(ALLEN PARK) - Day two of the Lions minicamp was brightened by the presence of two high profile visitors. Vice-Chairman Bill Ford, Jr. and University of Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr and his coaching staff dropped in to visit the team on Tuesday.
Carr said he was there to "get some pointers" on how they do things at the next level and said he left impressed. "It's an opportunity for us to watch some great coaches work and hopefully pick up a few ideas. I was really impressed with the tempo; it's obvious there's great enthusiasm here. Of course, everybody in Detroit and this state is excited about Steve (Mariucci) and the Detroit Lions."
While watching practice as the guest of Lions president Matt Millen who was also present, Carr got to see his prized pupil, Jeff Backus, the Lions first round pick in 2001 jump offsides, something that didn't go unnoticed with his old coach. "I don't think I made him nervous, but I did see him (Backus) jump offsides; that's unacceptable (laughter)."
Carr revealed that Backus always wanted to be a Detroit Lion and he told Lions president Millen that fact before the draft. "I can remember, I was telling Matt Millen and Tom Lewand earlier when Jeff was graduating, I asked him, 'Jeff, if you could choose the team that drafted you, who would it be,' he (Jeff) answered, 'The Detroit Lions.' So he's right where he wants to be and it's exciting to be this close to him."
Ford, Jr. was there observing practice and enjoyed having a good time with Carr, Millen, Lewand and the press before heading back over to the Ford World Headquarters just a few blocks away.
On the field, the Lions were without the services of Luke Staley for the second consecutive day. The oft-injured running back sat out with a pulled hamstring muscle and his status is day-to-day. Staley looked, early on, like the odds-on leader for the backup spot to James Stewart and if he could remain healthy, looks as if he has the tools to be a productive starter in the league, but that is the rub with the second-year player who has had seven surgeries in his college and pro career.
First round pick Charles Rogers ran the last couple of plays very gingerly and eventually pulled himself out of drills with a tight hamstring. Practicing without a contract, Rogers is walking a fine line between wanting to learn the plays and not hurting his bargaining position by getting hurt.
Undrafted free-agent Chris Kern left with a seperated shoulder
While Coach Mariucci is going into his second week of team activity, he says he and his staff will continue the talent evaluation process throughout the year. "It's a continual thing - not only during training camp, but during the season. We evaluate every time we practice and every time we play. We evaluate our scheme, our coaching and our performance on the field continuously. That's ongoing throughout the season. As you know, once you make a team a 53-man squad (at the end of the preseason), that's not necessarily the final product, changes can still be made. We're looking at the waiver wire to see who's available and who's out there right now. There has been many cuts and we keep our eye on that. We may make a move or two."
When I asked if Mariucci had any interest in his old receiver J.J. Stokes, a cap casuality from the San Francisco 49'ers he was non-committal. "He's been there a long time and he knows this system very, very well. I think it's a matter of determining if we need another veteran receiver. We just signed Shawn Jefferson, who is sort of in that same category as far as a veteran receiver. Right now we haven't discussed adding another receiver. We're going to evaluate the bunch that we have right now and see where they take us.
LION NOTES: Mariucci said he was happy to see Lloyd Carr at practice and enjoys trading secrets with other coaches as they all fine tune their schemes. "He's a Northern Michigan guy - it's great to have him, his entire staff is here. A lot of Eastern Michigan coaches are here too. They're wearing those Detroit Lions' hats and they're looking good."
Lions wide receiver Scotty Anderson got in his first action since being stabbed outside a Houston, TX nightclub and said he had a new found respect for life and football. "I appreciate it. Everybody should appreciate life. You really don't appreciate it until things like this happen. I can't explain it," Anderson said before getting a little choked up.
He added that he intends to participate in more drills as the week goes on. "Yeah, I can move it. It aches a little but it's not bad. After practice it stiffened up, it felt like staples. When I run, it hurts - but I'm cool."