Camp Notebook: Slay vs. Megatron; high praise for Ansah; veteran advice and more

Posted Jul 29, 2013

Tim Twentyman on Darius Slay's play, Stephen Tulloch's comparison of Ziggy Ansah to Jevon Kearse, Reggie Bush's advice and other observations from Lions' camp

Darius Slay found himself across the line of scrimmage from Calvin Johnson a number of times during a red zone 7-on-7 drill Monday.

The first time quarterback Matthew Stafford saw the one-on-one matchup he threw a fade route to Johnson that Slay was able to knock out of his hands at the last moment.

Darius SlayCB Darius Slay

The very next play, Johnson slipped inside Slay on a slant route for a touchdown.

That's life as an NFL corner and that's life as a Lions cornerback in practice going up against the best receiver in the game.

"I'm learning a lot from him," Slay said of covering Johnson in practice. "He's a big, aggressive receiver, so I have to get my hands on him."

Slay, who's been running with the first team defense opposite Chris Houston ever since Ron Bartell injured a shoulder Saturday, has been benefiting from the extra reps and the higher degree of difficulty going against the best receivers the Lions have.

"I love how he competes," Slay said of Johnson. "That's my goal, to compete every time, so I love going against him one-on-one. I'd like to go against him every day, if I could."

Houston has said for years that going against Johnson every day in practice has made him exponentially better. The same will apply to Slay.  

A terrific basketball player in high school, Slay had some offers to play basketball in college, but chose football instead. Slay said he always guarded the best player on the other team because he loved the challenge of it.

"I've always been that type of player," he said. "I always want to play against the best for me to get better."

The combination of Houston, Slay and Bill Bentley (nickel) has been very good at cornerback so far for the Lions in camp. The moment doesn't look too big for Slay and Bentley has come back very strong in year two. It has some people optimistic about the Lions secondary early on.

"He's picked things up very quickly and he's matched up well against a lot of different types of receivers from the smaller guys to the Calvin Johnson's," head coach Jim Schwartz said of Slay.

"It seems like every day he breaks up a ball or gets his hands on a football. He's on the right path right now and we need to keep him there."


Stephen Tulloch spent two seasons in Tennessee with Javon Kearse in 2008 and 2009. Tulloch was just beginning his NFL career and Kearse was finishing up his, but Tulloch knew what type of player Kearse was when he first came into the league.

When asked Monday about Lions first-round pick Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah, Tulloch compared him to a young Kearse.

"Ziggy is a freak," Tulloch said. "He's a raw player but very instinctive. He can read screens very well. Runs to the ball very well. He's just a real good athlete. He reminds me of a young Javon Kearse when Jevon was back in Tennesee. (Kearse) could just fly around. You can tell (Ansah) needs some more work, but he's definitely a good pickup for us."

Kearse had 14.5, 11.5 and 10 sacks his first three seasons in the NFL. If Ansah is anywhere close to those numbers, the Lions hit that pick out of the park.


Offensive guard Leroy Harris (ACL) came off the physically unable to perform list and took part in some individual drills at practice.

"It's exciting to get back out there, but the next step is building strength in the leg and getting it used to cutting and wrestling around with guys," Harris said.

The Lions were without cornerbacks Ron Bartell (shoulder) and Jonte Green (hamstring), who were scheduled to undergo MRIs.

Also sitting out Monday was defensive end Jason Jones (knee) and linebacker Carmen Messina (hamstring).

"With heavy practice yesterday, and having another pads practice tomorrow we gave him today," Schwartz said of Jones. "There's going to come a time where we gotta push through soreness and pain and things like that, but the fourth day of training camp is not that day. We figured if we give them the day, then maybe we can put that behind them and move on."

Chris Greenwood joined this group on the sideline for the second part of practice when his hamstring acted up.

"We've had some corners that have some hamstrings, which is something that happens," Schwartz said when asked about Green and Greenwood. "In today's practice we spent most of it in the red zone with an eye towards trying to limit the running of some of those guys. I don't know if anything's really more than a day-to-day situation right now."

Also sitting out for the Lions were safety Louis Delmas (knee), wide receiver Devin Thomas (PUP) and defensive end Ronnell Lewis (NFI).


Undrafted rookie free agent Steven Miller is trying to catch on with the Lions and his best opportunity might be as a punt and kickoff returner.

So, what advice does veteran running back/returner Reggie Bush have for the young rookie?

"I told him, 'Don't drop the ball,'" Bush said, getting a big laugh from the media round him. "That's the biggest thing. When I was a rookie coming into this league, I struggled with catching punts a little bit here and there. It's tough.

"Those punters, they kick the ball a lot higher in this league. Guys are getting down the field a lot faster. I told him, 'The first thing you need to know is don't drop the ball. Everything comes natural after that.'"

Sounds like good advice.


The Lions have great competitions brewing at a number of different positions on both sides of the football, but don't expect coaches to settle on any starters anytime soon.

"There are a lot of opportunities on our team," Schwartz said. "We're looking for people who can be reliable and dependable over a period of time, not the guys who flashed the quickest or make a play here or there. It's going to be through the preseason games and through our training camp practices."

The Lions are rotating different players in with the first-team units every day, especially at right tackle, right guard and linebacker. Schwartz wants consistency at those spots, so it seems more like a marathon than a sprint in determining the eventual starters.