Mariucci setting up team for successful campaign

Lions' insider Mike Fowler breaks down the Lions' final mini-camp practice, including comments on Dre' Bly, Barrett Green, Luther Elliss and more. Head coach Steve Mariucci also had some words of wisdom for his players as the 2003 campaign approaches. Find out now!

(ALLEN PARK) -- Steve Mariucci dismissed the players from their first mini-camp as head coach with some words of wisdom for the upcoming season... don't even think about it.

"I don't want them to think so much about the Chicago Bears or opening day or playoffs or any of those (things)," said Mariucci.

"I want them to think about April. Between now and then we have 30 days before our next mini-camp when we'll have more free agents and we'll have rookies in here obviously after the draft. I want April to be productive. More productive than the rest of the National Football League as far as our strength, our fitness level, our work on the field. Film work, on their own they've got all kinds of cutups to watch and that sort of thing."

"Our April needs to be better than the Packers and the Vikings and the Bears. That's the emphasis. That's where I want their mindset."

Judging by the rude awakening the players received at this camp, they'd better not look very far ahead.  This mini-camp session was marked by a higher intensity level than many of the last year's training camp sessions. 

The Lions coaching staff was all business, putting the players through their paces at an extremely high level, with little to no down time between drills.

Especially intense was linebackers coach Richard Smith.  He appeared to be in midseason form as he put his players through their paces.  Hey, when a coach yells at you for walking to the waterboy instead of jogging, well, that's intense.

After the end of the session, the Lions went through what coach Mariucci calls affectionately, the "beep" test.  This is a conditioning type drill where players run shuttles until they can't do anymore.

"I've done if for seven years now," said Mariucci.

"It's not so much a conditioning drill - it's a test, to check their fitness level. However, it's skewed a little bit because as you know, we just practiced three times. Some position groups do a lot more running than other position groups. Some guys were a little injured and were limited in how much they practiced, so they had fresher legs, ala Tyrone Hopson. It's an indicator for them and for us as to how many times they can run back and forth. It's called a 'beep test.'"

Mariucci said he prefers this to the typical "gassers"  drill.

"I typically do this once in the off-season with the guys - I might do it with the new guys. There are all kinds of conditioning tests and we've all been through them. This one happens to be one where you're not asking everybody to run a mile and a half or everybody to run the same amount of time because everybody is a different size, weight and shape. So you just go as far as you can as long as you can. There is low risk for injury or pulling a muscle or any of that sort of thing. They pushed themselves to see how far they can go and then that's it."

PLAYERS TO WATCH THIS SEASON:
Barrett Green has a chance to establish himself as a player this year.  With the move to the middle in a contract year, he has the chance to put up some impressive numbers and secure his long-term future in the NFL.  In practice he looked active, quick, explosive and his same enthusiastic talkative self.  He's appears ready and eager for this opportunity.

Dre Bly seemed to be as advertised, a big-league corner who can really lock down an opposing receiver.  Only one ball was completed against Bly and he shows tremendous quickness when he came off his receiver and exploded into Stephen Trejo--without pads.  The thump of the hit could be heard on the second deck.

Luther Elliss seemed to be in somewhat of a funk.  You think what happened to James Jones a few years back could be lingering in his mind?  Elliss said all the right things after practice, but with contract negotiations stalled and his decreasing production the last two years, you couldn't blame him for being apprehensive about his future in Detroit.


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