NFC North: Alex Bullard

The Detroit Lions have started to trim their roster.

Rookie wide receiver TJ Jones, who has been on the team's active PUP list while recovering from shoulder surgery in the offseason, has been moved to the physically unable to perform reserve list. This means he won't be available to practice for six weeks and then the Lions will have five weeks to decide whether to allow him to practice. If they do not -- or they do not activate him to the 53-man roster after he starts practicing -- he'll be on the PUP list the entire season.

Detroit also began its first round of roster cuts Saturday following Friday night's game against Jacksonville. The team started the day at 89 players and released OG Alex Bullard, OL A.J. Dalton, DT Gregory Hickman, RB Steven Miller, DE Kris Redding and WR Conner Vernon.

Of those players, only Miller had been with the team last season and he was on the practice squad. Redding and Vernon were brought in earlier during training camp and the rest of the cuts signed soon after May's draft. Dalton had been given a $2,500 signing bonus and Bullard a $500 signing bonus to come to Detroit as undrafted free agents.

This brings Detroit to 83 players. The Lions need to be at 75 players by 4 p.m. on Tuesday. None of the players the Lions released Saturday were expected to make the roster and of those, only Bullard appeared to be a practice squad candidate at any point.

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."

Lions Camp Report: Day 8

August, 5, 2014
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • One of the more interesting things to come out of camp on Tuesday was watching Lions running back Reggie Bush running routes with the receivers and tight ends during part of the individual period instead of working with the running backs. This shouldn’t be too stunning, though, considering how Bush has been used in the past and how the Lions could use him this season. Bush ran 51 routes out of the slot last season and 37 routes while lined up out wide. Expect more of that this season if the Saints’ offense is any indication. Last season, Darren Sproles ran 93 routes out of the slot and 27 lined up out wide. If Bush is thrown into that role -- and it would be likely he would be -- then it would not be surprising to see him used in the slot fairly often. It also adds up because one of the things stressed by this coaching staff from running backs is running precise routes.
  • It was another good day for the Lions kickers. Giorgio Tavecchio and Nate Freese appeared to make all of their field goal attempts Tuesday, although it was somewhat difficult to tell without officials signaling in the end zone. Wednesday could be an interesting test for both of them since it will be their first time kicking inside Ford Field, where they will also be Saturday night for the preseason opener against Cleveland.
  • Ezekiel Ansah worked some more Tuesday as he continues to slowly move closer to being removed from the active PUP list and actually being able to practice with his teammates. He did individual work on the side for another practice, and Lions coach Jim Caldwell indicated “he’s progressing well.”

    “They keep ramping up his activity,” Caldwell said. ‘He hasn’t had setbacks so we feel good about where he is.”

    He is one of three players who sat out practice Tuesday along with receiver TJ Jones, who is still on the active PUP list, and offensive tackle Michael Williams, who has missed five straight practices due to injury.
  • Alex Bullard was somewhat surprising Tuesday during practice. He worked with the first team during a red zone period at left guard, spelling Rob Sims. The Lions have appeared to be careful with the reps for both Sims and center Dominic Raiola throughout the early portion of camp. Raiola did not do much work Tuesday, either, being replaced by Travis Swanson. Caldwell said he will give veterans days off from time to time to give them some rest during a long training camp to ensure health during the season. That said, Bullard looked decent during his run with the top unit. He’s still a longshot to make the roster at this point, but he offers interesting position flexibility since he worked at all five offensive line positions during his time at Notre Dame and Tennessee.
  • Cornerback Jonte Green put together another good practice, especially in one-on-one drills, registering a pass breakup. Considering the questions at the bottom of the depth chart at cornerback, Green could be putting himself in position to secure a roster spot at some point.
  • The Lions practice again Wednesday night at Ford Field at 7:30 p.m. The practice is open to the public.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Michael Williams has another setback.

Williams, who is in the process of adding weight as he transitions from tight end to offensive tackle for the Detroit Lions, has an undisclosed injury, one serious enough for him to miss Thursday's practice.

"Not a long-term thing," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "A few days, maybe."

Williams declined to discuss the injury but said missing any time does hurt him.

"It's a setback just from getting reps on the field, which is the most important thing," Williams said. "But I'm still here learning. I feel like I'm more of a student of the game when I'm out, when I'm hurt, so I have to focus more because that's all the time that I have then."

Williams said he gained 15 pounds -- up to 298 pounds -- as he attempts to make the switch. His goal for the 2014 season is between 305 and 310 pounds. At that weight, he then needs to see if his speed remains somewhat similar.

What did he eat to put on all that weight?

"We in Alabama at the time, so it's just whatever you kill, that's what you eat," Williams said. "Nah, it's a joke, man. It was just good, home-cooked food."

Williams was one of four players to miss practice Thursday. Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah and wide receiver TJ Jones remain on the active physically unable to perform list, and offensive lineman Alex Bullard also sat out.

The Lions also made a move Thursday, releasing receiver Cody Wilson and singing defensive end Kris Redding out of Wake Forest.
The Detroit Lions announced their undrafted free agents Monday afternoon -- 11 of them in all -- and over the next few days you'll get brief primers on all of them here as the team prepares for rookie minicamp this weekend.

Other profiles: OT Cornelius Lucas; QB James Franklin; FB Chad Abram

Name: Alex Bullard

Position: Offensive lineman

School: Tennessee (transferred from Notre Dame)

ESPN pre-draft position rank: No. 89 offensive tackle

Career college stats: Played in 36 games at Tennessee, starting 25 on the offensive line -- some at guard and some at center. Also played 10 games at tight end as a junior in 2012.

Depth chart he's looking at: Starters -- Larry Warford; Dominic Raiola; Rob Sims. Depth: Darren Keyton; Rodney Austin; Travis Swanson.

Chances of making it to camp: 90 percent. Bullard's versatility is key here. He could play anywhere from tackle -- where he was listed on the rankings -- to guard and even center. Unless he shows up in terrible shape or gets hurt, he should be in camp and might have a shot at a practice squad spot.

Why him: As mentioned above, versatility. Instead of having to worry about bringing in guards, tackles and centers during minicamps and training camp, they can plug-and-play Bullard anywhere they would like on the offensive line. That type of flexibility can become attractive to rosters, especially one in which there are depth spots to be won at tackle, guard and center. Having someone who can competently play all of them in an emergency would be attractive to most coaches out there as it would potentially open up roster spots for other positions across the board. When a team -- like Detroit -- is trying to remake its roster in the mold of their new coaches, that type of player is critical to being able to make that transition quicker. This should bode well for Bullard and for the Lions, at least through camp as he can allow the Lions to potentially cycle more players through knowing he has those abilities if necessary.