Fitness comes first as Lions' rookies learn job
May 18, 2005
BY CURT SYLVESTER
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
If they haven't known it before, the Lions' rookies will learn the meaning of hard work in the next six weeks.
Between now and June 26, when they leave Allen Park for the start of the NFL's mandatory rookie symposium, they will get their first real taste of football on the professional level.
They will spend time in class. They will get a refresher course on the offensive and defensive basics thrown at them in minicamp three weeks ago. They will spend time with their position coaches.
And they will learn how to work.
"The benefit mainly is strength and conditioning," coach Steve Mariucci said Tuesday. "Over the years -- and I can show you our records from last year that was no exception -- the rookies tend to pull muscles because they simply haven't been working at the pace of our practices. Or they train for that combine and then they shut it down a little bit.
"They think they're working, but they're not working out. Then they get into a minicamp and these (organized team activities), and all of a sudden it's fast, change of direction and they tend to pull hamstrings, groins, hip flexors. It happens every year.
"So this is for strength and conditioning and flexibility, core training and those sort of things to prevent those injuries.
"Twenty-two of the Lions' 25 rookies will participate in the full six weeks of work, including a minicamp May 31 through June 9. Among them are first-round draft pick Mike Williams, a wide receiver from Southern Cal, and second-round pick Shaun Cody, a defensive tackle also from USC.
The other three will join the rest of the rookies at the end of their academic terms. They are third-round draft pick Stanley Wilson, a cornerback from Stanford; sixth-round pick Bill Swancutt, a defensive end from Oregon State; and Chip Cox, an undrafted safety from Ohio University.
For most of the next six weeks, the rookies likely will spend more time with strength and conditioning coach Jason Arapoff than they will with Mariucci.
"Jason is first and foremost," Mariucci said. "We could teach them the whole book, but if they're not physically capable of staying on the field, healthy, then we're whistling 'Dixie.'
"While the veterans take part in the off-season conditioning four days a week, the rookies are expected to work five days a week.
"The other guys have been here six weeks," Mariucci said. "And there's not a rookie that's in the same physical condition as the rest of our team. I don't care what they've been doing, there's no chance of this kind of intensity, so they have some catching up to do."
NOTEBOOK: The Lions are one of several teams that have shown an interest in former New England Pro Bowl cornerback Ty Law, although the bidding on his services apparently won't begin until he is deeper into his rehabilitation from a broken left foot suffered last October. Mariucci declined to speculate on how he would use Law. "We're just trying to improve our team any way we can," he said. "See who's available, try to see who might fit in here and help ... within our scheme, our salary structure. All of those things need to be taken into consideration."
I'm a big advocate of these workouts. It seems that every year we get slowed down and sidetracked by players with muscle pulls and tears - groin and hamstrings, etc. This applies to the veterans too. They are out of shape when they get to camp.
I'd love to see things be different this year.