warm up drills. Today’s unit included both Nate Burleson and Jahvid Best, along with Derrick Williams, Tim Toone, Jonathan Hefney, and Dennis Northcutt.

What stood out about this drill was that players were catching the ball with one arm. After the catch (all balls were caught), the player would have to catch another ball with the other arm.

I asked Tim Toone after practice why they were catching the ball in such a fashion. He explained that it’s primarily a concentration drill. Toone was very gracious with the fans, hanging out for 15 minutes. Ali quipped that if he cut his hair, he’d lower his 40 time by two seconds. Toone laughed. I asked him about the aerodynamic characteristics, and wondered if his dreads could, in fact, be wings. We bantered back and forth. Fun stuff.

During the warm-ups, Dre Bly couldn’t keep a straight face at our good natured heckling. He smiled broadly, and waved at us.

The team broke into individual drills. We watched running backs coach Sam Gash (remember Sam?) whistling passes at Jahvid Best, Kevin Smith, Maurice (Mo Mo) Morris, DeDe Dorsey, Jerome Felton, and Aaron Brown.

Gash looked like he could still play. I told him to put on a red jersey if he was going to show off that gun of an arm.

The “big uglies” were off in their corners, doing their best to destroy the sleds. The linebackers and DBs were doing their agility drills. These guys can back peddle faster than the old Jarhead can run.

The offense ran some “vanilla” 11-on-0 offensive plays. The timing and routes looked much sharper than last week. As a whole, the tempo of every phase of practice was higher than last week.

Practice moved on to special teams. The flavor of the day was kick returns and kick coverage. I’ve been impressed with the higher priority placed on special teams play this year. I don’t think that we will see a repetition of the horrible play of last year’s not so special teams.

The team drills came next. Today, the Lions worked a number of situations. They did 2nd-and-6, 3rd-and-short, and redzone 1st-and-goal. The latter was by far the most entertaining. The Stafford and Johnson flying circus.

Johnson made a catch in the back corner of the end zone that no DB, or linebacker could possibly cover. That high leaping style of his is pure excitement.

Wooooo Hooooo!

Zack Follett had the day’s only interception when he jumped a Dan Gronkowski crossing route. Gronk is a physical specimen, but his routes will be his downfall.

Jahvid Best isolated outside linebacker Julian Peterson on a pass in the flat. Peterson didn’t have a chance in what was a monumental mismatch. Now that’s what being on an island in the NFL must feel like. Helpless.

Tony Scheffler got into the fun. He caught a Shaun Hill touchdown at the end line. He can elevate, folks, and has the awareness to get his feet in bounds.

Defensive tackle Robert Calloway, the signed, released, and re-signed rookie from Saginaw Valley State, made some noise when he batted a Stanton pass into the upper deck. The crowd roared in approval.

Drew Stanton was Drew Stanton. Inconsistent. OK on the short stuff, but too many “limp ducks” down field.

Practice wound down early, and Tim Fox, Dan Gerberry, and Tim Toone came over to us rail birds for an extended autograph session. Ali Hammoud went to the concession stand and bought Noah a football. Noah promptly got it loaded down with signatures. Nice touch, Ali!

Jim Brandstatter stopped by for some chitchat and photo ops. Tom “Killer” Kowalski and Dave Birkett said hello.

Gunther Cunningham stopped by and spent quite a while with Ali and I. We talked about Randy Phillips. Gunner beamed, “He’s always been my guy. When I spoke with his defensive coordinator (Lions DB coach Tim Walton), he couldn’t say enough good things about Phillips.” Gunner could not hide his pride.

Cunningham added that Phillips’ shoulder injury (which kept him from the NFL Combine) has fully healed. Another coup for St. Martin Mayhew.

Speaking of St. Martin, he was not at practice today, and a source close to the team told us that the Lions will be snagging us fans an early Christmas present. We were sworn to silence, but I can say that there are going to be a lot of smiles in Motown in a matter of days.

Ali, and I went to lunch at Liles in Dearborn, where we dined on corned beef, and spoke about John “Hammer” Farrier behind his back, as I promised him we would.

In the “did you know” department, I was perusing the training camp roster that the Lions staff hands out before each practice. There are 81 active players. Did you know that a whopping 39 of those players didn’t play in a Lions game last year?

That’s a huge turnover, folks. Things are changing for the better, Lions fans. That’s a promise.

An easy promise to keep.

That’s all I have for today. I’ll return on Tuesday, the 17th for another edition.

 

Mike Sudds is an analyst and correspondent for DraftTek.com.

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