(ALLEN PARK) -- Tight end Mikhael Ricks left the PUP list (knee) and began practicing on Tuesday with the team, and although last year's Pro Bowl alternate is already penciled into the starting tight end position, the quest to be his replacement has taken on a battle of its own.
During the off-season, Detroit signed undrafted free agent Casey Fitzsimmons from Carroll College to help fill out the training camp roster. Fitzsimmons has been somewhat of a surprise, demonstrating amazingly sticky hands and the ability to get in between the "soft" area of the zone defense. Fitzsimmons is a legitimate threat to make the team.
But last week, Detroit picked up street free agent tight end Tywan Mitchell, an Illinois native who played college ball at Division II Minnesota State-Mankato and had spent the 2000 season in NFL Europe with the Berlin Thunder.
Mitchell immediately made eyebrows raise as he made several difficult catches in traffic. Despite the fact that he drew the ire of coach Mariucci for raising the ball above his head after a diving catch instead of running with it, Mitchell has been very effective in almost every drill he's participated. He still is the longest shot of the group to make the team.
Detroit knew they were going to have to let go of some talented players this season, but didn't expect to do so at the tight end position. Detroit will likely shelve the maximum of five players on its practice squad and while Mitchell will have to earn a place on the 53 man roster, Fitzsimmons could land on the practice squad if Detroit is able to adequately hide him from the same prying eyes that spotted James Mungro on waivers last season.