Golden Tate knows what it's like to scratch, claw and compete in training camp for a role. As a youngster in Seattle his first two seasons, Tate was among a group of players that included Deon Butler, Mike Williams, Doug Baldwin, Sidney Rice and Ben Obomanu all fighting for playing time. He knows how tough those battles in camp can be.
Tate, now a well-established veteran and one of Detroit's top receivers, says the competition he's watching in Lions camp for the remaining receiver spots is the most competitive he's seen in the last three seasons in Detroit.
"I think the competition is stiff," Tate said. "I think as a coach and as a scout that's what you want to see. I think guys get better, for one, when the competition is stiff. At the same time, those scouts and coaches have some decisions to make and it's not going to be easy. I know these guys are battling every single day."
Tate, Marvin Jones Jr. and rookie Kenny Golladay have a spot on the roster. That leaves players like TJ Jones, Jared Abbrederis, Jace Billingsley, Keshawn Martin and Ryan Spadola battling for potentially one or two spots.
Also in that mix are undrafted rookies Dontez Ford, Noel Thomas and Michael Rector, who have all made plays throughout the first week of training camp.
"I think we have a really good group at receiver right now," quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "A lot of competition going on, guys who are really working extremely hard to make this team and it's a lot of fun to watch guys put that kind of work in.
"We have a ton of talented guys, no question. Being a quarterback, throwing to these guys every day, it's a really talented group."
Jones, Abbrederis, Billingsley and Martin seem to have separated themselves a little bit from the pack early in camp. Right now it would be an extremely difficult decision to pick one or two players from that group.
A couple are likely to separate themselves from the pack during the team's four preseason games. Anyone's ability to play all of the receiver positions and carve out a role on special teams – all four are competing for a returner role – will have an edge.
"Competition is key," Abredderis said. "It was like that last year when I was with Green Bay when we had like seven or eight guys heading into camp that could make the team.
"When you have competition it just makes you play better and that's what you want. You want everyone firing on all cylinders."
Head coach Jim Caldwell even said the compeititon is close at this point in camp.
"Just that it's going to be a real battle," Caldwell recently said when asked what's stood out to him in that competition. "You know, there's a lot of guys playing well. A lot of guys doing some things. Keshawn (Martin) had a good day today. TJ Jones is playing well. Jared Abbraderis is doing a great job. It's a real competitive situation.
"We got some other young players that are doing well. So, we'll see how it shakes out."
HALL OF FAME CEREMONY
Owner Martha Firestone Ford's day of football didn't end after she watched all of the Detroit Lions mock game at Ford Field Saturday.
Later in the day, Ford traveled to Canton for the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
She was invited by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who was voted in as a contributor.
Jones has always had a close relationship with the Ford family since buying the Cowboys in 1989.
Ford's energy and passion for football in general and the Lions in particular has been evident since she assumed ownership of the team in 2014 after the death of her husband, William Clay Ford.
Mrs. Ford got a warm ovation from fans at one of the early practices in this year's training camp.
Linebackers love contact. There's just something about playing that position that makes guys wired that way.
We've already seen it in practice with Jarrad Davis and Antwione Williams letting ball carriers feel their presence.
Williams, the second-year backer out of Georgia Southern, has played alongside Davis and Tahir Whitehead as the SAM in base defense sets with the first-team defense for most of camp. He's the biggest player among that linebacker corps at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, and is expected to play an even bigger role this season after getting his feet wet as a rookie last season.
"We ask everyone to step up and everyone be ready," Williams said. "Considering I went out there last year and was trying to pick everything up on the fly, I'm expecting myself to have a big jump from last year to this year, so I'm excited."
Williams played in 14 games last season with three starts and finished with 27 tackles. Going from Georgia Southern to the NFL is a pretty big leap. Williams says he's much more comfortable with his surroundings, and is now working on some of the little things, like using his hands better and playing with lower pad level.
"I'm playing much better," Williams said of his training camp thus far. "That's the goal. Get better each year. My goal is to get better and just to fly to the ball."
Players still on PUP: DE Ziggy Ansah, DE Armonty Bryant, T Taylor Decker, G Brandon Thomas and T Corey Robinson
Players still on NFI: P Sam Martin
Not practicing Sunday: Tight end Eric Ebron, guard T.J. Lang, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, running back Ameer Abdullah, receiver Ryan Spadola, linebacker Thurston Armbrister, running back Mike James, tight end Brandon Barnes, cornerback Des Lawrence and defensive end Cornelius Washington.
Mike O'Hara contributed to this report