Lions Notebook: Best Handed The Reigns?

Although he'll eventually be joined by a recovering Kevin Smith in the backfield, rookie running back Jahvid Best is getting a crash course in offensive coordinator Scott Linehan's playbook. Much more inside ...

When the Lions' rookies went home after a three-day orientation at team headquarters, one of them needed to study his playbook the most so he could step right in when eligible to return May 17.
 
The Lions traded up to draft running back Jahvid Best No. 30 overall because they think they can use him in several ways to make an immediate impact. They need to add explosiveness to their running game, so defenses won't sit back and smother wide receiver Calvin Johnson, and running back Kevin Smith is recovering from a torn ACL.
 
"We threw just about everything we have at him, didn't spoon-feed it, didn't do just a little bit," coach Jim Schwartz said. "We did just about everything because he's a guy that when he does come back, he needs to assimilate right away into the offense. We can't slow the offense down for where he is. So we moved him around a lot, exposed him to a lot of different things."
 
How did Best handle it.
 
"He sort of got his feet under him as the weekend went on," Schwartz said. "He started off maybe a little bit lethargic, then all of a sudden just exploded, and you can see what you saw on film with him. He obviously has speed. He obviously has instincts and quickness and those kind of things."
 
As Best took a break at one point, resting on one knee along the sideline, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan came up with a smile and started tutoring him on the spot.
 
"He just keeps throwing offense at me," Best said. "Outside of what we're learning for this camp specifically, he throws in more stuff just on the fly -- just letting me hear it, so then, when I come back and everybody knows it already, I'll just have it already in my mind."
 
Best knows he has a lot to learn and a lot of pressure on him.
 
 "I definitely feel the pressure," Best said. "There's a lot of potential that I have to play. But I've just got to come in and do the best I can and help the team the best way I can. Things should go great."
 
Best said his Lions playbook was about as thick as the one he had at California.
 
"But at Cal," he said, "the running back portion was just like ..."
He held his thumb and forefinger a pinch apart.
 
 "It was a little bit slim," he continued. "I didn't need to know everything. But at this level, you've got to know everything. I've got to know what the receivers are doing. I've got to know everything about the linemen. I've got to know what the quarterback's thinking. So I've got to learn the whole thing."
   
Notebook ...
 
  • The Lions looked like a different team during the first organized team activity they opened to the media -- and not only because they have added so many players to the roster. They also have gotten back several players from injuries, at least on a limited basis.

    Quarterback Matthew Stafford went through all team drills after having clean-up knee surgery at the end of the season. Right guard Stephen Peterman returned to his starting spot after finishing last season on injured reserve with an ankle problem.

    That was expected. What wasn't expected was seeing tight end Brandon Pettigrew, running back Kevin Smith and cornerback Jack Williams on the field. All three suffered torn ACLs the second half of last season.

    "Those guys are starting to do individual-type drills and stuff like that," coach Jim Schwartz said. "They're still not even close to being cleared for team work and competitive stuff.

     "They're not right in the middle of a long-term rehab. They're probably more past the middle. But they've still got a long way to go. They've done well in their rehabs. There's been no setbacks. Hopefully by the time training camp comes, they'll be able to be on the field and not have very many limitations."

    Pettigrew said he started running about a month ago and had been cleared to "start amping it up a little bit." He tore the ACL in his left knee after tearing the one in his right knee in high school.

    "As far as coming back, I may be coming back a little bit quicker, stability-wise maybe a little better, a little bit faster," Pettigrew said. "But I'm still taking it easy, not rushing at all."

    Smith said his injury might end up as a blessing in disguise.

    "It's frustrating that I hurt my knee, but knowing that I get to take my time coming in, I'll be a little more healthy and not that worn down because I'm not doing that much in OTAs," Smith said. "When training camp starts I'll be doing spotty stuff, I imagine, so I should be pretty fresh by the time I'm ready to get on the field, and that's a plus in this situation."
  • Right tackle Gosder Cherilus had arthroscopic surgery to clean out debris from his right knee in mid-April after tweaking the knee during offseason conditioning. He played through injuries to both knees, an ankle and a shoulder last season.

