Sitting vets will help Detroit Lions in future


DETROIT -- When the Detroit Lions head into some of their team periods each day, the construction of the offensive line looks a little bit different than it will when the team kicks off the season in September.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell has been adamant about finding his veterans some rest, whether it is sitting Calvin Johnson for a practice Saturday or on a line that played together last season, giving center Dominic Raiola and left guard Rob Sims some rest.

Raiola took a rare day off this week and Sims has consistently sat out part of practice. The veteran, who is coming off a knee injury last season and is in a contract year, said he doesn’t mind not participating in everything because he sees the long-term benefit.

"Just to keep me fresh, give me a chance to recuperate and stuff like that," Sims said. "Make sure I’m ready for the season, you know. Nothing to be alarmed about or anything like that. Just giving me some time at this point in my career."

That could include preseason games. Caldwell would not say Wednesday night how much he plans on playing veterans, including Johnson, in the preseason opener against Cleveland on Saturday night, but that he would be "prudent" in his decision-making.

Considering how he is handling veterans thus far in camp -- especially ones coming off injuries like Johnson and Sims -- it would seem likely they would not see too much action in a meaningless game.

"I plan on playing," Sims said. "I don’t know how many reps they are going to give me, but I plan on doing everything and I’m just excited to get back out there with the guys full-go."

One of the byproducts of sitting Sims has been giving the coaching staff and front office chances to evaluate younger players with the first team. Specifically at left guard, Detroit has rotated in Rodney Austin and rookies Travis Swanson and Alex Bullard with the first unit from time to time during team drills.

Swanson has also worked as center as the Lions drafted him to eventually replace Raiola. Austin is in his third season and is fighting for a job as a backup interior lineman and also trying to prove himself as a potential replacement for Sims.

Bullard is somewhat of a surprise as an undrafted rookie, but he is a player who can play all five spots on the offensive line and could be an ideal practice squad candidate because of it.

"We’ve got a good blueprint that we put in place and they did a really good job in following it," Sims said. "Rodney’s come a long way in the three years he’s been here, and it just bodes well not only for this year with the offensive line, but down the line in the future.

"I’ve always said at the end of the day, I wanted to leave something impressionable here, so I think that’s what we’re doing."