LIONS INSIDER

CAMP NOTEBOOK: Swanson making the adjustment to guard

Posted Aug 1, 2014

Tim Twentyman covers all the news from Day 5 of Lions Training Camp including Travis Swanson's adjustment to guard, referees at practice and more.

The Lions drafted Travis Swanson in the third round of the draft in May to be their center of the future.

Making the jump from college to the NFL is hard enough, but Swanson is also learning how to play guard on top of playing center, which will make him a much better asset for the Lions in 2014.

“It was probably more of a shock for me in the spring,” Swanson said. “Two days after I was drafted I was here. It was the most North I’ve been in my life.”

Coaches didn’t put the kiddie gloves on Swanson in the spring. He was thrown into the mix right away – partly because guard Rob Sims was limited at the time – and he seems to be better for it in training camp.

One of the things in particular that this good work does for us in pads (is that) it gives the chance to face some pretty good defensive linemen across from him,” head coach Jim Caldwell said. “So he gets tested every single snap. But he’s shown the ability, just in terms of understanding, of being able to do both. He has a real good understanding of the inside techniques to utilize. 

“Obviously, he hasn’t arrived yet, but I think he’s working at it. He studies awfully hard, just in terms of the material we’ve given him but you can tell he’s got a natural bit of leadership. He’s a natural leader in there (and) the guys listen to him. I think it’s going to help if you play center and you know everything that is going on around you, you can play guard.”    

Swanson has gotten some first-team reps at left guard in camp and is currently holding down the backup center spot.

The Lions are only allowed 46 players on game day and usually only keep seven lineman active. There's a backup tackle and an interior player who has to be able to play both center and guard.

“It took a little getting used to but now I think I’m comfortable with everything,” Swanson said.

“I think it’s a great situation (here in Detroit). Dom (Dominic Raiola) and Rob (Sims) have been such a help. Everyone has from Riley (Reiff) to Larry (Warford), who just went through what I’m going through last year. It’s such a close-knit room. It’s really awesome to be a part of.”

OFFICIAL VISIT

The Lions have welcomed NFL officials to training camp the last couple days and the boys in the black and white zebra shirts haven’t been bashful about throwing that little yellow flag.

In one-on-one drills, Thursday, veteran Cassius Vaughn got a little grabby with a receiver and the official threw the flag. Vaughn put his hands up and gave a look to the official like, ‘What did I do?' 

refs (Photo: Detroit Lions)

What he did was contact the receiver past the five-yard barrier and also give the jersey a bit of a tug. The officials spoke to the media before practice on Friday and said those two infractions are going to be a major point of emphasis in 2014.

“We had our NFL officials out there who will be with us for the next three days and there were quite a few flags flying,” Caldwell said Thursday. “That was the intent, to get them aware of the things that you have to do correctly or obviously we’re going to suffer the consequences. I think they did a nice job adjusting, but I think they’ll help us the next couple of days.”

A big emphasis for the officials this year will be defensive players grabbing or tugging on the jersey of a receiver.

An information packet provided by the league on rule changes and points of emphasis read: Grabbing the jersey or any other part of the receiver’s uniform is defensive holding and will be called regardless of whether or not the official deems that the grab impeded or restricted the receiver.

“It’s really going to affect everybody, you know,” Caldwell said. “It used to be if you grabbed a jersey and you restricted a player, if they saw the shoulders turn a little bit or maybe his stride changed, they would throw the flag. 

“But now, it’s any tug of the jersey, regardless of what it does to you and the quarterback can be looking over there and the foul can occur behind him and they still are going to throw the flag. So, there’s a huge emphasis on that. Those are some of the things we have to make certain we get accustomed to.”

Defensive backs will certainly have to adjust to the new rule, but so will linebackers, who are sometimes caught in a tough spot covering faster running backs and tight ends.

The league has made it clear: Hands off the jersey.

They're also cracking down on trash talking and profanity. No warnings. Automatic 15-yard penalty.

FAIRLEY SENTENCED

Defensive tackle Nick Fairley was given a six-month suspended sentence and one year of probation for DUI and reckless driving charges stemming from a May 2012 incident in Mobile, Ala., according to WALA-TV in Mobile.

He has to pay $750 in fees and fines and take two statutory classes, one for the DUI and another for the reckless driving charge.

Fairley’s attorney, Sid Herrell, told the station he planned to appeal the sentence.

Fairley has slimmed down 15 pounds from his playing weight last season and has looked good in the early portion of training camp.

“Nick’s had a good offseason thus far,” General Manager Martin Mayhew said. “You guys may have forgotten: He had an injury at the end of 2012. It took him awhile to get over that, which kind of set him back a little bit, in terms of his preparation.

“But this year, he’s been healthy, he’s been engaged, he’s been in the weight room, doing things that we’ve asked him to do. So I’ve been happy with what he’s done to date.”

It’s unknown if Fairley will face any penalties from the NFL.

There is protocol and a course of action they can take,” Caldwell said Friday when asked about any potential penalties coming from the league.

“We’ll leave it up to them and see what happens.  

CAMP OBSERVATIONS

--Jeremy Ross, Ryan Broyles, Reggie Bush and Steven Miller were all taking reps returning punts Friday. It’s obviously Ross’ job, but it gets interesting if Ross is ever not available to do it. Does Tate get back there or could we see the return of Bush the punt returner?

--The Lions did a little something different during practice Friday in that the defensive players rotated individual drills with every coach. The secondary did some drills with the defensive line coaches and so on. It gives players a different view of how coaches run drills and it allows coaches to see players showcase some different skill sets.

--The defensive line drills got animated when Nick Fairley beat the much faster George Johnson in a two-man sled drill. Fairley’s win got everyone fired up.

--Ziggy Ansah, TJ Jones, Michael Williams and Alex Bullard remained out of practice due to injury.

--The No. 1 offense had a tough two-minute drill at the end of practice. In one sequence, Stafford was forced to throw the ball away on first and second down, Glover Quin made a nice play on a ball to swat it away on third down and Stafford was sacked (not brought to the ground) on fourth down.