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 USA Today - Inside Slant 
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Post USA Today - Inside Slant
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Posted 6/25/2005 4:32 PM
USA Today


Inside Slant

For a number of the Lions players, losing has become a way of life. Although they might reject it, it is virtually the only thing they've known since landing in the NFL.

Quarterback Joey Harrington, for instance, has played three seasons, has 44 games and has seen the Lions put together records of 3-13, 5-11 and 6-10.

Left tackle Jeff Backus and center Dominic Raiola, both fixtures on the Lions offensive line, have played four seasons and have seen even worse horrors - a 2-14 season that preceded the 3-13, 5-11 and 6-10 seasons that Harrington has suffered through.

The Lions have taken baby steps to get back to respectability during the past two years and some observers are predicting a major step - perhaps nine or 10 wins - in the 2005 season.

Harrington, Backus, Raiola and the rest of the relatively young players are expected to make their share of contributions to the improvement but the Lions also are getting leadership from players who have experienced more success elsewhere in the NFL.

The most recent free-agent acquisitions by Lions president Matt Millen include strong safety Kenoy Kennedy, who got playoff experience got playoff experience with the Denver Broncos, as well as tight end Marcus Pollard and guard Rick DeMulling, who were starters on Indianapolis' playoff team in recent seasons.

A major acquisition a year ago was guard Damien Woody, a Pro Bowler in 2002 and the starting center on New England's Super Bowl championship team a year earlier.

However, no free-agent acquisition has done more for the Lions than cornerback Dre' Bly, who played on St. Louis' Super Bowl winner as a rookie in 1999. Since joining the Lions two years ago he has been a two-time Pro Bowl and an enthusiastic recruiter of players Millen has been working on signing during free agency.

The Lions aren't underestimating the importance of the young players who have suffered through the last four years of losing but the leadership of those more accustomed to winning is expected to play a major role in any improvement for 2005.

NOTES, QUOTES

?The Lions traditionally have scouted players not only for their physical ability but for their character traits as well.

That might explain why coach Steve Mariucci has been so enthusiastic about the addition of two former Indianapolis Colts - tight end Marcus Pollard and guard Rick DeMulling - via free agency this year.

"They were great acquisitions for us and for a lot of reasons," Mariucci said. "They have experience as starters on good teams, they are healthy, they fit needs that we have, they've been here and they're dedicated and working every day like you would hope from a veteran.

"When we did our research we were told that not only can they start and play, but they're great guys. They fit right in. We expect good things from both of them. They're both starting."

Pollard gives the Lions a tight end presence they've lacked in recent seasons and DeMulling is working at left guard, which was a problem area last year.

?In signing his one-year contract with the Lions last week, cornerback R.W. McQuarters was reunited with two of his former NFL head coaches - Steve Mariucci and Dick Jauron.

Mariucci was the San Francisco 49ers head coach when McQuarters was their No. 1 pick (28th overall) in the 1998 NFL draft. When he was traded to Chicago two years later, he spent four years playing under Jauron.

Mariucci, of course, is the Lions' head coach and Jauron is in his second season as their defensive coordinator.

Neither Mariucci nor Jauron has indicated how the Lions plan to use McQuarters but they like his position flexibility. He has played cornerback, nickel and dime back, and last year played part of the season at free safety.

In seven NFL seasons, McQuarters has nine interceptions. His best season was 2001, when he intercepted three passes and broke up another 18 under Jauron.

McQuarters was released last month by the Bears in a cost-cutting move. His one-year deal with the Lions is believed to be worth $1.6 million.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It is easy to say that our goal is to win the Super Bowl but to have high expectations or lofty goals or to be confident requires a certain amount of work first. You have to do the work before you can win." - Coach Steve Mariucci on the Lions' approach to the preparing for the 2005 NFL season.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: QB Rick Mirer; DT Kelvin Pritchett; CB Dainon Sidney; WR Tai Streets; FB Stephen Trejo.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: WR Eddie Drummond.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: DT Marcus Bell; OT Sean Bubin; CB Chris Cash; CB Mike Echols; TE Casey FitzSimmons; S Vernon Fox; CB Andre Goodman; OG Tyrone Hopson; WR David Kircus; LS Jody Littleton; LS Don Muhlbach; LB Wali Rainer; C Dominic Raiola; OT Victor Rogers; WR Scottie Vines; S Bracy Walker.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED: G Rick DeMulling; QB Jeff Garcia; C Brock Gutierrez; WR Kevin Johnson; S Kenoy Kennedy; OT Kyle Kosier; CB R.W. McQuarters; OG Rob Murphy; TE Marcus Pollard; RB Jamel White.

PLAYERS LOST: TE Stephen Alexander; CB Rod Babers; WR Az-Zahir Hakim; OT Matt Joyce; S Brock Marion; RT Stockar McDougle; QB Mike McMahon; WR Reggie Swinton; S Brian Walker.



"Losing has become a way of life " for Lions fans too. I do hope the free agent aquistions of the past few years do help turn things around. I expect that the additions of Pollard and DeMulling will indeed make a big difference.

Go Lions!


June 26th, 2005, 8:12 am
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I think the only thing missing from the Lions is an attitude. I know we don't players on our team that have serious character issues, but we do need to have some players with some character....I mean football charater, mean, nasty, an occasional flash of Romoesk( that is a new word by the way).

Don't draw the penalty, but make your opponent remember the last play like it was his worse nightmare. Until the Lions show up on the field with a hardcore tude they will be nothing more than a .500 team, no matter what kind of talent they bring to the field.

Just like the Cardinals!

Sorry Brian, I just could not resist. Peace Brother :wink:


June 26th, 2005, 4:28 pm
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jomo269 wrote:
I know we don't players on our team that have serious character issues, but we do need to have some players with some character....I mean football charater, mean, nasty, an occasional flash of Romoesk( that is a new word by the way).


Ala RAY LEWIS!

jomo269 wrote:
Don't draw the penalty, but make your opponent remember the last play like it was his worse nightmare.


Ala RAY LEWIS!


June 26th, 2005, 5:16 pm
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That was why Kennedy's acquisition was important. He is a real "thumper" that will strike some fear into players. It was no conincidence that receivers ran wild in the middle of the backfield. A few "thumps" may get them thinking, making them a step slow or dropping a few balls. People always look at speed, and then size, but on defense "meanness" rules. Unfortunately, Kennedy is probably the only verifiable bad boy.

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June 26th, 2005, 5:24 pm
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Yorick wrote:
That was why Kennedy's acquisition was important. He is a real "thumper" that will strike some fear into players....


I agree.

Bennie Blades was the last guy we had that was anything close to this. I suspect Darrick Johnson could have been for us - but we need another besides Kennedy.


June 26th, 2005, 6:26 pm
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Since there's nobody they can get this year, it depends on how we're doing next year as far as who we lock up prior to FA starting. If we don't have any big holes and go into the draft looking for strictly depth, I say sell the farm (reasonably) and get an IMPACT player like an Ahmad Brooks. Now there's a feller I would fear running up the middle or crossing over the middle as a WR.

I would much rather see the Lions take 2 impact players who can immediately start vs 5 players who need to develop and ride the pine. Then again, that's not the best way to build a team, especially when contract negotiations start rolling around for FAs.

Of course, they could only do that if Joey had a Brees type year, Bulter turning into a solid RT, Boss staying completely healthy and showing his rookie form, and KE turning a HUGE corner and playing better than his rookie form. What are the chances of that happening?


June 26th, 2005, 6:54 pm
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