MIKE O'HARA

O'Hara: It's getting crowded at right guard

Posted Jun 5, 2013

The interior of the offensive line is an area that GM Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz targeted for an upgrade in the offseason, and right guard has been the primary focus of that renovation project

It is getting crowded at right guard on the Lions' offensive line.

The influx of players brought in to compete for the starting job can be chronicled in hours, not days. For example, take Tuesday morning. Or was it Monday night?

Leroy Harris could have felt like the new guy when he walked out onto the practice field for the first time as a member of the Lions' offensive line and a candidate to play right guard. Harris visited the Lions last week, signed a one-year contract on Monday and was on the practice field for Tuesday's OTA workout.

But Harris didn't qualify as the new guy. Jake Scott took over that distinction. Scott signed his contract Tuesday morning, in time to be on the field for the workout that started a little after 10 a.m.

Jake ScottG Jake Scott (Photo: T. Altman/Detroitlions.com)

The interior of the offensive line is an area that GM Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz targeted for an upgrade in the offseason, and right guard has been the primary focus of that renovation project.

It doesn't rise to an all-comers throw-down, but the competition at right guard is about as open as it can get after being held down the previous six seasons by Stephen Peterman. Peterman was released in March, and the competition was on.

In addition to the new guys – Harris and Scott – Rodney Austin and Larry Warford are young guys who are in the mix at right guard.

Austin attracted some attention last year on the practice squad. He is powerful and has decent athletic ability. Warford, drafted in the third round out of Kentucky, held his own against the tough defensive tackles in the Southeastern Conference.

Warford will be a starter someday, but whether that will be Sept. 8 against the Vikings on opening day remains to be seen.

The Lions are at a stage where winning games is all that matters. They've moved on from the roster-building program of 2009 and 2010. They can't afford to sacrifice a game – or a series, for that matter – to groom a young player for the future.

If they're ready to play and ready to win, they can play. Otherwise, they have to wait their turn.

The NFL's offseason workout programs are part tryout camps. Teams can have 90 players under contract. They can churn those 90 spots, signing and releasing players, however they want to look at players in advance of training camp.

Signing a contract in June – or May, April or March – does not guarantee having a roster spot in the regular season.

"A couple of guys like Harris and Scott were available this time of year," Schwartz said Tuesday. "It's a chance to add veteran players who have played a lot of football. Both of them have experience.

"The more depth, the more guys in competition we can add, the better. Absolutely it's not an indictment on anybody. It's just being able to add quality players and keep adding them.

"We have 90 players in camp. We might as well take advantage of that and set ourselves up the best we can."

Leroy HarrisG Leroy Harris (Photo: T. Altman/Detroitlions.com)

Scott and Harris have starting experience at right guard. Scott has played nine seasons with the Colts, Titans and Eagles. He started all 16 games from 2005-2011. He signed with the Eagles in the middle of last season and started the last seven games.

Harris was drafted by the Titans as a center out of North Carolina State in 2007. He became a starter at left guard in 2010 and moved to right guard last year. His season ended in the eighth game with a knee injury that required surgery.

Harris is rehabbing his knee and likely won't be ready to practice until training camp opens in late July.

With the Lions, Harris can reconnect with Stephen Tulloch, an old teammate in college and the Titans who became an enemy briefly last year.

Tulloch thought Harris hit him late with a cheap shot on a pass play in the Lions' road loss to the Titans in Game 3.

"He was a little heated," Harris said. "We're all good now. I wasn't trying to hurt him. I played at North Carolina State with him. I played with him with the Titans for four years. I know Tully. He knows me. We haven't talked since. It let it fester a little bit."

Tulloch sounded in a forgiving mood.

"I'm waiting for an apology from him soon," he said. "I know he'll give it to me. I've seen him, I just haven't had a chance to talk to him yet between practicing. I'm sure I'm sure I'll run across him soon."