Notebook: Will Lions Sign "Pacman" Jones?

Part of Detroit's off-season strategy has included the involvement of quarterback Matthew Stafford. Also, with help still needed at cornerback, the Lions are looking at all options -- including troubled free-agent Adam "Pacman" Jones. More inside ...

The Colts do it with Peyton Manning. The Saints do it with Drew Brews. And the Lions already are doing it with their franchise quarterback, even though he just turned 22 and has only 10 NFL games under his belt.

The Lions' coaches and executives are asking for Matthew Stafford's input and keeping him in the loop on personnel matters. They even had him help recruit free agent wide receiver Nate Burleson.

"It's awesome to know that they trust me," Stafford said. "Obviously I'm not making draft picks. I wouldn't want to. It's a tough job. But just seeing if I'm familiar with a guy and maybe his past and understand how he could work in our offense or how he might not, that kind of thing.

"I'm sure it will keep growing as my relationship with all the guys up there keeps growing. But it's exciting to be able to bounce ideas. I think they know that I know a lot of guys in the league and personnel pretty well. It's fun to be able to kind of help out a little bit."

Stafford said he and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan talked about Burleson last year and "thought that he could really fit." When the free agent market opened at 9 p.m. PT March 4, Burleson got more than a text message from coach Jim Schwartz and a personal visit from Linehan in Seattle. He also got a phone call from Stafford.

"He just talked to me briefly," Burleson said. "He was like, 'Hey, man, look, I hear we're interested in you. We'd love to have you here, and I'm excited about the season.'"

Burleson said that made an impact, though Stafford played it down.

"He seemed excited," Stafford said. "I guess he was excited enough. I don't think it was my call that made it all work, but I'll take credit if you want to give it to me."

When the Lions landed Burleson and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, general manager Martin Mayhew informed Stafford via text message. There is little doubt that this team is Stafford's now.

"I feel a whole lot better walking around this building than I did probably a year ago when I first got drafted and came in," Stafford said. "It's a completely different feeling. I'm excited to kind of take this thing over and get us going in the right direction."

Stafford didn't join the Lions last year until after they made him the first pick in the draft in late April. He went through only the end of the off-season program. He competed with Daunte Culpepper for the starting job at first.

"Last year was kind of a different deal, going through training camp, splitting reps, doing all that kind of stuff," Stafford said. "But it needed to be done."

After winning the job for the season opener, Stafford played 10 games -- throwing 20 interceptions, suffering knee and shoulder injuries, learning a lot. Now he returns for the off-season program as the clear-cut No. 1.

Linehan said late last year that this off-season would be "huge" for Stafford.

"It's the most critical, I think," Linehan said. "You've got to develop that timing and rapport with your guys where you're doing a lot of the work and you're promoting a lot of the extra work, because that's what the great quarterbacks do. They keep the guys working towards getting better at the things we weren't good enough at."

Player Notes:

