Team Notes from TheSportsXchange
--If the Lions are going to improve on last year's three-win season, they're going to have to take advantage of every possible edge they can find, including the home field.
That was the first thought that came to coach Steve Mariucci after the NFL released the Lions 2003 schedule.
The Lions lost last year at Arizona and lost twice to Minnesota, but neither the Cardinals or Vikings is light years ahead of the Lions, which gives hope the Lions might get off to a respectable start if they can win at home.
"Home has got to be an advantage for us," Mariucci said. "It was one of the things that was so impressive to me when I visited.
"Ford Field is as good as it gets, and I know the fans here in Michigan -- in Detroit -- are as good as they get. And I'm counting on the fans to be our advantage.
"Other teams are going to be thinking about how to play against the Lions, but they've also got to be thinking about, `How do we deal with that crowd?' "
--For a couple of days in minicamp, Barrett Green was excited and enthused about moving from the weakside to become the Lions middle linebacker.
"It's going to be an adjustment, but it's definitely something I feel comfortable with for the simple fact it allows me to use my assets, which are my ability -- as soon as the ball is snapped -- to go and attack," Green said. The day after the minicamp ended, however, the Lions reached agreement with former Jacksonville MLB Wali Rainer on a two-year contract worth $1.8 million, giving a pretty good impression they are expecting Rainer to replace Chris Claiborne (signed by Minnesota as an unrestricted free agent) in the middle.
That doesn't mean Green no longer figures in coach Steve Mariucci's plans. It is likely, however, that he will be back at the weakside linebacker job rather than trying to patrol the middle.
"Barrett did a nice job inside and we will keep him alive there," Mariucci said, "but he is very well-suited to be that weakside linebacker."
--At the tender age of 40, guard Ray Brown figures he could get by without some of the offseason staples generally associated with NFL life -- the early mini-camp, the off-season workouts and conditioning runs.
But when Lions president Matt Millen called to offer him a contract shortly after the NFL combine wrapped up in late February, what could Brown say? "It's like, `Are you ready?' " Brown said, laughing. "I guess so. I had to start training."
Actually, the training part wasn't that much of an imposition on Brown. The 17-year NFL veteran had already begun his off-season running program at his home in the San Francisco area, and figured the lifting would hurt as he returns for a second year as a starting guard with the Lions.
Moreover, Brown feels good about the presence of new coach Steve Mariucci. Brown played five years under Mariucci at San Francisco, so he is familiar with what Mariucci expects of his players.
"He brings a great level of excitement, and it's not rehearsed," Brown said. "It really is genuine. I wonder where he gets the energy from, but the guy is passionate about football and I think the players are going to pick up on that."
--Defensive end Robert Porcher didn't need three days of meetings and workouts to convince him coach Steve Mariucci is bringing a new attitude -- and new demands -- to the Lions players.
Mariucci gave the Lions a sample of his "beep test" -- a test of endurance and stamina -- before they got to camp and Porcher took it to heart. "We did these little 20-yard shuttles," Porcher said. "But actually it goes for quite a while. It kind of got me toward the end.
"I heard one of the guys say, `Man, I thought you came to the offseason workout to get ready, I didn't know you had to be in good shape.' I think that's a good thing."
One of the criticisms of former coach Marty Mornhingweg was that the Lions did very little running as a part of their conditioning and, as a result, the team was not well-conditioned and frequently faded late in the game.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're going to fill this thing." -- Guard Ray Brown on what coach Steve Mariucci told the Lions after showing them the totally empty trophy case in the team's headquarters/practice facility.