Lions' practice squad players are looking to make an impression at mini-camp

Posted May 12, 2013

Seven members of last year’s practice squad are using the three-day camp as an opportunity to improve and impress Lions' coaches

The rookie mini-camp this weekend isn’t strictly open to first-year players.

Seven members of last year’s practice squad are also using the three-day camp as an opportunity to make their impressions on coaches.

“I was excited when I got the invite to do it again,” receiver Troy Burrell said. “Coming here a second time, you have such a better understanding of the offense than when I first came in last year.

Troy BurrellWR Troy Burrell (Photo: C. Wywrot/

“Now, I know each and every receiver position and I’m able to just go out there wherever there’s an open spot and run those routes and get the plays right and be able to help the young guys out.”

Any player who has not received a credited year toward his NFL pension was eligible to participate. That includes members of the 2012 practice squad.

Joining Burrell on the field for the three-day mini-camp is: guard/center Rodney Austin, cornerback Conroy Black, receiver Patrick Edwards, linebacker Carmen Messina, cornerback Lionel Smith and cornerback Ross Weaver.

“Any opportunity you have to improve as football player is valuable, but also a chance to get out and impress your coaches,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said of the participation this weekend from of his 2012 practice squad players.

"You know, we’ve been doing some on-the-field type activities, but they’ve all been technique-oriented. This gives them a chance to see where that works, how it’s going to be with a few wide receivers, few corners, an offensive lineman, a linebacker and all those guys.”

The weekend has also allowed those players to be the veterans in the huddle and leaders in drills. They’ve been through it before and the new guys are looking at them for guidance.

“I’m grateful I have this opportunity to show coaches what I’m made of and what I can do and what I’ve learned from the last season,” Messina said.

“I was telling the rookie linebackers today that they just need to calm down and take a deep breath. They’ve done all this before. They’ve played football before. They've played the same schemes from Pop Warner all the way up to college and the professional game.”

The coaches are certainly happy to have the practice squad players around to be kind of be a second set of coaches on the field.

“It’s one of the few times they go to being put in the leadership position,” Schwartz said. “They can lead the way, they can break the huddle down, they can show the younger guys how we do things. I think it’s very valuable to have those guys here to do stuff like that.”

In the end though, like the rookies, the practice squad players are trying to do enough to eventually earn a spot on the 53-man roster.

“It’s an opportunity for us to get better and to help them,” Edwards said. “I wanted to do it to get back out there and run routes and make plays. Get out there and get the coaches attention and let them know that we know what we’re doing and we can make plays.”