Lions Notebook: Marinelli The Next Steckel?

Lions' head coach already drawing forbidable comparisons, notes on Joey Harrington's final days (and the financial impact) and a complete off-season player personnel review.

ALLEN PARK - The first wave of player resistance cost coach Rod Marinelli two days of off-season workouts and the new Lions coach indicated he might have to adjust his approach to bringing a tougher, more disciplined work ethic to the team.

"I've just got to be smart with what we're doing," he said in response to a reporter's question.

Neither the Lions nor the NFL Players Association would confirm the exact nature of the grievance that was filed by the unknown player or players after Marinelli's first mini-camp in mid-April.

The statement put out by the league and the players association was unclear also, saying in one place that the grievance involved "violations of the Collective Bargaining Agreement's off-season workout rules" and in the next paragraph saying the Lions "violated rules pertaining to the scheduling of off-season activities."

Judging from Marinelli's response, speculation at the Lions' Allen Park training facility is that a small group of players might have felt the off-season workout involved too much contact and was too tough, prompting them to complain to the players association.

"We're just prepared to move on," Marinelli said. "That's really all I have to say."

When pressed on the issue of the players' alleged reluctance to work at the level he believes is necessary to win, Marinelli later added, "No, they've been very good. I've been actually very pleased. The majority of them have really gone fast and understand the tempo that we want.

"It's not good enough yet, that's the thing. That's the issue: It's not good enough. That's the thing I've got to keep working on."

At least some of the Lions players apparently do not support the grievance or those who filed it.

"I'm hard working," tight end Marcus Pollard told the Detroit Free Press. "A lot of guys are hard-working. You can't just lump the entire team as guys that don't want to work or we got some guys whining about this or that."

Yet, Marinelli could be walking a fine line in his demanding approach to improving the Lions, who are 21-59 in the last five seasons.

His approach might be considered comparable to that of Les Steckel, who was hired by the Minnesota Vikings in 1984 after the retirement of Bud Grant. The team rebelled, won only 3 of 16 games and Steckel was fired after one season.

PLAYER NOTES

 ........ After two months of haggling and occasional acrimony, the Lions have finally traded quarterback Joey Harrington to the Miami Dolphins.

The deal was completed Friday, giving the Dolphins time to get Harrington into camp for the start of their organized team activities, which begin next week.

The Lions reportedly received a sixth-round pick in the 2006 NFL draft, with the possibility that it could become a fifth-round pick, depending on how much Harrington plays for the Dolphins in the upcoming season.

The deal has been pending for weeks. Harrington asked the Lions to trade or release him after attending an early "quarterback school" with new coach Rod Marinelli and offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

Although Harrington has not addressed the subject publicly, sources say he was not sour on Marinelli or Martz as much as he was uncomfortable returning to the site of his four unpleasant seasons, during which he had taken abuse from Lions fans and teammates.

Lions president Matt Millen gave Harrington and agent David Dunn permission to shop him to other NFL teams. After a brief tour, Harrington announced he would play with Miami.

The Dolphins want Harrington as insurance for newly acquired Dante Culpepper, who is recovering from a season-ending 2005 injury and is not expected to be ready for the season opener.

The Lions had to get him off the books by June 15, when he was due to receive a $4 million roster bonus.

 ........ An unprecedented (for the Lions) tryout format yielded three players after the three days of rookie mini-camp -- defensive end Val Barnaby from Rutgers, safety Marcus Demps from San Diego State and wide receiver Devale Ellis from Hofstra.

The three players were signed to one-year contracts after joining another 23 undrafted, unsigned rookies in the Lions' rookie mini-camp.

The Lions previously had signed eight undrafted rookies after the NFL draft at the end of April but new coach Rod Marinelli -- utilizing a concept the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have used in recent seasons -- wanted to bring in another 26 players for the all-rookie camp.

"You just put them on tape and you film them and you look," Marinelli explained. "You just never know. They key is, you have to keep looking. I look to the franchise and our team to just keep digging and looking."

Lions president Matt Millen was impressed, not only with the tryout players but with the way Marinelli and his staff treated them.

"I thought they got coached hard and I thought they responded really well," Millen said. "Their effort was outstanding. Very few mental errors. To be honest, I was really impressed."

