TSX: In-depth Lions Update

Lions' head coach Steve Mariucci is getting to know his players, the focus is still on Michigan State product Charles Rogers, plus a diversity update. TheSportsXchange provides an exclusive, in-depth team report.

Team Notes:

--The focus is still on wide receiver Charles Rogers of Michigan State but the Lions say they are not locked in on Rogers or any other player as their first-round pick in the NFL draft April 26-27.

It's not that there is anything wrong with Rogers. Coach Steve Mariucci and the rest of the Lions brain trust believe he will be an outstanding NFL receiver but Mariucci says the Lions can't be steamrolled by the strong public opinion favoring Rogers in the Detroit area.

Yes, Rogers would provide a much-needed big-play weapon for second-year quarterback Joey Harrington, but there are other ways to help a young quarterback.

"I've always felt a young quarterback's best friend is a good defense," Mariucci said. "Common sense tells you you're not going to give up a lot of points, you're not going to be playing from behind, you're not going to be down 17-0 in the second quarter and have to wing it every down and (defenders) are in their track stance the rest of the game."

-- If the Lions were hoping for closure in the diversity complaint brought by the NFL for their failure to interview any minority candidates before hiring Steve Mariucci as the coach, they left the NFL owners meetings disappointed.

Diversity hiring was the subject of discussion in one form or another during all three days of the meetings, but the NFL did not focus on the Lions situation in particular.

"We really didn't spend a lot of time on (the Lions situation) this week," commissioner Paul Tagliabue said. "I'm going to talk with Dan Rooney later in the week and we'll talk to Bill Ford Jr., and bring it to some kind of conclusion."

Rooney, the president of the Pittsburgh Steelers, heads the NFL's workplace diversity committee, which called the Lions on the carpet in early March.

Ford Jr., the team's vice chairman, and Matt Millen, the Lions president, maintain the Lions contacted five African-American candidates for interviews but were rejected because of a widespread believe Mariucci already had the job.

The issue seems to have lost steam in recent weeks, with the focus being directed toward improving the system to work minority candidates into all levels of NFL management rather than punishing the Lions.

-- The getting-to-know-you process between new coach Steve Mariucci and the Lions players is in full swing.

Aside from brief meetings with individual players, Mariucci has had little opportunity to get acquainted with the 3-13 team he inherited when he was hired as the Lions coach on Feb. 4.

The league allows new coaching staffs an extra minicamp and Mariucci scheduled his for March 30-April 1 at the team's practice facility in Allen Park, Mich.

Mariucci said his primary goal in three on-field sessions was not to install his offense and defense as much as it was to see the players run and check their conditioning. The offense and defense will be installed after the NFL draft April 26-27.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have a lot of holes to fill, a lot of needs. We're not going to be able to do it all in one year. It's going to be over time, so if we can fill a need on offense and then -- in later rounds or later acquisitions in free agency -- acquire defensive players, we'll do that." -- Coach Steve Mariucci on how the Lions will approach the NFL draft.

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