Calhoun ready to impress in 2008

Former third-round pick has struggled through injuries, but says he's now healthier than ever.

Lions running back Brian Calhoun isn't offended if some people are writing him off.

"I mean, it's understandable," Calhoun said, "because I haven't played a lot the last two years."

Calhoun has played only 11 games over two seasons, with only 14 carries and six catches. He suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament as a rookie and struggled with it last year.

And now he is competing with Kevin Smith, Tatum Bell, Artose Pinner and Aveion Cason.

But Calhoun thinks he is in the best position to succeed since coming to Detroit. His knee has healed, the Lions' new zone blocking scheme suits him and the competition is wide open.

"I'm confident in my ability and what I can do," Calhoun said, "and I think now that we have the system in place that's going to be able to show what I can do, it's going to give me a better chance to perform at a high level."

Many people were surprised when the Lions drafted Calhoun -- including Calhoun. He said he had never spoken to the Lions beforehand. He was hoping offensive coordinator Mike Martz had some secret plans for him.

But Kevin Jones was entrenched as the Lions' starting running back, and Calhoun had to learn Martz's system.

"His offense is pretty complex," Calhoun said. "It's tough to pick up for a regular player, let alone a rookie. I never really caught up to where I could have been a major contributor."

After appearing in seven games, Calhoun tore the ACL in his right knee in practice. He came back last season but lasted only four games before the Lions put him back on injured reserve.

"At the time I was kind of frustrated because I felt that I was healthy, but I really wasn't," Calhoun said. "It didn't feel the same, obviously. I didn't have the burst. It was always sore. I never had swelling, but it was always sore, always bothering me."

And now?

"It's not sore," Calhoun said. "It's not tired. I mean, I feel great. My legs feel good. ... I really feel more confident in my knee than last year."

Calhoun said he began his offseason training earlier this year, the first week of February. He is taking better care of his body, stretching and warming up properly, eating better. After bulking up the past couple of years, he's back down to his old playing weight of 208 pounds, but a leaner, stronger 208 pounds.

"I haven't felt this good since I came out of college a couple years ago," Calhoun said.

PLAYER NOTES

  • Coach Rod Marinelli likes to keep the pressure on his players, and he called defensive tackle Shaun Cody about once a week earlier this offseason. Sometimes it was a quick chat. Sometimes it was just a voice mail. "'You know, Shaun, you don't need to call me back. I just want to leave you with this,' " Cody said. "Then he'll drop you some jewel or nugget of pass-rushing wisdom. ... It was different every week. But he's always trying to remind you -- football, football, football." When was the craziest time Marinelli called? Late one night in February, when Cody was out to dinner with his girlfriend at a nice restaurant in southern California. "Just when they were putting on the candles," Cody said, laughing. "No."
  • Running back Brian Calhoun (hamstring) and defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis (groin) were limited in OTAs as a precaution. Linebacker Ernie Sims (shoulder) and defensive tackle Cory Redding (shoulder) also were not cleared to practice. Marinelli expects everyone to be ready for training camp except tight end Dan Campbell (elbow) and safety Daniel Bullocks (knee).
  • The Stanley Cup made a pit stop at Lions headquarters one day before the Detroit Red Wings won it in Pittsburgh.
  • QUOTE TO NOTE: "Twelve-nine? Y'all don't understand. Twelve-nine guaranteed? That's, like, rookie money." -- WR Roy Williams, saying he won't get as much guaranteed money in his next contract as WR Terrell Owens just got from Dallas.

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