LIONS INSIDER

Camp Notebook: Ashlee Palmer leading the linebacker competition and Megatron wants to play Thursday

Posted Aug 20, 2013

Tim Twentyman takes a look Ashlee Palmer being the current favorite to win a starting spot, new signing Rashean Mathis already making an impact and Calvin Johnson wanting to play Thursday

Ashlee PalmerLB Ashlee Palmer is currently the front-runner to win the starting linebacker job.

Ashlee Palmer always held out hope that one day he'd get his shot to be a starting linebacker on a permanent basis.

For the last three seasons with Detroit, Palmer has made spot starts here and there, but has always been that fourth linebacker or a player considered to be a strong special teams contributor.

It finally looks like Palmer's backup days could be over. The fifth-year linebacker has stepped to the forefront in that competition to win the Detroit Lions starting outside linebacker spot.

"I don't know if that race is over yet, but he has certainly taken the lead," head coach Jim Schwartz said of Palmer. "He has been consistent through training camp and has made plays in preseason games. He's played physical.

"Again, we're not at the finish line there yet. We still have work to do there. We're only into our third preseason game. He's put together a nice string and he's been consistent and that's been a thing that he was sort of working to become as a player. It's been good to watch him be a lot more consistent."

Palmer has outplayed Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis and it appears he'll enter the season as the third linebacker with Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy.

"I've been waiting for (awhile), man," Palmer said of the opportunity that now in front of him. "I've been here the last four years and I've been soaking everything in.

"(They) bring in Tully (Stephen Tulloch), bring in Justin Durant and brought Bobby (Carpenter) in. Being pushed to the back of the bus isn't a good thing, but I did well with it and just learned from the guys they brought in here, took something from each of their games, and just tried to be consistent and work within my boundaries and my means."

The Lions acquired Palmer just two days after the Bills released him following the 2009 season.

"When I came over here … I was still young and I didn't really fit the mold and didn't fit the system," Palmer said. "But they had to throw me in the fire anyway."

Palmer played in all 16 games his first year in Detroit in 2010 with five starts.

The last two years, he's had two spot starts because of injuries to players ahead of him on the depth chart. During that span he became one of the team's best special teams performers.

Palmer was asked if he ever thought a starting job was possible when he was continually passed over early in his career.

"Possibly," he said. "You can never see the future but you can only work towards the future."

It looks like the future is now for Palmer.

MATHIS IN THE NICKEL

Rashean Mathis has only been a Detroit Lion for a couple days now, but already the veteran defensive back is making his presence felt.

Mathis split reps at the nickel cornerback spot with Bill Bentley and the first-team defense during Tuesday's practice.

Bentley hasn't looked sharp the two preseason games and the Lions need to see what Mathis brings to the table.

"He's a very experienced player and a very savvy player," Schwartz said of Mathis.

"It showed in his ability to pick things up quickly and be able to get him on the field. We haven't had a lot of time to evaluate him physically. Some of those new guys that we have signed we have to get them ready to play this week and get a good look at them. Therefore we have been trying to get them some more reps during practice."

Mathis has played inside and outside as a cornerback and has also played safety in the NFL. He's a versatile player and made a nice interception from the nickel spot in practice today.

"It's nothing new to me," Mathis said of playing the nickel. "I know football. Inside there, you just have to know the scheme of the defense and know the weaknesses and every now and then don't be afraid to stick your face in a fan."

CALVIN JOHNSON WANTS TO PLAY

Calvin Johnson was asked in the locker room Tuesday after sitting out his second straight practice because of a knee bruise if he was planning on playing against the New England Patriots Thursday night.

Johnson looked up and simply said, "Yeah."

Whether coaches and trainers agree is an entirely different question.

The Lions could certainly use him. The offense was anemic without him in Cleveland and it would be good to get the offense going in the regular season tune-up with all hands on deck.

Schwartz said he's made no decision on whether Johnson or safety Louis Delmas will play or how long his starters might play.

"Today would be like a Friday during the regular season," Schwartz said. "A lot of decisions we don't make until Saturday night before the game. We still have a lot of time and again we'll make good decisions on both of those."

Delmas did not practice Tuesday after practicing for the first time in nearly two weeks on Monday.

"There's a balance there for sure," Schwartz said of the decision to play Delmas in the preseason or take no chances with him until the regular season. "Like we talked a little bit before just talking about preseason games, it would be an ideal situation to be able to get out on the field.

"Lou (Delmas) is a guy that we're not evaluating from any other standpoint other than his health. It would definitely be beneficial, but if that turns out to be the prudent choice then we're willing to make that choice. We just have to take a look and do what's best for him physically and not have any other agenda.

"I think that if we let that be the guiding force then whatever decision we reach on these next couple of games will be a good decision."

Joining Johnson and Delmas on sidelines Tuesday were quarterback Shaun Hill, tight end Matt Veldman, defensive tackle John Drew and cornerback Ross Weaver.

LIONS BREAK CAMP

The Lions broke training camp to little fan fare Tuesday afternoon.

"I think we're packing up and heading back to Detroit today," Schwartz said with a smile. Checking out of the dorms. Putting our fans in our cars and our pillows and stuff like that.

"It used to be sort of a celebrated day, breaking camp. It's tough in the NFL; they have to check out of the hotel today. I mean it's a little bit different.

"We talked about this as a team about having to have the maturity to be consistent when there is no horn blowing in the morning to wake you up. When there is no bed check at night and things like that.

"The guys that are going to be successful in the NFL can handle that type of discipline and if they can't then they're not going to be a part of what we do."