NFC North: Wiliam James

Re-capping three hours in Detroit

August, 19, 2009
8/19/09
10:00
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

As some of you know, I was standing on the sideline at Detroit's practice when news broke of Brett Favre's contract agreement with Minnesota. I managed to jot down a page of practice notes and spend some time with Lions coach Jim Schwartz before I left, and I want to bring you some thoughts before they fade or become irrelevant.

 
  Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
  Rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford has looked impressive in the first few weeks of camp.

(Keep in mind that a full Lions Camp Confidential will appear on a day to be determined in this space.)

As I matched up numbers on the field to names on the roster, it was jarring to realize how many prominent players were sitting out because of injuries.

First-round draft pick Brandon Pettigrew (thigh) was moving around with a notable limp. The Lions' best player last season, placekicker Jason Hanson, was sidelined after having a minor procedure on his knee. Defensive lineman Grady Jackson, receiver Calvin Johnson and receiver Dennis Northcutt were limited. Schwartz, however, said the Lions' long injury list is a function of a caution-first approach as much as anything.

"Our philosophy is to err on the side of caution in [organized team activities] and training camp," he said. "If this were a regular-season game, there would be a lot of urgency to get a guy back. But one thing we don't want to do is turn a minor injury into a major one, or turn an injury with a fairly set timetable into a nagging season-long thing because we're worried about getting him back for one more practice in training camp. There's an urgency to get back on the field, but we don't want to cross the line in setting guys back and making the situation worse than it is."

With that said, it's not a great sign that Pettigrew has only practiced sporadically this summer and has now stepped into more of a long-term recovery process from a quadriceps injury. Schwartz said the injury wasn't responding as hoped, and now the goal is to try to get him healthy in time to have a productive regular season.

I caught a glimpse of one-on-one pass drills and was particularly interested to watch the matchup of right tackle Gosder Cherilus and defensive end Cliff Avril. Cherilus, of course, was the Lions' top draft pick last season and had a pretty up-and-down rookie year. He's penciled in as the starter this season and appears to be holding off veteran Jon Jansen for the job.

Avril, meanwhile, offers the Lions perhaps their best chance for an outside pass rush after notching five sacks in limited playing time as a rookie.

For the rep I watched, at least, there was no contest. Cherilus rode Avril wide around the pocket. And when Avril tried a spin move to get inside, Cherilus capitalized on the momentary lack of balance and shoved Avril to the ground. That's how you keep a pass-rusher away from the quarterback.

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