ALLEN PARK - The relentess nature of Lions head coach Rod Marinelli showed up on the first day of the team's minicamp. Marinelli put the team through their paces while making roster changes on the fly.
Detroit signed veteran offensive guard Ross Verba, a street free agent formerly of the Green Bay Packers and Cleveland Browns to a contract. The nine-year veteran from Iowa started all sixteen games for Cleveland in 2004, but removed himself from the organization during a nasty contract squabble by agreeing to repay a $465,000 signing bonus. In return, Cleveland provided is unconditional release on June 9, 2005.
He did not play the following season.
To make room for Verba, Detroit released veteran quarterback Shaun King, who signed earlier this offseason but appeared to be the odd man out in the quarterbacking derby.
"I thought at that point, we have three quarterbacks we really like and I've [had] a great relationship with [King] over the years. I just didn't know if he had a great shot coming in here," said head coach Rod Marinelli, "He's got a chance maybe to go and be in the mix somewhere else a little better."
Marinelli also indicated that he might sign another quarterback from the World Football League to participate in camp later. The head coach emphasized that he wants to look at every player and coach every player before training camp begins. He left the door open that undrafted players will have every chance of making the squad and that the competition begins right now.
The competition is fierce just to get to camp right now," stated Marinelli. "We can't take everybody we have (signed to a contract) right now to camp, so you've got to make sure you're looking at everybody and make sure those guys are on it."
The coach indicated that Verba along with veteran Rex Tucker will be among the players in the mix for the starting positions but quickly indicated that no one has a starting job locked up right now.
"Those are the guys that are going to be in the mix right now but we're just mixing and working. [Once] the pads go on, then the competition goes on and guys elevate up and down. I'm not so interested in who's the starter is right now. I want to teach them our system and how we're doing things. The (season) opener's not the issue, we're the issue. Us, how we do things and how we approach practice."
Marinelli gave Detroit scouting staff credit for the Verba signing.
"The front office found him and we just kept searching and looking. I told you a couple, three weeks ago we're going to keep searching and looking and keep pushing. And you know we kind of got in with him.
"There were three or four other teams involved and we just used our charm," joked the coach.
CAMP NOTES Not participating in today's morning session were tight ends Dan Campbell and Casey FitzSimmons, defensive tackle Shaun Rogers and wide receiver Mike Williams in addition to players recovering from injuries including linebackers Boss Bailey and Teddy Lehman. Marinelli indicated that most of the absences were nothing to be concerned about and mostly due to some minor injuries such as muscle pulls, but was not specific on any particular player condition.
When asked about Williams, Marinelli indicated he had caught his eye during the rookie tryout session two weeks ago.
"We had that rookie minicamp a while back with tryout guys and all those things? So we brought guys in and had a chance to look at them and some guys caught our eyes and we bring him in and give them a look."
While training camp may be six weeks away, the competition has already begun in Allen Park.