(Allen Park) – Lions' return man Desmond Howard is on the hot seat to make this team, and it is not because of his return ability -- but much more his salary, his injured shoulder, and receiving skills that are being questioned. He hasn't been taking part in team drills but has been doing some individual drills and says his shoulder is fine. But he still doesn't know when he will be back practicing.
"We don't know it is a day by day thing," said Howard.
But what about his ability as a wide receiver that has been a question mark ever since he left Michigan holding a Heisman Trophy? Will he even get a chance to show his skills as receiver? Even Desmond doesn't know the answer to that.
"I'm asked that question ever year, I don't know, it is a question mark," Howard said.
Last year, Howard tallied only 10 catches for 133 yards and one touchdown as a receiver. But football is a team game, and there are more aspects to football than offense. Howard recognizes that special teams are where he makes his mark and that is where he can help this team win games. Last year, Howard finished the season ranked second in the NFL in kickoff returns with 57 returns for 1,446 yards and fourth in the league in kickoff return average with a 25.4 yards per attempt.
"I expect a very productive year our special teams, I think we should contribute to a lot of victories this year," said Howard. "I think that we have to put our offense in position to score points if we don't score points ourselves."
"We could be the best in the league."
But since Desmond has been sitting and watching for the past few days he has had time to assess which area his team has improved the most.
"I think the biggest improvement thus far has been the defense, I think the defense looks like their playing together," said Howard. "They're playing with some continuity, and it seems like people know where they're suppose to be which makes a world of difference."
But one thing that Howard has not started to make an assessment on is the battle between the two quarterbacks, rookie Joey Harrington and second year pro Mike McMahon.
"To be honest with you I don't start to make any assessments of players until I see them in pads and game like action, that is just me," said Howard. "You can come out here and have all the mechanics in the world, but no matter who you are once you get into that game type situation, that is when you start to separate the men from the boys -- that's when people start to show their true talents, and I think that is when we may see the best of Joey and Mike."
"I would never had imaged Mike was a good as he was last year until he played some games and made the plays that he made. I think those are the expectations for Joey to, once we get into game type situations you have those guys that just do things naturally by instincts."
Whether or not Howard is around to witness those situations remains to be seen.