Lions Hope Bailey, Lehman Stay Healthy

It's going to be a while before the Detroit Lions get to see their projected starting linebacking corps together on the football field. Interviews with linebacker's Boss Bailey and Teddy Lehman inside.

ALLEN PARK - It's going to be a while before the Lions get to see their projected starting linebacking corps together on the football field.

Coach Rod Marinelli and defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson would like to tinker with the unit to see how fourth year veteran Boss Bailey would do in the "Mike" or middle position and third year veteran Teddy Lehman would do as the "Sam" or strong side position, but neither are available, both are still recovering for injuries.

Sophomore seasons haven't been good to either of them.

Lehman went on the injured reserve list on Nov 22 following an injury he suffered three weeks earlier in a loss to the Bears. He sandwiched in just five games last season after a solid 2004 rookie campaign when he recorded 98 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble and 1 interception while playing in all 16 games. He sat out the first two games of the season after suffering a minor knee injury in the preseason.

"It's going good, said Lehman of his recovery from the injury. "[I'm just taking it] day-to-day just trying to get better week by week."

It was thought that Lehman, who won the Butkus and Bednarik trophies in 2003 after his senior at Oklahoma, would make the natural progression back to the middle where he played in college, but he's not bothered at all by the coaches' plans to use him primarily as the strong side guy or even the weak side, depending on the offensive formation.

"(In) the NFL, you have to know every position, (it's about) just learning the whole defense, the whole scheme and knowing where you fit it. You've got to learn the whole deal so you can fit in wherever they need you."

After being the only rookie linebacker in the NFL to start every game Lehman says he's having a hard time being on the sidelines.

"It is, it's tough, you want to be out there and you want to practice with everyone else, but its part of the deal whenever you're injured."

Earlier, Marinelli pointed to Lehman and Bailey perhaps being ready by the July 27th start of training camp but Lehman doesn't know if that's going to be the case.

"I have no idea, (I'm taking it) week by week, day by day."

For Bailey, injuries have become routine. Bailey played all 16 games his rookie season, only to have the injury bug cost him the entire 2004 season when he suffered a devastating knee injury that went undetected for much of the off-season. He was hoping that 2005 would be his year.

The Folkston, GA native was in the midst of a solid season when he strained the tendon in his ankle. He sat out the Dallas game and returned to start in the infamous 27-7 loss that spelled head coach Steve Mariucci's doom.

That's when he suffered a more serious injury to the tendon.

"I had to get a tendon cleaned up in my ankle. "I didn't play after that one, I played after a sprain and when I came back, that's when (the tendon injury) happened and I was out for the rest of the season. We decided to let it heal up on its own but there was some severe tendonitis going on and they thought it was torn again. It ended up being OK and they just kind of cleaned me up."

Detroit hopes to pair the injured two-some with rookie Florida State linebacker Ernie Sims, a ferocious hitter and playmaker they want to put on the weakside or "Will" position.

"He's going to bring a lot of speed and intensity, he comes from a good program and he's a playmaker," said Bailey of Sims. "He made a lot of plays in college. He didn't come out in three years and get drafted in the Top Ten for no reason. He's proven that he can play the game. Now he's got to come in and get the system down and he'll be good to go."

With veteran Earl Holmes departed, Bailey is being counted on to be the senior leader of this group. Can he step up to the plate?

"Well, I'm going on my fourth year so, I mean, how much time do you need to be ready? So I'm ready for whatever they want me to do."

Bailey said he believes in the Tampa Two system the coaches are putting and about his ability to play in space and cover receivers and backs out of the backfield.

"I feel real good about it because one thing you don't want to be is one-dimensional. I feel good about what they think about my ability to be able to make that change. I know I can do it if I study it right and put my mind to it and stay focused, I can play all three positions. This is just letting me know that they trust that I can get it done."

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