Erik Coleman trying to throw his name into starting safety conversation

Posted Jun 17, 2012

The Lions were forced to place safety Erik Coleman on the Reserve/Injured list Oct. 13, just 11 days after he injured his ankle in a Week 4 victory over the Cowboys.

The designation ended Coleman’s 2011 season, but he would have been able to play later in the season when the team could have desperately used him because of injuries.

Coleman, 30, has come into the 2012 season eight pounds lighter and says he’s at the same weight and in the same kind of shape he was in 2008 and 2009 with the Falcons, when he started all 16 games both seasons and recorded 127 and 139 tackles, respectively.

“I feel like a young guy again,” Coleman said. “I’m excited to be back and be healthy. “During my best years in the league, earlier in those years, I was lighter. I moved well and made a lot of plays.

“I’m a kind of guy when I lift I get really bulky and strong, so I kind of wanted to get away from that a little bit. I still want to keep my strength, but do more running and get more flexible so I can be explosive. I’m plenty strong, I just wanted to get quicker.”

Coleman looks quicker playing closer to 200 pounds now and has had himself a good offseason.

“I think Erik Coleman has had an excellent spring,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said. “We signed him as a veteran free agent last year, but we didn’t see him until the second week of training camp because of all of the offseason stuff and all the training camp rules, but Erik has had an outstanding offseason, an outstanding mini-camp, OTAs, everything else.”

Coleman has played a lot of reps with the first-team defense this offseason with starters Amari Spievey and Louis Delmas dealing with injuries. Spievey missed the first part of the offseason training program while dealing with the lingering effects of a concussion suffered in the playoff loss to the Saints. About the time he returned to the practice field, Delmas rolled his ankle and has missed the last couple weeks.

That’s given Coleman an entire offseason of first-team reps and he thinks the reps will be invaluable come training camp.

“Obviously, I want to play,” Coleman said. “I’m a competitor and I want to help this team wherever I can. I still feel like I can play at a high level.”

The starting safety spot opposite Louis Delmas is not set in stone for the Lions this upcoming season. Spievey has occupied that spot for the last two seasons, but has been admittedly inconsistent at times.

The Lions brought in three veteran free-agent safeties for visits this offseason and Lions general manager Martin Mayhew still hasn’t ruled out the possibility of signing one of those players to compete for the starting spot.

Coleman is hoping a smaller, quicker and faster version of himself will help keep him in the mix, too. If he continues to impress coaches in training camp as he did this offseason, it could be an interesting competition between Spievey, Coleman, Don Carey, Ricardo Silva, John Wendling and Alonzo Lawrence at that safety position in camp.