Marinelli enjoying former Spartan Duckett

Although a surprise acquisition during the off-season, T.J. Duckett has emerged as one of the team's most apt ball carriers. Much more inside on Duckett and the team's talented backfield, including quotes from head coach Rod Marinelli after Detroit's practice on Tuesday.

ALLEN PARK -- T.J. Duckett took the hand-off, sprinted to the left, and made a nifty spin move -- and kept running. Even when his teammates had stalled at the sound of the whistle, Duckett didn't stop until he reached the end zone.

Six points. Sort of.

"He's mentally training himself - I like him," said head coach Rod Marinelli following the team's afternoon session on Tuesday. "He comes out everyday and he runs. Some of those things become contagious; guys see it and everybody else - they are just great habits."

Habits that Marinelli hopes will rub off on Detroit's rather plentiful backfield. The team will enter training camp with returning starter Kevin Jones, last year's third-round pick Brian Calhoun, veterans Shawn Bryson and Aveion Cason, and newcomers Tatum Bell (Denver) and Duckett (Washington).

The pure number of players in the backfield, let alone the legion of credentials that accompany each player, hands Detroit a rare depth behind quarterback Jon Kitna. And the fact that each player brings something different to the table will allow the offense to be that much more versatile.

"You have a guy like Tatum (Bell) who has great speed, and you've got Kevin (Lisfranc injury) coming back who's a proven back, a great back," said Marinelli. "So you just keep looking at that. You know we've got Calhoun (knee) coming back in, so it's good.

"All those areas are good and we've tried to add to it. And the speed and movement, you know hopefully it will all come together for us."

Although a surprise acquisition at the time, Duckett has emerged as one of the team's most apt ball carriers. The six-year veteran and former Michigan State standout signed a one-year contract earlier in the off-season, understanding the competitive backfield in Detroit. Typically, players will use their one-year stint to 'advertise' for the next free-agency period.

But despite the heavy competition, Duckett has made the most of his opportunities -- both in mini-camp and during the training activities; possibly into a starting role

"Hopefully, guys just come in and whether you have a 10-year contract or a one year contract, all you control is the snap your in," said Marinelli. "Hopefully that snap can run all the way downfield; get the right vision. So if you just kind of concentrate on where you're at and you keep doing those things, then good things are going to happen for you.

Marinelli said he doesn't necessarily have a pecking order just yet for the backfield (the presumed idea is that Duckett will be used for short-yardage situations, keeping Jones healthy while the explosive Bell is brought in on third-downs), but that Duckett's hard-nosed style is, indeed, reciprocal to his coaching nature.

"He's very good," said Marinelli. "He was a load (to play against). We had a few thigh bones in our jaws. The guy is a load man - playing against this guy. He is a physical back."


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