Lions Camp Notebook: Top Camp Battles

Martin Mayhew offers his take on the QB situation, plus: The Lions' top training camp battles.

The Lions entered training camp with an open competition at quarterback between veteran Daunte Culpepper, a one-time NFL star, and rookie Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft.

"I like our two quarterbacks," general manager Martin Mayhew said. "I think we have probably the two most talented -- physically talented -- quarterbacks we've had since we've been here, and I feel good about those guys."

As for who will start, Mayhew said: "It's going to be the coaches' call on that. I trust those guys to make the right decision."

Coach Jim Schwartz cautioned reporters not to read into anything early in camp. Culpepper and Stafford will rotate along with No. 3 QB Drew Stanton, and Schwartz has set no timetable for a decision.

"You'll see almost even reps," Schwartz said. "You'll see different guys start off different drills. Go ahead and try to have fun reading between the lines with that, because you're not going to be able to."

 
Lions quarterbacks Matthew Stafford (left) and Drew Stanton trot onto the practice field with a couple of future Lions. (AP Photo)

Culpepper feels better than he has since 2004, when he posted one of the best passer efficiency ratings in NFL history (110.9).

He's in shape, having lost more than 30 pounds since coming out of semiretirement and signing with the Lions on Nov. 4. He is healthy and has gone through a full offseason program for the first time in years. And he reunites with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, for whom he starred in Minnesota.

Asked about Stafford, Culpepper said: "He's a guy that wants to be good and wants to work hard, and that's how I am, and we kind of get along like that. That's kind of the way it's been since I first met him. We work hard together, and ultimately we're teammates, so we just push each other and we've got to be the best we can be."

Stafford has a cannon for a throwing arm, just like Culpepper, and has picked up the offense quickly.

Asked about his command of the huddle amid all the veterans, Stafford said: "I feel like I know what I'm doing, for sure, and I think they know that, too. I've just got to keep getting better. It's obviously a learning process still, and it will be throughout the remainder of the season. But hopefully I can learn fast and make some plays while I'm learning."

Wide receiver Calvin Johnson said Culpepper and Stafford are at the same level. Schwartz has said Stafford will not play until he's both ready and the best quarterback, but in the end, quarterback will be like every other position: the best will play.

Stanton, a second-round pick in 2007 and a popular player in the Detroit area, having grown up in the suburbs and played at Michigan State, is obviously out of the mix. He might even be fighting to stay on the roster.

Mayhew allowed for the possibility the Lions could add another quarterback. Asked if that depended on Stanton's performance, he said: "I would just say it's possible. I won't go into any more detail than that."

Whatever happens in the near or medium future, however, the long-term future is obvious. In the souvenir shop at camp, fans can buy five jerseys: Stafford, Johnson, safety Louis Delmas, linebacker Ernie Sims and running back Kevin Smith. They can buy a T-shirt with Stafford's face on it.

Culpepper's and Stanton's jerseys are not on sale.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Daunte Culpepper vs. Matthew Stafford for starting QB. Culpepper and Stafford are in open competition, and both seemed sharp by the second day of training camp. Both had shots at the end zone in a two-minute drill period, but Stafford had the best chance to score. He fired a 29-yard pass across the field on fourth down. Wide receiver Keary Colbert dropped it in the end zone, then dropped and did push-ups.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Everything seems open along the defensive line, perhaps the Lions' greatest weakness. Cliff Avril has potential at right end, but veteran Dewayne White is mostly playing there, too. Rookie Louis Delmas is the leading candidate to start at one safety spot, but the other is up for grabs between Kalvin Pearson, Daniel Bullocks, Marquand Manuel and Co.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: QB Matthew Stafford -- He's the No. 1 pick in the draft, so a lot is expected of him. Still, he seems to be impressing people -- coaches, teammates and fans alike -- for how quickly he has picked up the offense and been able to step in and compete with veteran Daunte Culpepper.

ROOKIE REPORT: TE Brandon Pettigrew, a first-round pick, was the last draftee to sign with the Lions. He came to camp just before the first team dinner and didn't miss anything. ... WR Derrick Williams, a third-round pick, is returning kicks as expected. ... DT Sammie Hill, a fourth-round pick, failed his conditioning test. He is raw, coming from Stillman College, but the Lions need him to pick it up because they have a huge hole in the middle of their defensive line. ... OT Lydon Murtha had a rough first practice, getting pushed back by veteran DE Dewayne White.

INJURY REPORT: WR Bryant Johnson cannot practice because of wounds related to a golf-cart accident, but he has no orthopedic problems. He's on the non-football injury list. ... DT Grady Jackson is on the non-football injury list with an unspecified issue. But Schwartz said he is making progress and has lost weight. His knee is no longer a problem.


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