There is nothing quite like the proverbial road trip. Getting up at 4:30 in the morning on Sunday for that early start. Pretty much carrying the kids bodily into the car since you can’t really wake them up enough for them to walk coherently. Realizing you are up before the good coffee shops are open, and having your wife map out where each one is along the way on her iPhone, and tracking exactly when you will be passing one that is open…
Ah yes, life on the open road — all for that sweet, impatient push to reach the grand destination; In this case, Allen Park and the Lions’ training facility. This was our first time there, and it is a pretty impressive looking building from the outside — if warehouses are impressive. Must have been the excitement.
I was situated near the LB for the first part of practice, and got to see plenty of those. The kids loved to see Hanson kicking off, and then Harris punting it back. I also got to see the Dline vs Oline full speed drills, and then moved around to get a good view of all three QB’s running the 2 minute offense. Almost everyone at the practice seemed really up-beat, and we were talking Lions most of the time as we were observing the players. Even from the fans attending, it all had a very positive, energetic feel to it. If you can make it to one of the open practices I really recommend it — just the experience of being there is enough to get the adrenaline going, and the excitement stoked.
Killer did some great summarizing ofthe QB’s performance in the two minute drill, as well as noting about how Stanton did. While Stanton looked pretty decent throwing the ball, he also took off on a run for one play as well. That demonstrates more what he brings to the table — still, while he didn’t look awful, he was definitely the 3rd QB. Daunte looked pretty good overall, but as nice as his passes looked going first — Stafford really shot those passes out. Man can he rocket those things into the right place! Even the speed at which his long passes got down field was noticeably faster. Who knows if he will be the next John Elway, but I have no doubts at this point he will be no worse than an average starting QB in this league.
The Dline looked a lot better than I thought it would — especially Cohen at DT. I’ve noticed a lot has been made of Cohen the last couple of days, but he really stood out to me time and again Sunday morning, so I’m not surprised. I liked him last pre-season, and still think he’s got a great chance to be starting come September. IAF also had some good moves Sunday morning. Sammie Hill also was mauling Damien Cook big time, as well as creating some pressure. He’s nowhere near starting caliber yet, but he was obviously doing his best and seemed to be eager to get his input from the coaches.
On the Oline side, Jeff Backus looked much better than he has in recent seasons (at least in the drills they were doing) and Daniel Loper as well. Couldn’t see much of Peterman or Goz from where I was at, so no input there.
The group I got to really see work out in individual drills was the LB. In one, they were hitting the sled dummy (A T-shirt shaped pad that must have weighed about 250 lbs, with spring loaded beams in the back) and had to push it up, and throw the whole contraption to the side. It was essentailly working on blowing guys up and throwing off blockers. Peterson and Sims looked good as expected. Two guys that really stood out just tossing that contraption aside were surprisingly Levy and Dizon. Levy especially (including later drills) was much larger, and much more agile than I expected. Dizon was also looking really sharp. Follett didn’t stand out in the drills I watched. Cody Spencer also had some nice moves/hits.
It was a lot of fun to watch the practice, and it gave me a different view of some of the players, as well as how the practices go and their pace. It is a constant two hours where they move from drill to drill to drill. They start off in single position groups, then work with one other, then more come together until they are doing full scrimmage type activities by the end. There was a really comfortable flow to it all.
My impression of the team overall was very positive — everyone seemed to have this upbeat intensity that they as individuals, units, and as a team could do better. They were constantly challenging one another to get better, do better.
After practice, Stafford, Delmas and a couple of others were whisked off to tables as people waited in line for their signatures. I got in line too late to get to speak with them and get autographs (they had to cut if off fairly early for time constraints — I missed out by two spots in line.), but I had some good reasons –
Coach Schwartz did not stay with position grouping or side of the ball; rather, he was almost constantly moving about — speaking with a coach here, a player there, observing a drill — but always moving about and conferring with his coaches as he watched what was going on. He also was relaxed, but also very much in charge of what was going on. In talking with others who were there last year, they said it was a different kind of “in charge” than coach Marinelli had. He was more of a Drill Sergeant who keeps order by discipline in the now. Coach Schwartz was coming off more like a General who doesn’t try to make people listen, he just assumes they will — and they do.
After the practice was over, Coach Schwartz took a few minutes to talk to the team — presumably about what he had seen that practice that he felt needed to be touched on. At that time, some of the special observers, and others were heading into the facility. One of them was Charlie Sanders. In the same bleacher set as us were a couple of fans dressed to the nines, and Mr. Sanders came over to where we were at and signed a couple of things for them, and chatted a minute or two.
The Free Press has a nice picture of it here. If you look closely, regular readers will see me to the right of the guy in the lion-skin outfit, a little behind him (I’m wearing the blue lions hat). What you can’t see is my youngest pink lion, holding the football we had to get player autographs —clasped tightly in her little hands, shaking too scared to go any closer. A person next to the other two pointed her out to Mr. Sanders, and he motioned to take the football. Then he signed it and we talked Lions football for a good 3-4 minutes. He really likes Brandon Pettigrew, and thinks that Lions fans will forget anyone ever booed the pick. Said we’ll be “blessing that pick for the next decade.” It was an awesome experience that he would take the time to not only give a signature, but talk football with just another fan. (I’ll be posting up my pictures either tomorrow or Wednesday, depending on when I can get time to download them off the camera, then upload them to the site and label them.)
By the time I was done talking with Mr. Sanders, the practice had broken and other players were coming up to the fences to chat up fans and get autographs. My pictures from camp should be up by Wednesday evening at the latest, along with the rest of what it was like to meet the players, and what we talked about (likely two different posts – one Tuesday, and one Wednesday).
In its’ entirety, I was a bit disappointed to miss out meeting Matthew Stafford, Delmas, Pettigrew, and CJ (who had to go straight to a media session, so didn’t stop to talk with fans). HOWEVER — it was a great experience and being able to talk to Charlie Sanders, and then with over over half a dozen of the current players on the team was exciting. Everyone had a positive attitude, and were really making an effort to greet and talk with the fans, exchanging banter, etc. – and of course, the Little Pink Lions garnered lots of attention. There was a real and distinct energy coming from the field and the team, and I left Allen Park encouraged for the upcoming season!