    "It's been there for a while, but at the end of the day, we got it taken care of, and hopefully soon ... I'll be back before you know it," Cherilus said.
     
  • The Lions claimed wide receiver Marko Mitchell off waivers. The 6-foot-4, 218-pounder caught only four passes for 32 yards in 10 regular-season games last year, but he caught 11 passes for 113 yards and three touchdowns in the Redskins' final three preseason games. The Redskins drafted him in the seventh round last year out of Nevada, where caught 53 passes for 1,129 yards and eight touchdowns in 2007, then 61 passes for 1,141 yards and 10 TDs in '08. "He's big, and he's fast," coach Jim Schwartz said. "He's got really good size, and we're trying to corner the market on Nevada-Reno wide receivers." 

    The Lions also signed Nevada product Nate Burleson as a free agent.

    Another receiver plucked by the team is Mike Moore, an undrafted free agent who played at Georgia with quarterback Matthew Stafford. Moore said he drew interest from other teams but wanted to play with his former teammate. "You want to go to a team that has a great quarterback," Moore said.

    "For me, there's nobody better than Stafford, as far as a young guy up and coming right now. ... I experienced it firsthand, so I really knew what kind of guy he was. He's always prepared. He's the ultimate competitor, and that's the type of guy I want to play for." 

    With Stafford during the 2008 season, Moore caught 29 passes for 451 yards. Without him during the '09 season, he caught 25 for 249. He was probably at his most productive when he was with Matt," Schwartz said. "He's got really good hands. He's smooth. He's got some strength. Maybe not a blazer, but a Southeast Conference receiver that's been productive."
     
  • The Lions brought in three quarterbacks for tryouts during rookie orientation: Louisiana Tech's Taylor Bennett, New Mexico's Donovan Porterie and Eastern Michigan's Andy Schmitt.

    But the Lions might not carry a fourth QB in training camp unless they have an injury. "I'm not sure if we'll go with four," Schwartz said. "These guys all did some pretty good things, and we'll keep it open. I don't think there's anybody that was here that if a situation arose during training camp or something like that that we would hesitate to call them." The Lions want to give the snaps to starter Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick last year; backup Shaun Hill, whom they acquired from the 49ers; and Drew Stanton, a second-round pick in 2007 who is considered a developmental QB. 

    "It's just hard to get four quarterbacks a lot of work in camp," Schwartz said. "When you're rolling through, it's one thing if you have a veteran that's not practicing very much. But Drew Stanton's still a young player. Shaun's coming in to a new team. Matt's still a young player. That fourth quarterback's generally throwing drills and stuff like that, and from where we are as a team, we'll probably use that roster spot."
     
  • Miami (Fla.) safety Randy Phillips stood on the sidelines during rookie orientation, wearing a No. 39 jersey with his name on the back. But he has not signed a contract -- at least not yet -- because he is recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum. 

    "He's with us right now," Schwartz said. "I think I'll just leave it at that. He's with us right now, and he's not able to practice right now, so we'll just see where that goes."
     
  • As the Lions wrapped up rookie orientation, the players did a little running. Schwartz said they had to learn the level of conditioning needed to compete in the NFL. One exception might be defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the second overall pick in the draft. "I think I'm in pretty good shape," Suh said. "They gave us a little test of what the conditioning test will be like. I don't find it too hard to my eyes. ... You can go back and ask our strength coach at Nebraska. I don't miss runs. I don't miss times. So I'm that type of guy that if I'm down, I'm going to push myself through."
  
More Medical Notes ...
Right tackle Gosder Cherilus had clean-up knee surgery in mid-April to remove debris from his right knee. He should return before the mandatory minicamp June 23-25. ... Tight end Brandon Pettigrew, running back Kevin Smith and cornerback Jack Williams are going through individual drills after suffering torn ACLs the second half of last season. The Lions hope all three will be ready for the season opener. ... Cornerback Eric King is participating fully after recovering from a shoulder injury. ... Right guard Stephen Peterman is back from an ankle injury. ... Safety Daniel Bullocks is practicing after missing two of the last three seasons because of a knee problem. ... Safety Ko Simpson is still sidelined by a knee problem.

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