The veterans are in the building and the Detroit Lions have officially kicked off training camp.
Head coach Jim Caldwell met with the media for approximately 20 minutes Sunday afternoon and talked on a number of different topics ranging from expectations to the camp schedule and injuries.
When it comes to expectations, simply put, they are high in Allen Park. This is arguably the most talented team the Lions have assembled heading into training camp in more than a decade. The pressure is on to win now and the most important piece to the Lions’ success in 2014 will be the play of quarterback
How has Stafford progressed in picking up Joe Lombardi’s new offense?
Stafford is a bright guy and coaches have commented multiple times during the offseason how impressed they’ve been with his work ethic.
Caldwell worked with Peyton Manning for a number of years and there isn’t anyone in the game who is better prepared than Manning. There’s probably an expectation from Caldwell for Stafford to have a similar work ethic in the way he prepares and practices.
“He is getting better. His command of the offense has been good,” Caldwell said. “As a matter of fact, I sat down with him last week and I said, ‘You look like you’ve gotten a pretty good understanding.’
“I was impressed after he came back. He did not miss a beat. He’s a very smart guy. You can tell he’s worked at it even during the summer. I could see improvement. Footwork, accuracy, timing, command of the offense, all of those things. So now, we get a chance to see if he can put it all together, add a few more things and keep progressing and then get some real challenges from our opposition as we start preseason.”
Why did Caldwell start training camp two days later than he could have?
The rookies, quarterbacks and injured veterans have been here since Tuesday working out and getting a refresher on the newly installed schemes.
Caldwell and his staff wanted an extended opportunity to work with those groups without them having to share reps with the veterans.
All three players are dealing with shoulder injuries and Caldwell didn’t give any timetable for their return.
“It was not anything that we didn’t expect,” he said. “We’ll have to look at things as they progress. That’s the great thing about young guys (all three guys), young guys heal fast.
“You get an old guy, like me, with a similar injury and I have a problem, it’s going to take me awhile – but those guys recover pretty quickly. So we will monitor it and see how it goes. We’ve been pleased at this point (with the progress).
Suh is entering the final year of his contract and the team is hoping it can retain their All-Pro defensive tackle past 2014 with an extension, but no deal is in place at the start of camp.
Caldwell is still optimistic an extension can be reached with Suh and his representation, but in the meantime, it’s not something he feels will be a distraction.
“Number one, he’s in the best shape he’s ever been in,” Caldwell said. “I don’t think he’s going to let anything distract him. I’m not worried about it in that regard because Tom (Lewand) and obviously Martin (Mayhew) will get that taken care of.
“I’ve been through it a few times – I’ve been through it with Peyton (Manning) on a (contract) year – been through it most recently with (Joe) Flacco. There are a number of guys that are going through that throughout the league, and our team is no different."
Caldwell preaches situational football and he wants his players to be put in a lot of different ones in camp. The team will practice sometimes in the morning, other times in the afternoon and even at night. They’ll practice offsite at Wayne State and at Ford Field, all in an attempt to put these players in different situations.
“We think we can keep things fresh that way and we also have some things we do at night,” Caldwell said. “We do play some night games, our opener is at night, preseason games are played in the evening as well. It gives them the opportunity to play at night as well, so their body can get adjusted to it.
“So, all of them have a little bit (of a) different theme but we do think that our players are looking forward to interacting with the public and gives us a different venue to participate in as well.”