OTA Notebook: Team loving new atmosphere

The Lions worked more slowly this offseason in the hopes of moving more quickly during the season. The coaches were more patient and kept drilling the fundamentals, so the players could master the bread-and-butter stuff. Notes and more inside, including the Rookie To Watch!

The Lions worked more slowly this offseason in the hopes of moving more quickly during the season. The coaches were more patient and kept drilling the fundamentals, so the players could master the bread-and-butter stuff.

"I think it put us in a position where the players have a good base of what is expected of them," left tackle Jeff Backus said on the last day of organized team activities. "We all understand the scheme and why we're doing things the way we are. It's going to give us a good base going into training camp."

On defense, the addition of ex-Buccaneers Chuck Darby, Dwight Smith, Brian Kelly and Kalvin Pearson who know the Tampa-2 system had a noticeable effect, tackle Cory Redding said.

"Everybody's moving quicker, because those guys are bringing their knowledge from playing in the system," Redding said. "When they get out there and run it right and run it fast, the other guys behind them see how it's supposed to be run."

On offense, there have been more dramatic changes with Jim Colletto replacing Mike Martz as coordinator.

Kitna concentrated on the mechanics of running the offense, with more control at the line of scrimmage. The linemen and backs worked on the new zone running scheme. Everyone worked to master a smaller number of plays.

Wide receiver Roy Williams said the Lions had only 30 or 40 passing plays and maybe 10 running plays. They had more than 200 plays in their game plans last year.

"I'll tell you what: With the plays that we've got in, we're going to be real good at them," Williams said.

They better be, Furrey said.

"We all know it," Furrey said. "We all know what's going on. We've had eight weeks now to just basically fine-tune it. Now we've got five weeks to go home and get ready to come back physically. We won't have any excuses coming into the season. We need to show up and play some football, and that's it."

Overall, there is a different feeling around team headquarters. The edginess Martz brought is gone. Some players who didn't buy in are out.

"The atmosphere is awesome," Backus said. "I think Rod has done a tremendous job of doing it his way and getting what he wants out of us and making changes when changes need to be made. I'm excited to see what happens this season."

Rookie to watch: Running back Kevin Smith -- The Lions plan to run the ball more and have installed a zone running scheme. That's perfect for Smith, a third-round pick this year, who ran the ball a ton in the exact same scheme last year for Central Florida. His college coach once worked with Lions offensive coordinator Jim Colletto. Even the names of some of the plays are the same. Smith will compete in camp with Tatum Bell, Brian Calhoun, Aveion Cason and Artose Pinner.

Sudden impact: Safety Dwight Smith -- We could have picked any of the new additions in the secondary. Corners Leigh Bodden and Brian Kelly will make an immediate impact, and safety Kalvin Pearson should contribute. But we'll go with Smith because he shores up a critical spot in the Tampa 2 and has a lot of experience in this defense. The Lions' secondary, a big weakness in the past, now looks like a strength.

NOTEBOOK:

  • Speaking at an event in northern Michigan, former Lions coach Bobby Ross said of Lions great Barry Sanders: "I don't know if Barry really loved the game, but he worked hard at it. He did what he was supposed to do. I always wanted him to be a leader, but he didn't really want that role. He was the only player I ever coached that whenever he touched the ball, you thought he would run for a touchdown."
  • Defensive end Jared DeVries returned to Parkersburg, Iowa, his tornado-ravaged hometown. "This is unbelievable, indescribable," DeVries told a Minnesota TV station. "I don't know what to feel. I didn't expect this. I really didn't. I've looked at the Internet, pictures. You come here, and you don't recognize anything. It's an eerie feeling you have. It's unbelievable."
  • Quarterback Jon Kitna has often said that the Lions will be disappointed if they don't win 10 games, and he has often gotten grief about it. What is he supposed to say? That he doesn't have confidence? On the last day of OTAs, he cracked a little joke about it. A reporter asked Kitna if he had confidence this group of players could take the next step. "Yeah," Kitna said. "Simple as that?" the reporter pressed. "Yeah," Kitna said. After an awkward pause, Kitna added: "Well, I mean, you know, I guess I should say, 'No, we'll win three games this year,' something like that."
  • QUOTE TO NOTE: "You've got to have confidence to play in this league. We have the confidence. We've had it for the past two years. The question is: Are we going to be able to put it together?" - WR Mike Furrey.

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