Newcomer Arlen Harris hasn't had many problems fitting into his new surroundings in Detroit, even if he is making things rather uncomfortable for his fellow running backs.
The fourth-year player was signed during the off-season away from St. Louis, where he learned under the instruction of former Rams' head coach and current offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Thus far, his experience in Martz's offense scheme is paying dividends, while limiting the playing time of others -- including team incumbents Shawn Bryson and Artose Pinner.
In the team's 20-13 win over Denver last week, Harris led he team with seven
carries for 36 yards, but also hauled in the Lions first touchdown after
smoothly corralling a Dan Orlovsky pass before walking into the endzone. His
pass catching ability aside, Harris is still considered a powerback (he stands
5'10, 212 pounds) giving him a unique presence in Detroit's system.
"He did a nice job in our first preseason game," said Lions' head coach Rod Marinelli on Wednesday. "He's got some nice versatility where he can catch, he knows he can block; he's got some ability to do some nice things in terms of running the ball. We'll just wait and see but it's been a good start for him."
Bryson has been one of the team's primary offensive threats since joining the team in 2003, and was rewarded earlier in the off-season with a three-year contract. But since Harris came aboard, Bryson's practice repetitions have been lessened, and he is now unofficially considered the third-string tailback.
With third-round pick Brian Calhoun clutching his draft status card, it is already assumed that Pinner -- a four-year player in Detroit -- will be among the team's final cuts.
Harris, meanwhile, will spell starter Kevin Jones on passing down situations.
In St. Louis, Harris filled a similar role, spending time as a third down
back and was frequently split out as an additional receiver. Because of the
complexity of Martz's playbook, Harris has also been instrumental in easing the
transition for many of his teammates.
"I think so, but we've been together now since March and we've gotten a million reps," said Marinelli. "You can see the pace we go at; we picked up a hundred reps today. Hopefully by paying attention in meetings and doing these reps we should be getting it."
NOTES: Marinelli said after Thursday's practice that quarterback Dan Orlovsky will again back-up starter Jon Kitna when the team plays Cleveland on Friday. Orlovsky was a surprise start over Josh McCown, the presumed reserve, during the win over Denver.
Marinelli also confirmed that both the first team offense and defense will spend more time on the field against the Browns.
"Well, we're looking at plays -- how many certain plays (they'll play), maybe 24-to-30-plus plays," he said. "We'll see how that goes with game situations and how we're performing and all those things. They're going to play longer than they (did last week)."