(ALLEN PARK) - The Lions wrapped a productive week of minicamp practices with guys flying around on the field, a couple of scraps between the offense and defense and a feeling of comraderie building in the locker room.
The feelings of despair and desperation that accompanied the Marty Mornhinweg regime are gone and in their place are feelings of optimism that finally, Detroit has a chance at winning some football games this fall.
"This week was a much better week than the week before," said Mariucci. I loved the energy today. We got something done. We put in some short-yardage, goal-line and red-zone and some of those things that were new. As far as learning how to practice, (it was) much better. I feel more encouraged after this week than I did a week ago, which helps.
We had a real good week. Now, here we go again on Monday. If it was up to me, we would practice a few more weeks because we need it. We're going to go three more days next week, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and then we're going to break and not have any more mini-camp practices. Guys will still be here, training and conditioning. We're getting a lot done."
The spirited session was marked by a couple of big plays and big hits. Veteran Shawn Jefferson continues to be a quick study among the Lions group of wide receivers. Jefferson was impressive from the slot, knifing between defenders for a pair of touchdown catches in red zone work.
Signee Wali Rainer 'blew up' a screen pass intended for James Stewart bringing hoots and high fives from his teammates. But the biggest roar went up with safety Lamar Campbell 'accidentally' hit tight end John Owens on a slant route in the endzone. The two pair collided with the pass being broken up and the Lions defensive unit went crazy. But the offense took exception to the big hit and a skermish ensued but it broke up with smiles all around.
Mariucci said he didn't mind those kinds of things because he encourages guys to try to make plays and not allow the other side to be successful.
Wali Rainer said he loved the "energy" in the session. "We practice like a championship team," said Rainer. "That leads to playing like one. I love when coach lets us fly around to the ball."
Mariucci said he's also looking forward to having Joey Harrington take a real leap in his production at the quarterback position. "He's had a very busy off-season. He came in real early to quarterback school. He's here, he lives here (training facility) - a lot of film, a lot of drill work and a lot of film and a lot of film. He's so much further along at this point than he was a year ago. I expect him to be a better quarterback than he was his rookie year. I expect any second-year player to take a jump, certainly the quarterback."
When pressed for specifics, Mariucci indicated that he needs Harrington to be more efficient. "Probably in our passing efficiency, completion percentage, accuracy, decision-making and those sort of things. That was one of the things that we talked about at length with this offense - completing a higher percentage of passes. From around 50-percent to up over 60 (percent), that's what you would like to do in this offense."
Last year, Harrington was a league worst 59.5 passer rating.
Joey Harrington talked about his priorities for next week's camp sessions: "For me, it's learning the offense, getting more comfortable with the offense, getting more comfortable with my third and fourth options, that's the biggest thing. Like I said, Coach Mariucci's going to take some shots. He will call some plays down the field, but he expects the quarterbacks to take control and pull the reigns in when it's not there. You have options down the field but you also have a third and fourth checkdown right in front of you. A lot of times it's better to take three yards. Take three yards, line up for second-and-seven, as opposed to forcing something down the field. So that's the biggest thing for me, learning all the little parts of this offense."