Slay, who underwent minor arthroscopic surgery on a torn meniscus last month, had been relegated to the individual portion of practice and drill work up until now. But Tuesday, Slay joined his teammates in 7-on-7 and team periods during the first of three mandatory mini-camp practices.
"It finally feels like football. I'm finally out there doing what I've dreamed to do," Slay said after his first full practice as a member of the Detroit Lions. "Now I just have to adjust to the speed."
Slay made a couple plays on footballs during the team portion of practice and came away with two interceptions off backup quarterback
"Yeah, he made some plays on the ball," Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said of his second-round draft pick.
"Some of those would have been negated by penalties. Our offense was taking some shots when our defense was offside. But the thing that was encouraging with that is to have enough awareness to know when the defense is offside that the offense, you know, has free reign to take a shot down the field."
One play in particular was impressive, showing what the added length in the secondary is going to do for the Lions this year.
Slay made a stretching interception over receiver
"I have to put something on film," Slay said after practice. "I like the ball in my hands."
Slay ran with the second-team defense, but will get every opportunity come training camp to win the starting right cornerback spot.
"The thing that was also good is his ability to put his body in good position and leap and time that and find that football," Schwartz said.
"Those are the things we saw from him at Mississippi State. He hasn't been on the practice field very much for us. He's just now sort of getting in to it where he's going through team (drills) and all the other stuff that we do. But he's picking it up quickly and athletically; he looks like he has some pretty good skills. You know, we need to see more of it."
LOUIS DELMAS NOT PRACTICING
Delmas missed eight games last year with knee trouble and told reporters after practice that the knee didn't feel any different than it did last year.
The Lions re-signed their playmaking safety to a two-year deal this offseason, but a lot of the language in that deal is incentive-based, according to reports.
Asked about Delmas after practice, Schwartz said the word of the day is patience.
"Patience is a very difficult thing when you're a player," he said. "You know, it's difficult when you're a coach, it's difficult when you're a fan. But for a player like Delmas, patience is the thing that he has to do right now. He has to be able to be patient enough to work through that and give it enough time to heal.
"Then you've got to take it as that comes and you can't get ahead of schedule or ahead of yourself. But Lou's working hard. He'll be back on the field for us sometime, but it's not going to be this mini-camp."
Will it be training camp? And can the Lions count on him come the fall?
"We have a long way to go to worry about stuff like that," Schwartz said. "Now's not the time. Everybody wants to put starting jobs up for grabs and depth charts and things like that.
"We're really not even at that point right now. Let's get to training camp and let's see how that goes and things like that. I know that Lou is a very, very tough player and if he can be on the field, he'll be on the field."
There's no denying that Havard "Kickalicious" Rugland has a strong leg.
We've seen that throughout the offseason. Whether he can push
On Tuesday, he was perfect.
"Yeah, he made some nice field goals today," Schwartz said. "He's obviously got a strong leg. Every step you try to temper, ‘Well, let's see what happens when there's a snapper or holder out there, let's see what happens when he's got a defense that's rushing at him.' Every step along the way he's done a good job with that.
"So, the next thing is, when the game's live and guys are really bearing down on him and there's pressure involved in the kick. But that's something that won't come for a while now. He's done a nice job working through all the different things that are new to him. That's encouraging to see. He doesn't over kick and a lot of guys have a tendency to."
Rugland made all of his attempts Tuesday from a variety of lengths, including a 55-yarder.
"You get those 55-yarders and those longer kicks, he's got plenty of leg strength," Schwartz said. "There are a lot of golfers that have that, you know, the Ernie Els and Fred Couples, they just never swing hard. You've got to have enough strength to be able to do that and he does."
- Besides Slay, running back
Mikel Leshoureand defensive end Devin Taylorreturned to the team portions of practice after dealing with hamstring injuries that have limited them the past couple of weeks through OTAs. Bill Bentleymade a terrific interception jumping a route from the slot. Bentley has been playing a lot of the slot in nickel packages this spring.
- It's clearly noticeable the increased number of batted balls from the defensive line in practice. The Lions made it a point to add length upfront with
Jason Jones, Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah and Taylor and those additions are already paying dividends.
- "That's a nightmare for a quarterback – a tipped ball," quarterback
Matthew Staffordsaid. "You have no control after that. Luckily, all mine fell safely to the ground today. We're better (at it than last year) by default because they are all trees back there."