  • Linebacker Larry Foote went back to the Steelers a year after leaving them to join his hometown Lions. He signed a three-year, $9.3 million deal that includes a $1.8 million signing bonus. He didn't fit the Lions' 4-3 defense as well as he did the Steelers' 3-4, and after winning two Super Bowls in Pittsburgh, going 2-14 took a toll in Detroit. "You can't really explain it until you go through it," Foote said. "You talk about dog days. Those were dog days, especially being a competitive person and losing. But I made some good relationships, and it was good going home playing there. I'm just glad I'm back and thank God I didn't sign a longer deal there."
  • According to an ESPN report, the Lions have displayed interest in troubled cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones. Jones, a former first-round pick and player under Jim Schwartz's Tennessee Titans defense in 2005 and 2006, has not played since 2008 after a slew of legal concerns. However, Jones has retained interest from several teams, and will work out for a handful of NFL clubs - including the Lions. He will reportedly visit Detroit on Friday.
  • Saints defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, a restricted free agent, visited the Lions. Hargrove, 26, is listed at 6-foot-3, 272 pounds, but he weighed about 300 pounds last season and was still athletic enough to play on the kickoff team. The Lions would have to sign him to an offer sheet that the Saints would not match, plus give up a third-round pick. General manager Martin Mayhew was lukewarm about signing restricted free agents when asked about the possibility last month at the NFL scouting combine. "Unlike just having a draft pick -- and say you take a third-round pick and you have a young, inexpensive player for a certain number of years -- you're talking about giving up a young, inexpensive player and adding an older, more-expensive player and giving that pick up," Mayhew said. "So, I mean, there are guys of interest to us in that market. But I wouldn't say that we're going to be really, really aggressive in that market."
    If the Lions acquire Hargrove, the question would be whether they still would draft one of the top defensive tackles second overall -- Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh or Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy. The Lions already have added two defensive linemen this off-season: tackle Corey Williams and end Kyle Vanden Bosch. They could take Oklahoma State left tackle Russell Okung, who visited team headquarters before McCoy and Suh.
  • The Lions announced they acquired cornerback Chris Houston from the Falcons for a sixth-round pick in the 2010 draft and a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2011 draft. The teams did not swap fifth-round picks this year. The Falcons had announced that the Lions gave up a sixth-round pick in the 2010 draft and the teams swapped fifth-round picks this year.
  • Linebacker Landon Johnson visited the Lions. Johnson, 29, spent the last two seasons playing mostly special teams for the Panthers under Danny Crossman, who is now the Lions' special teams coach. The 6-foot-2, 232-pounder was a starter the previous four years for the Bengals.
  • The Lions also hosted guard Chester Pitts. Pitts, 30, started 114 consecutive games for the Texans before suffering a knee injury last year. He is recovering from surgery.
  • The Lions made major changes to their conditioning program in their first year under coach Jim Schwartz. They changed the layout of the weight room. They changed how the players ran, stretched and warmed up. Most important, they emphasized free weights in an effort to build a bigger, stronger team. That foundation remained the same when this year's program began, but there were more changes. Ted Rath was the strength coach, replacing Malcolm Blacken, who left for the Redskins. The schedule was different -- Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. It had been Monday through Thursday. There also is a patch of FieldTurf in the center of the weight room, the same surface on which the players practice indoors at Allen Park and perform at Ford Field. It's a softer, more joint-friendly surface for exercises like box jumps.
  • QUOTE TO NOTE: "I feel a whole lot better walking around this building than I did probably a year ago when I first got drafted and came in. It's a completely different feeling. I'm excited to kind of take this thing over and get us going in the right direction." -- QB Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft last year, entering his first full off-season with the Lions.

Personnel Notes:

The Lions have been one of the most active teams in the NFL since free agency began. They have bolstered their defense through signings (end Kyle Vanden Bosch, cornerback Jonathan Wade) and trades (tackle Corey Williams from the Browns, cornerback Chris Houston from the Falcons). They also signed wide receiver Nate Burleson, whom they hope can keep opponents from keying on star Calvin Johnson, and acquired backup quarterback Shaun Hill in a trade with the 49ers.

And they're not done.

The Lions have been busy hosting free agents, such as defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, a restricted free agent from the Saints. They have holes at running back, left guard and in the secondary, and they hold the No. 2 pick in the draft.

The great debate is what the Lions will do with that pick. General manager Martin Mayhew, normally low-key and guarded, has been up front and open about his desire to trade down.

If the Lions stay at No. 2, they could take one of the top two defensive tackles: Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh or Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy. The Lions still could use a dynamic playmaker in the middle of coach Jim Schwartz's defense, in which the front four play the run on the way to the quarterback and ball carriers are funneled to the middle.

But the Lions don't seem enamored with paying that much money for that position. They could take left tackle Russell Okung, either at No. 2 or in a trade-down scenario. That would help protect their biggest investment -- quarterback Matthew Stafford, last year's No. 1 pick -- and allow left tackle Jeff Backus to move to left guard.


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