ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- I spent three days with the Detroit Lions in training camp last summer. Never once did I see linebacker DeAndre Levy or safety Louis Delmas, both of whom were rehabilitating injuries and wound up missing a big chunk of the preseason.
So even as the Lions have dealt with a number of high-profile injuries this summer, it's worth nothing that Levy and Delmas have provided a constant and reliable presence. Levy hasn't missed a practice since camp began July 29, and Delmas has missed only three because he needed a screw removed from a finger to complete a prior surgery.
"Our defense is so much better for that," coach Jim Schwartz said. "Delmas, Levy, those guys that control a lot of the action, have been out there and going. That's so important."
Levy's health has been particularly important because it's given the Lions an opportunity to experiment with their three likely starters in various roles. During my time here, Stephen Tulloch has lined up in the middle with Levy and Justin Durant on the outside, but Schwartz suggested that Tulloch will see some time on the outside during the preseason with Levy kicked back inside.
"We want to let those guys go out and see what they can do," Schwartz said. "They'll probably play different positions in the preseason games. Probably by the third preseason game, we'll sort of settle on what we feel is the best combination for us and best for the defense."
Levy has played every linebacker position in his brief career. It has always been assumed he would settle in the middle, but quite frankly, Tulloch might well prove to be the Lions' best middle linebacker. If that's the case, Levy's multidimensional skills will come in handy.
This conversation would have been moot had Levy not been on the field, but Wednesday he said: "I feel good, and it's going to be nice to go into a season at over 70 percent healthy for a change."
A few thoughts on the Lions' practice Wednesday afternoon, which they conducted in shoulder pads and shorts:
Receiver Calvin Johnson was sidelined with a mild ankle injury and rookie Titus Young (hamstring) wasn't even on the field. So I got a good look at the Lions' receiver depth. Many of you have been asking about 6-foot-6 rookie Demario Ballard, but I have to say that another big receiver jumped out to me. Veteran Maurice Stovall made two catches in the back of the end zone during a red-zone drill. At 6-foot-5, Stovall is a bigger dude that I thought he was.
Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan singled out another receiver, Derrick Williams, as someone who has caught his eye during camp. "He's played every position for us," Linehan said. "He's jumped in when Calvin has been out. He's jumped in when Nate [Burleson] has been out. He's played the 'X' because Titus hasn't been able to go. ... That's been very important."
I spoke with both Linehan and quarterback Matthew Stafford about their third year together, and I'll expand on the topic in a future post. I'll wet your appetite with this: In his third season under Linehan in Minnesota, quarterback Daunte Culpepper had the best season of his career. Culpepper threw for 4,717 yards, 39 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. I would argue the Lions' offensive personnel this season rivals what Culpepper had to work with that season.
Former Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher has attended the past two days of practice wearing Lions gear. No, he hasn't been hired as a consultant. Fisher was in Detroit because Schwartz was his protégé with the Titans and his son, Brandon, is an assistant this summer on Schwartz's staff. "Obviously, [Schwartz] took over a challenging situation," Fisher said. "To see them come on like they did last year despite the injuries was quite impressive. The guy's clearly got his stamp on this team."
I'll be back at Lions practice in the morning, and my formal Camp Confidential has been slotted to post Monday.