In The Fold, Williams Compliments Lions Offense

The Lions got their first official glimpse of first round pick, wide receiver Roy Williams, on Monday after the former University of Texas product reached agreement with the team Sunday on a five-year contract. Williams was in the fold in time to attend meetings Sunday afternoon and evening and is looking forward to being a major contributor to a Lions' receiving corps that also features last year's top pick, Charles Rogers.

"It's fun to be a here, working, and going against (starting cornerback) Dre Bly and the rest of the guys everyday, seeing the guys everyday; but now it's time to get ready for football," Williams said. "(Practice) was good. I had an advantage of everyone else — I had fresh legs…I had a pretty good practice today."

The Lions are counting on 2004 being the year third-year starting quarterback Joey Harrington takes the next step in his NFL development from young project to productive veteran. Much of the progress he makes this year will be connected to the cohesion he develops with both the rookie Williams and Rogers, who missed most of his rookie campaign a year ago with a broken right collarbone.

While the highly-touted receiving tandem is expecting big things, along with another 2004 first round choice, running back Kevin Jones, Harrington knows from experience it takes time at the beginning of a career to arrive.

"In theory we've got one of the fastest teams in the league right now with Charles and Roy and Kevin," Harrington said. "But essentially they're all rookies. Charles has been around, but he only played, what, four games last year (because of an injury)? He's essentially starting over."

Head coach Steve Mariucci is glad to have the drama of Williams' early camp holdout over with and is glad his prized rookie will be able to get down to business.

"He had a busy day trying to catch up last night with what he missed from a meeting standpoint and watched some extra film and had extra meetings with (Quarterbacks coach) Kevin Higgins," said Mariucci. "He made some nice catches and it is good to have him out here. It's that simple."

With Williams in the fold, he can now get down to the business of becoming familiar with the pro regimen, both on and off the field.

"I don't know if any of the rookies know what they're in for yet -- it's going to be a new deal for them," said Mariucci. "It is such a long season. Heck, our off-season program is as long as a college season and then this one is literally twice as long. You know how they hit the wall right around Thanksgiving. They think that is when they go home, so they've got to learn to pace themselves and handle the bigness of this. In college you get 20 hours a week in football. We get that by Tuesday. That could be a little bit overwhelming, plus the speed and the physical-ness of the game can be a little overwhelming at times, but as time goes on they'll get used to it and they'll be good at it."

Besides the Williams and Rogers duo, the Lions have veteran Az-Zahir Hakim in the slot, a role most NFL insiders feel fits his body type of physical attributes. Hakim works well in space which all slot receiver's must be able to do. His first two years in Detroit were marred by a serious hip injury, but Hakim is healthy this summer and looking forward to being a part of a more explosive passing game, due to his and Rogers' good health and the arrival of Williams and former 49er Tai Streets, who is familiar with Mariucci's offense from both their days in the bay area.

Lions fans remember Streets fondly from his standout collegiate career at Michigan. Streets signed a fairly non-descript one-year deal, despite starting all 16 games for the first time in his career last season. His best year statistically was in 2002 when he caught 72 passes for 756 yards, but had his best scoring season a year ago with a career-high seven touchdowns.

The Lions went from having one of the worst receiver corps last season to quite possibly one of the best if they all stay healthy.

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