NFL Nation: Sheldon White

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Before the 2013 season, Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew admitted he didn’t want to bring in cornerback Rashean Mathis for a workout. He also said before signing George Johnson, he had never seen him even on tape.

[+] EnlargeTeryl Austin
Paul Sancya/Associated PressLions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is a hot name for several of the NFL's head-coaching vacancies.
Those are only two players, but Mayhew was convinced to give both of them chances by Sheldon White, the team’s vice president of pro personnel. Both of those decisions worked out for the Lions.

Mathis had two strong seasons at cornerback and also became a mentor to second-year pro Darius Slay. Johnson came out of almost nowhere to make the roster and then became a valuable contributor, finishing third on the team with six sacks.

Neither would be with the Lions without White, who is being mentioned as a candidate for the general manager job in Philadelphia.

“He’s been phenomenal. He’s exceptional at what he does. Outstanding evaluator,” Mayhew said. “There are a lot of guys on this roster that he brought to the table. Rashean Mathis, for example, is a guy that he saw on tape and he brought up his desire to work Rashean out. I was against it. I was saying this is an older guy -- how is this guy going to help us.

“He talked me into working him out and he had a phenomenal workout. He was exceptional in every way, shape and form, so we ended up signing him. Obviously he’s worked out great for us the last two years, having Rashean here.

“George Johnson is a guy who he brought to me who I had never seen, we signed him. I had never seen him on tape at the time that we signed him and, as you know, George made our team this year and was a big-time contributor for us. He’s always looking; he’s always in his office evaluating tape and trying to find players that can help us win. I think he’d be a great general manager.”

This is a second straight offseason a member of Detroit’s front office has interviewed for a general manager’s gig. Brian Xanders interviewed with Miami last season.

White isn’t the only member of the Detroit staff being sought after this offseason. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is on head coach interviews with San Francisco, Atlanta and Buffalo this week.

Head coach Jim Caldwell praised Austin during the past few weeks as a potential head-coaching candidate and Thursday, Mayhew did the same.

“He did a phenomenal job with the group and I think he has a lot of ability,” Mayhew said. “I think he’s certainly capable of being a head coach in the NFL. I think I said that when he got here that at some point he’d have an opportunity to do that.

“He’s certainly worthy of the opportunity.”

Mayhew said if Austin does get a head coaching job, Caldwell will be the one to decide how the Lions would fill the defensive coordinator spot. Senior coaching assistant and former Detroit defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham is still on staff – although Mayhew said he will be talking with Cunningham about his future next week.

Linebackers coach Bill Sheridan was the defensive coordinator with the Giants in 2009 and with Tampa Bay in 2012 and 2013. Safeties coach Alan Williams was the defensive coordinator with Minnesota in 2012 and 2013 and defensive line coach Jim Washburn was the defensive coordinator with the London Monarchs in 1992.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

I'm guessing at least a few of the veterans on Detroit's roster sat up a little straighter Thursday after new coach Jim Schwartz released cornerback Travis Fisher, who by default was the Lions' No. 1 cornerback entering training camp. At least, Fisher thought he was.

Here's what he said a few weeks ago, according to John Niyo of the Detroit News:

"It's a situation for me, personally, to go into camp feeling like I'm the No. 1 guy."

Sorry, Travis. The Lions released him on the eve of their rookie minicamp, a bold move in the sense that they aren't really in position to shed talent. Whether you think Fisher was a talented cornerback or not, he probably belongs on an NFL team. You can't say that about every player whose name has resided on the Lions' roster in recent years.

Consider it a mild warning shot for a group of players who has no business being comfortable or making assumptions about its role on the team.

Continuing around the NFC North:

  • Schwartz said Thursday the team has made no decisions on its quarterback depth beyond the release of Drew Henson, according to Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com. Schwartz also acknowledged the team hosted veteran defensive lineman Kevin Carter on a visit, saying Carter could play defensive end on early downs and move to defensive tackle in obvious passing situations.
  • The Lions promoted pro personnel director Sheldon White to a vice president's position and said they are reorganizing the geographical arrangement of their scouting department. Also, regional scout Mike Butler will not return, according to Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press.
  • Green Bay rookie defensive tackle B.J. Raji admitted Thursday that he once tested positive for marijuana while playing at Boston College. Here's what Raji said, according to Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "I'm a man, that was a mistake I made in the past, which is the past."
  • Raji and fellow first-round pick Clay Matthews are in the same spot as their veteran defensive teammates: Learning a new scheme. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
  • Minnesota has invited Cole Konrad, a 315-pound former wrestler at the University of Minnesota, to its rookie camp this weekend on a tryout basis. Mark Craig of the Star Tribune has the story.
  • Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune profiles Marcus Fitzgerald, the younger brother of Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald. Marcus, a receiver who sat out last year after tearing a hamstring muscle at the 2008 Marshall pro day, has also will get a tryout with the Vikings this weekend.
  • Here is Chicago's full list of tryout players for its rookie camp this weekend, according to the team Web site.
  • Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times writes the Bears were planning to take Ohio safety Michael Mitchell in the fourth round of last weekend's draft -- not in the second round as Mitchell had indicated in interviews after Oakland selected him.

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