 ........ The Lions, like most NFL teams, look for one particular quality in most players taken in the later rounds of the draft but in the case of at least two players -- running back Brian Calhoun of Wisconsin and Fred Matua of Southern California -- they might have gotten more.

After getting his first look at the players in T-shirts and helmets at a three-day rookie camp, Lions president Matt Millen said he was impressed with the versatility of both Calhoun and Matua.

Calhoun, a third-round draft pick, is expected to compete with Artose Pinner for a backup running back position but he might be able to help himself with ability in several areas.

"What you really saw -- the return skills, all that stuff was there," Millen said. "He fielded the ball really well (on) punts and kicks, caught the ball out of the backfield, showed some quickness."

Matua left Southern Cal a year early for the draft after blocking for three Heisman Trophy winners -- quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart and running back Reggie Bush but slipped all the way to the seventh round.

Asked what he liked about Matua, Millen said: "The versatility. He can play center, he can play guard. He's a tough kid, he's smart, he picked everything up real well, played with a lot of confidence."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
FRANCHISE PLAYER: OT Jeff Backus (tendered at $6.983M).
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

  • WR Troy Edwards was signed in late October to fill injury-related holes in receiving corps, was active for just three games with two receptions for 15 years. Does not figure in plans for 2006.
  • LB Earl Holmes will be 33 in April but he was the Lions' best run-stopper until he was beset with injuries in the second half of the season. He's a valuable player if the Lions can re-sign him at the right price.
  • WR Kevin Johnson was the veteran influence the Lions wanted for their young receiving corps until he suffered a torn Achilles' tendon. He's not in their plans.
  • S Scott McGarrahan was signed off waivers from San Diego on Dec. 21 and was not active in final two games of the season. Not expected back for 2006.
  • S Bracy Walker isn't a starting-caliber player at 35 but has been a consistent contributor on special teams, which gives him a chance at another contract.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)

  • LB Matt Grootegoed (not tendered as ERFA).

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

  • LB James Davis (tendered at $721,600) was the only starter to survive the full 16-game season and is likely to compete for the WLB job again in 2006.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

  • WR Glenn Martinez spent most of the 2005 season on the practice squad but was active for five games, made one catch for 11 yards. Likely to be re-signed.
  • TE Sean McHugh played three games late in the season after TE Casey FitzSimmons suffered a concussion and had no catches.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

  • S Idrees Bashir: UFA Panthers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
  • WR Corey Bradford: UFA Texans; $7.4M/4 yrs, $2M SB.
  • TE Dan Campbell: UFA Cowboys; 5 yrs, terms unknown.
  • CB Jamar Fletcher: UFA Chargers; terms unknown.
  • WR Mike Furrey: Not tendered as RFA by Rams; $540,000/1 yr, $40,000 SB; 2006 cap: $465,000.
  • RB Arlen Harris: Not tendered as RFA by Rams; $500,000/1 yr.
  • OG Tyrone Hopson: FA; terms unknown.
  • DE Tyoka Jackson: UFA Rams; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
  • QB Shaun King: FA; terms unknown.
  • QB Jon Kitna: UFA Bengals; $11.5M/4 yrs, $3.5M SB.
  • LB Paris Lenon: UFA Packers; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
  • QB Josh McCown: UFA Cardinals; $6M/2 yrs, $2M SB.
  • OT Barry Stokes: UFA Falcons; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
  • OL Rex Tucker: UFA Rams; $3.65M/3 yrs, $1M SB.
  • OL Courtney VanBuren (not tendered as RFA by Chargers; terms unknown).

PLAYERS LOST

  • QB Jeff Garcia: UFA Eagles; 1 yr, terms unknown.
  • CB Andre Goodman: UFA Dolphins; $5M/3 yrs, terms unknown.
  • QB Joey Harrington: Traded Dolphins.
  • OG Kyle Kosier: UFA Cowboys; $15M/5 yrs, $5M SB.
  • OG David Loverne (released).
  • CB R.W. McQuarters: UFA Giants; $6M/3 yrs, $2M SB.
  • LB Wali Rainer: UFA Texans; terms unknown.
  • FB Paul Smith: UFA Rams; terms unknown.
  • LB Nate Wayne (released).

MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.


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