Mike O'Hara's camp observations

Posted Jul 30, 2014

Mike O'Hara recaps highlights from Wednesday's training camp practice at Wayne State.

Coach Jim Caldwell promised that Lions fans would see a normal training camp practice Wednesday night at Wayne State’s Adams Field, but he gave a hint of what’s to come later in the week.

Caldwell asked his players to increase the tempo, with the team in shoulder pads for the first time in camp.

“Nothing unusual,” Caldwell said of Wednesday’s practice plan. “You’re going to see basically the same type of practice that we’ve had. For the most part, it’s going to look similar to what you’ve seen.”

But that will change Friday when full pads go on for the first time for the fifth day of camp.

“We’re still in the process of working our way into full pads, which we want to have on, probably on Friday,” Caldwell said. “But we’re making some strides. Tonight (at Wayne State), you’ll see a little more hitting than you’ve seen before, but hopefully we’ll keep everybody up off the ground.”

Players practiced in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts Wednesday night. They wear football pants when they’re in full pads.

Golden hands: Golden Tate made a catch and run that showed why the Lions made it a priority to sign a receiver who not only would be a complement to Calvin Johnson but also one who could make plays on his own.

Tate caught a pass over the middle and raced through a seam up the middle for a long gain. Eventually, he changed direction, from left to right, and ran out of bounds. It was the explosion after the catch that stood out as a sign that defenses aren’t going to be able to concentrate as much on Johnson this year as they have in past seasons.

Rookie hands:

Eric EbronTE Eric Ebron (Photo: Detroit Lions)

Eric Ebron, the rookie tight end – or pass catcher, as he prefers to be called – made a rolling, tumbling catch inside the 10-yard line early in practice. He beat a linebacker on coverage to make the grab.

“It’s one of those plays where I exploit the middle,” Ebron said. “It’s one of the reasons they drafted me. Hopefully those plays help Calvin out and Golden, by me operating in the middle. It was just a throw and catch, and I made a great catch.”

Later in practice, Matthew Stafford and Ebron just failed to connect on a deep throw down the left sideline against tight coverage.

Thud: Caldwell said there would be more contact on the third day of practice than there was on the first two, and linebacker DeAndre Levy provided early with a hit on running back Mikel Leshoure. There was no tackling, and Leshoure bounced off and continued running, but the hit got a roar from the crowd.

Leshoure didn’t mind the contact a bit.

“It’s our first padded day,” Leshoure said.  “Coach wanted them to thud the running backs. Just starting up a little contact today. Not too much. It’s football. I expected it.

“We knew what was coming. We knew want he wanted.”

Back home: Running back Joique Bell, a Wayne State alum, got a big reception from the fans in his return to the place where he made a name as a Division II star.

Running backs coach Curtis Modkins was an assistant coach with the Buffalo Bills when Bell signed with the team in 2010 as a free agent after not being drafted. In speaking to the crowd before the game, Modkins mentioned how the Bills were stacked at running back that year. Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller all were on the roster, but Bell caught Modkins’ eye.

“When we got to the running back position, I would say, ‘This kid from Wayne State, he’s got something,’” Modkins said. “’I don’t know what it is, but he has something.’”

Bell did not make the Bills’ roster, and he later had stops with the Saints, Colts and Eagles before signing with the Lions late in the 2011 season and finally sticking.

Changed venue: It was 12 years since the last time the Lions held a training camp practice at Wayne State, and the football stadium has undergone drastic upgrades.

In 2002, Wayne State had a lumpy grass field that was crowned so severely that a person standing on one sideline could barely see anything below the knees of a person on the other sideline. A cinder running track encircled the football field.

Since then, a Field-Turf surface and modern eight-lane composite track have been installed, and it has been renamed Adams Field in honor of the late Tom Adams. Adams was an outstanding athlete at WSU and a prominent businessman in Detroit.