The development -- and education -- of rookie wide receiver Charles Rogers is going to be an interesting angle in the Lions' 2003 NFL season.
Team president Matt Millen and coach Steve Mariucci launched the process even before they took the Michigan State wide receiver with the No. 2 pick in the draft last April.
They brought Rogers in for a workout at their Allen Park practice facility and liked what they saw in talent, skills and confidence. They nudged him a little farther along during the post-draft minicamps. But the biggest steps in the process will come in training camp, the exhibition season and -- finally -- the NFL regular season.
The Lions obviously expect big things from Rogers but Millen seems set on not overburdening the promising young receiver by demanding too much, too soon. He has made it clear from the start that very, very few players make the transition from college start to NFL Pro Bowler in one season.
"He needs a lot of work but he pays attention and he keeps his head in things," Millen said recently. "He needs to keep on lifting, he needs to get a little bit bigger but you saw some of the things he can do. He'll be fine.
"When I said he's going to have his tough times early, he's going to. That's just the way it is. Plus, it's going to be an adjustment but he's football smart. He'll figure it out."
The regulars at the Lions minicamps -- the reporters and observers who were there every day -- got a pretty good glimpse of Rogers in the figuring-out-phase earlier this spring.
Sources say when Rogers went through his pre-draft private workout with the Lions he had a good workout and his confidence was showing. He was still feeling good about himself when he came in for the start of minicamp after the draft but was justifiably reserved. As one source put it: "His eyes were real big."
A couple of acrobatic catches over veteran cornerback Dre' Bly gave him another boost in confidence but Rogers came back to earth in a hurry when one of the Lions young cornerbacks drilled him squarely in the chest as he tried to get off the line of scrimmage.
Although Rogers played it off as no big deal, the play apparently made a big impression on him. He was a little more reserved for the remaining days of the minicamp, as some of the scouting reports had indicated he would be at various times.
The feeling is that Rogers went into his learning mode -- stepping back slightly to figure out the speed, the intensity and the way the game is played in the NFL.
He still has a couple of weeks to mull it over before he and the rest of the Lions report for the start of training camp later this month. The guess among the Lions insiders is that he'll have a better understanding when he goes to work.
And, eventually, he'll be everything the Lions expect of him -- one of the best receivers in the NFL.
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
--Lions president Matt Millen should be walking considerably better when the Lions open training camp later this month.
Twelve years of linebacker play in the NFL took its toll and in recent years Millen had developed a back condition diagnosed as a degenerative disc, putting him in obvious discomfort when he was on the practice field with the Lions players.
It got to the point over the past spring that Millen decided to deal with it, so he had surgery at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit on June 30.
The surgery reportedly was completed without problems and Millen is hoping to be back on the field when the Lions begin full team workouts in Allen Park on July 27.
--The Lions new Ford Field home, which opened just last season, is becoming a basketball venue as well.
Ford Field will be the site of an NCAA game between Michigan State and Kentucky -- dubbed the BasketBowl -- on Dec. 13. More than 50,000 tickets already have been sold for the game, creating the possibility of setting an all-time record for a basketball game attendance.
Most recently, however, Ford Field struck it basketball-rich by being awarded the Final Four in 2009. The University of Detroit Mercy will be the host school for the Final Four, which is expected to pump at least $75 million into the local economy.
The NFL already has awarded the Super Bowl XL to Ford Field in 2006.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think I've got to improve my strength. I'm in a situation now where people have grown men strength; I still don't have that. That's one thing I have to work on." -- Rookie wide receiver Charles Rogers.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers): CB Eric Davis (not tendered as UFA); QB Dave Dickenson (not tendered as ERFA); CB Donovan Greer (not tendered as UFA); LB Richard Jordan (not tendered as UFA); RB Lamont Warren (not tendered as UFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: OT Kerlin Blaise (not tendered as UFA; terms unknown);OG Ray Brown (UFA; $780,000/1 yr, $25,000 SB; 2003 cap: $450,000); RB Rafael Cooper (ERFA; $300,000/1 yr); OLB Donte' Curry (ERFA; $375,000/1 yr); QB Ty Detmer (cut; $780,000/ 1 yr, $25,000 SB; 2003 cap: $475,000/$450,000 base guarantee); DE Jared DeVries (UFA; $3M/3 yrs, $825,000 SB; 2003 cap: $925,000); DE James Hall (RFA; $1.318M/1 yr); OG Tyrone Hopson (ERFA; $375,000/1 yr); OT Josh Lovelady (ERFA; $375,000/1 yr); DT Kelvin Pritchett (UFA; terms unknown); TE Mikhael Ricks (potential UFA; $4.7M/3 yrs, $1.2M SB; 2003 cap: $1.6M); OG Frank Romero (ERFA; $225,000/1 yr); LB Josh Thornhill (ERFA; $300,000/1 yr); FB Stephen Trejo (ERFA; $375,000/1 yr); S Bracy Walker (UFA; $680,000/1 yr, $25,000 SB; 2003 cap: $475,000); LB Brian Williams (UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown); CB Jimmy Wyrick (not tendered as RFA; $490,600/1 yr, $35,000 SB).
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: CB Dre' Bly (UFA Rams; $24.5M/5 yrs, $6.5M SB; 2003 cap: $3.3M); RB Shawn Bryson (UFA Bills; terms unknown); LB Earl Holmes (FA Browns; 3 yrs, terms unknown); WR Shawn Jefferson (FA Falcons; $780,000/1 yr, $25,000 SB; 2003 cap: $475,000); LB Wali Rainer (UFA Jaguars; $1.875M/2 yrs, $475,000 SB; 2003 cap: $567,500); CB Chris Watson (FA Bills; terms unknown).
PLAYERS LOST: RB Aveion Cason (traded Cowboys); LB Chris Claiborne (UFA Vikings; $5.5M/2 yrs, SB unknown); WR Germane Crowell (cut); WR Larry Foster (traded Cardinals); WR Jacquez Green (cut); WR/KR Desmond Howard (cut); DT Travis Kirschke (UFA 49ers; 1 yr, terms unknown); LB Clint Kriewaldt (UFA Steelers; $2.38M/3 yrs, $420,000 SB); CB Todd Lyght (UFA; retired).
MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.