Twentyman: Training camp notes

Posted Aug 6, 2012

The Lions are getting rather thin at the running back position with rookie Stephfon Green missing most of practice Monday after injuring his right knee in a non-contact drill.

“Our numbers are dropping there,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said of the running back position after practice. “We’ll have to see with Green how he bounces back from this, but our numbers are a little light there right now. But that could change in the next 24 or 48 hours.”

Hopefully that means running back Mikel Leshoure is getting closer to his return to practice from a hamstring injury. In the meantime though, Kevin Smith remains a vital piece to the Lions backfield early in training camp.

Smith has been taking all the first-team reps with the offense over the first 11 days of camp and is making a strong case to continue to get reps once Jahvid Best and Leshoure return to the backfield.

“I control my own destiny,” Smith said. “Obviously if a team drafts two players in the top two rounds, they want the guys on the field. I don't take it personally and think of it as, ‘Oh well, they don't want you on the field, they want those two on the field.’ I control my own destiny.

“If I go out there and make plays, they’ve got to find a way for all three of us to get on the field. That's just the way I think about it.”

Smith has looked very strong through the first portion of training camp and will start Friday’s preseason game against the Browns at Ford Field.

“I'm just going to take care of what I have to take care of,” he said. “I'm going to go out there starting with the first preseason game and I'm going to let it take care of itself. I'm going to go out there and make plays and whatever happens, I'm cool with it.”


With his name now signed on the dotted-line of a $10.6 million franchise tender, defensive end Cliff Avril joined his teammates on the practice field for the first time Monday.

“I mean, he looked like he was not in pads and everyone else was,” Schwartz said after practice when asked how Avril performed during his first practice of training camp. “You know, we took the pads off for a four-minute drill at the end and he just got out there just to line up and then just did three or four pass rushes at the end, just to sort of get his feet wet.

“When he comes back Wednesday, he’ll be practicing just like everyone else. These guys been out here for a week and a half going pretty hard and he needs to, I don’t want to say catch up, but there’s an adjustment period to being in shape and being in football shape.”

That’s not to say Avril isn’t already being noticed in practice, though.

In his final rep of that four-minute period against the first-team offense, Schwartz called out to the offensive that it was third-down-and-three and a first down would win the game. On the ensuing play, Avril didn’t buy the hard run fake to left and was standing right there when quarterback Matthew Stafford turned around to boot to the right.

Welcome back, Cliff.


As safety John Wendling explains it, not everyone can play special teams.

“I think you have to have a relentless attitude,” he said. “There's a lot of fight on special teams. It's a different kind of mentality, guys really got to want it.”

The Lions have added a number of players to the roster through the draft and free agency that are looking to make their mark -- at least initially -- on special teams. Justin Miller, Jonté Green and Ronnell Lewis to name just a few.

“We got a lot of talent,” Wendling said. “New guys that are getting ahold of things, what to do, what to expect. Really, just getting a chance to get together.”

Wendling has been considered one of the best special teams performers in the NFL for years now. His 41 tackles on special teams over the last two seasons are the most in the league and he was a special teams Pro Bowl alternant in 2010.

However, Wendling has seen himself getting more reps on defense than he’s used to because of the lingering right knee injury to Louis Delmas that’s kept him out of practice the last week.

“It's just been fun to get out there and know they can trust me,” Wendling said of playing more defense. “It's my role on the team, so I need to step up when I need to step up and be able to make plays.”


Leshoure did not participate in Monday’s padded practice as he continues to rehab a sore hamstring. The Lions seem to be taking a cautious approach to Leshoure’s injury, not wanting it to linger into the regular season.

“He’s back to running as part of his rehab and stuff like that,” Schwartz said of Leshoure. “He’s still day-to-day but every day he gets a little bit closer.”

Delmas also remains out of practice with that sore left knee.

“He’s battled some soreness in his knee and until we get a handle on that and get him through, then we don’t need to worry about anything else,” Schwartz said when asked if his starting safety will be ready to play by the start of the regular season. “We’re worried about short-term and how that approach is. We’re not worried about regular season; I’ve said that a lot of times.”

Also missing practice was safety Don Carey (hamstring) and offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (knee) as well as receivers Ryan Broyles (knee), Dominique Curry (knee) and Nate Hughes (undisclosed).

Running back Jahvid Best (concussion) and cornerback Chris Greenwood (abdominal tear) remain on the physically unable to perform list.