Burning questions at the end of a steamy week with the start of Lions training camp a week away:
Q. As always, there are a lot of issues to consider – injury concerns, competition at positions such as running back and secondary – but what should be the message to start camp?
A. “Keep Building” should be the overall theme. Last year was a good season, with a 10-6 record and a wild-card playoff berth, but it was one step in what the Lions want to accomplish, not a landing point.
The Lions have the makings of a good team. There’s enough talent to be a repeat playoff contender, but nothing can be taken for granted.
The playoff field has too much turnover from year-to-year for any team to rest on its laurels. There was no sign in the offseason workouts that the Lions will do that, but reinforcing the message can help prevent complacency.
Q. How much should Coach Jim Schwartz dwell on the offseason arrests of four players?
A. He addressed that in mini-camp, and one more player – cornerback
Q. After not reaching an agreement on a new contract,
A. First things first. I have no doubt that Schwartz will answer questions about this with something on the order of he’ll coach the players who are in camp, not worry about the ones who aren’t, and he’ll welcome Avril when he shows up.
It won’t be a big deal unless Avril has an extended absence from camp. Opinions are mixed on what impact missing camp has on players.
Obviously, fewer practices reduce the risk of injury. That’s strictly a mathematical equation. However, football isn’t a math equation. There are examples of players who stay out of camp and experience pulled muscles and other soft-tissue injuries when they return because they are behind in conditioning and rush to catch-up.
The bottom line is that it doesn’t help the defensive line if Avril misses camp. Whether it hurts him, or makes any impact in the long run, remains to be seen. Whenever Avril reports, he’s a good player who should play well.
Q. Which group has the most competition in some of the interesting position battles?
A. Easy answer: the secondary.
Of the three cornerbacks drafted, third-round pick
A. Carefully – especially Best. He missed the last 10 games last season with a concussion. He’ll be protected as much as possible.
It’s a different story with Leshoure. He missed last season with a torn Achilles. His workload will depend on how much he has recovered and how much he can handle. It’s a good sign that Leshoure finished mini-camp strong, but training camp has more contact and a higher tempo. It’s another test in his recovery.
Q. Offensive tackle Riley Reiff, the first-round draft pick, hasn’t signed his contract. Will he be in on time, and what are the expectations for him?
A. With the rookie salary pool, there is no reason for Reiff not to sign and start camp on time. Expect him to rotate in practice at both tackles. He’ll play left tackle eventually, but not this year with
Any decision on that – like many others – will develop. That’s what camp and the exhibition season are for.
Q. Last question. What kind of atmosphere can we expect going into camp?
A. It’s a good team, coming off a good season, and that creates expectations. That’s a good work environment for any team. The Lions should get used to it.