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 Lions Mini camp article 
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Springing Forward
Lions Partake In Focused, Up-Tempo Workout To Launch Weekend Camp
By Jay Clemons
April 29, 2005
Fully on the mend, Detroit receiver Charles Rogers is primed for a breakout season in 2005. (AP Photo)

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Emerging quickly out of the gate, the Detroit Lions conducted a crisp and up-tempo practice on Friday morning -- the first of five mini-camp sessions this weekend at the team's training headquarters.

The spirited workout included more than 80 players and featured every one of the franchise's primary building blocks. In fact, Lions head coach Steve Mariucci said Friday's practice was the first time in three years the club had "100-percent participation" for a mini-camp.

"We're going to let everybody show us what they've got" throughout the camp, says Mariucci, while adding that "every guy is here for a reason...because somebody here believes there's something they can bring to the table."

While estimating there are "30 new faces" at this mini-camp, Mariucci was particularly intrigued by some of the Lions' veteran newcomers -- from receivers Kevin Johnson and Marcus Pollard to safety Kenoy Kennedy and quarterback Jeff Garcia.

"(Jeff's) a smart guy and things come quickly to him," said Mariucci of Garcia, a three-time Pro Bowler with San Francisco (with Mariucci) in 1999-2001. "We've made some changes to the (West Coast offense's terminology), and he's picked it up...he just hit (the ground) running."

As the Lions' backup, Garcia relishes this opportunity to help an emerging ballclub -- regardless of playing time.

"I?m here to do whatever I can do to make the position better," says Garcia. "Like I said, I will be ready if I get opportunities. It?s just a matter of winning football games. Whatever this team can do to win football games, especially at the quarterback position, that?s really what I?m here for.?

Mariucci also blocked out time to observe linebacker Boss Bailey and receiver Charles Rogers -- both of whom essentially missed the 2004 season to injury.

Rogers, who added approximately 18 pounds of muscle during the off-season, was thrilled to be competing again with his teammates.

?It felt great. It's kind of hard to put in words; but when you play football for your whole life ? getting back out on the field, you?re just doing something you love and just having fun," says Rogers, the team's No. 1 draft choice in 2003. "It's kind of hard for me to put into words...but it was beautiful.?

The Lions' skill-position talent on offense is deep and versatile, beginning with receivers Rogers, Roy Williams, Mike Williams, Pollard and Johnson, running backs Kevin Jones, Cory Schlesinger and Shawn Bryson and quarterback Joey Harrington. And Mariucci intimated the offensive coaches have greater flexibility in determining productive combinations -- no matter the down and distance.

"(The receivers) are very good, and they're going to be better with our running game," says Mariucci, alluding to Jones' capacity to amass large gains during rushes. "(The offensive talent) knows they have a young, exciting and potentially explosive group...and they're all anxious to work together."

Friday's practice was not a "reunion" for the players, Mariucci joked, while noting the team has been embroiled in their extensive off-season conditioning program since April 4. "We've got a heck of a commitment going on now with the 14-week program," Mariucci says. "And I like what I see."

Lions defensive tackle Marcus Bell was similarly impressed with the team's conditioning on Friday, saying, "In a game, (the pace is) going to intensify even, you've got to practice fast."

And linebacker Wali Rainer said, "Guys are flying around out there because they know what they're doing -- it was a very exciting practice."

But the pair also cited a few reasons behind the crisp practice: The core players have been around for multiple seasons; the coaching staff has been very effective in streamlining the workouts and the team, as a whole, is supremely focused on this year's No. 1 objective: Winning the NFC North crown.

"It's always repeated (in workouts and practice)," says Rainer, who re-signed with the club earlier this month. "It's been on everyone's mind during the off-season."

Says Bell: "We know what the goal is; we have to win the division."

April 29th, 2005, 6:49 pm
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