Linehan says he would prefer to keep rookie Riley Reiff at tackle in 2012

Posted May 25, 2012

The one element of Riley Reiff’s game Lions coaches have really touted is his versatility. Reiff started 37-of-39 games at Iowa – 29 at left tackle, seven at left guard and one at right tackle.

Reiff couldn't care less where he plays in the NFL.

“Wherever they want me to play, I’ll play,” he said during rookie mini-camp. “I just love playing.”

The Lions drafted Reiff to be their left tackle of the future, but with veteran Jeff Backus under contract for another two seasons, there’s a chance Reiff can be moved to right tackle or possibly even right guard.

That decision is ultimately up to head coach Jim Schwartz, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and offensive line coach George Yarno, but - if it were solely up to Linehan - Reiff would play tackle.

“I think if he’s a tackle, you play him as a tackle,” Linehan said. “I personally like guys playing the position they’re (ultimately) going to play.

“I don’t think it hurts guys to get in (at guard) and learn. We have a philosophy of getting our best five out there and sometimes you have to do that. So you’re willing to make that adjustment, but I think the preference is to keep him at the position he was drafted at.”

The Lions drafted tackle Stockar McDougle in the first round of the 2000 NFL Draft and he played guard early on before making the switch to tackle. The Ravens did the same thing with Jonathan Ogden, who played in 11 Pro Bowls and is a likely Hall of Famer.

But the plan right now is to keep Reiff at tackle, and Linehan says he’s looked good so far this offseason.

“He got everything we’re looking for,” he said. “I think he’s going to be a heck of a player and will play very early. I don’t know when, we’re not putting a timetable on it, but we expect it to be a lot sooner rather than later.

“We didn’t think he’d be available at that point (in the first round of the draft) and we were overjoyed that we were able to draft a young, talented offensive lineman that plays left tackle and has some versatility, if we need it in the young part of his career, to play somewhere else. He’s just a great kid with a lot of talent.”