Lions Report to Minicamp

By: AP
By: AP

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) -- There are a great number of question marks hanging over the Detroit Lions in 2008.
Calvin Johnson is hoping not to be among them.
The second-year wide receiver recognizes that he didn't live up to the hype surrounding his rookie season, but he doesn't think it was entirely his fault.
Johnson scored in his first two games, but a back injury limited his production for much of the season. He didn't catch more than four passes in a game until Thanksgiving and his only 100-yard game came in a 51-14 loss at San Diego on Dec. 16.
"After my injury, the season was only OK," Johnson said after the team's first minicamp session on Tuesday. "It was great to be on the field in the NFL, but the injury was tough."
Johnson finished the season with 48 catches for 756 yards and four scores, numbers that he hopes to surpass this fall.
"I have very high expectations for myself," he said. "I want big yards and a lot of touchdowns."
He also had a spectacular 32-yard touchdown run against Tampa Bay in late October -- one of the reasons that Lions coach Rod Marinelli says he doesn't see a ceiling on Johnson's potential.
"I really don't," he said. "The best thing that he brings to the table is his attitude and his work. He's here every day. He's a gym rat."
While Johnson made numerous highlight-reel catches, he also dropped a lot of passes. They mostly came after the injury, but Marinelli didn't care.
"There's no explanation, no excuses -- catch it," he said. "That's what you've got to do. That's why he's here. Make the play."
After a few weeks of organized team activities and the first day of this week's minicamp, Johnson is encouraged by the new offense that has replaced Mike Martz's famously complex system.
"It feels a lot different than what we were doing last year," he said. "There are some similarities, and but this is a lot simpler. I know what's going on and I know how to do things."
Marinelli also is happy with what he has seen with Johnson in the new system.
"It looks like he'll get better and better," he said. "He's very talented, he's very bright and we're just going to rep and rep and rep."
To the surprise of many observers, Johnson will still be lining up at receiver with Roy Williams. Williams was the subject of constant trade rumors before last month's draft, but he was still in a blue jersey when the team began practicing this week.
"We've got two great wide receivers -- we know that, and we have to find a way to use them," Marinelli said Tuesday. "If we make teams respect our running game, those two have a chance to hit a lot of home runs."
Of course, Detroit's rushing attack is one of the biggest question marks. After releasing Kevin Jones, the team is searching for a feature back. Tatum Bell is back after failing last season, while Artose Pinner and Brian Calhoun have not made an impact in short careers. The fourth candidate is second-day draftee Kevin Smith.
"We're kind of jumbling things up right now, and it's wide open," Marinelli said. "We need someone to get in there and really run this for us."
Calhoun has been a special teams player for his first two seasons, only getting limited work with the offense as a third-down back, but Marinelli thinks he has the potential to do more.
"He's not just a third-down back -- he's a back," Marinelli said. "I think what we're doing now fits him very well, because it is what he did in college. He sees that, and he sees that this is wide open."
Marinelli has turned over most of the roster since taking over two years ago, and he acknowledges that he's been trying to upgrade the team's speed.
"I want to shrink the field," he said. "I want to narrow the width of the field with speed, but the thing is, you have to be tough enough to use it on every play. When we decide to use it and turn it on every play -- knowing what we are doing -- we'll be able to play faster."
NOTES: The team will work out again on Wednesday and Thursday. ... The Lions will hold a press conference on Wednesday to announce plans for the franchise's 75th anniversary celebration, including Hall of Famers Lem Barney and Charlie Sanders and all-time scoring leader Jason Hanson. The Lions will have a special 75th-anniversary logo and will also choose an all-time team.


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