ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) -- The money is in the middle of the Detroit Lions defense and the team is banking on its two tackles to make the unit go this season.
Tackles Cory Redding and Shaun Rogers give the Lions a potent tandem in its Tampa-2 scheme, but both face challenges as the Lions hope to improve on last season's 3-13 run.
Redding must live up to the expectations that come with a heavy contract while Rogers works to put a problematic 12 months behind him. Coach Rod Marinelli is counting on both playing out happily.
"When this system is about creating havoc and pressure up front, it starts with those inside guys," he said.
Redding, fresh off his best season, became the NFL's top-paid defensive tackle during the offseason when the team signed him to a seven-year contract worth a reported $49 million with almost $20 million in guarantees.
The five-year veteran was elected a captain by teammates after recording career highs in tackles (70) and sacks (eight) last season. The eight sacks, all of which came in the Lions' final 11 games, were second only to Oakland's Warren Sapp among NFL tackles.
He's relishing the leadership role his teammates have offered.
"I know I have to lead by example," he said Thursday after the first of two training-camp practices. "Guys have to see me working as hard as I can and doing all the things that I would want from them.
"I like that. I like knowing they have that kind of confidence in me."
Marinelli, who has repeatedly stressed the need for consistent pressure from his defensive line, is glad the Lions kept Redding in the fold.
"We paid our own guy," the former Tampa Bay defensive line coach said. "A guy who is here, who earned it here. It's awesome when you can reward your own players.
"He went in and earned that contract and we feel very good about him. I'm excited about it and his best years are ahead of him."
Marinelli went on to praise Redding's technique and the way the 6-foot-4-inch, 295-pound tackle was able to play a larger role once the team lost Rogers for the season.
Rogers, a Pro Bowl selection in 2004 and '05, is coming off a forgettable season filled with off-field problems.
He was suspended four games by the league for taking a banned dietary supplement, then missed the remainder of the season after Marinelli ruled that he wasn't healthy enough to play.
Rogers, who had 36 tackles and two sacks in six games last season, spent the offseason rehabbing knee and shoulder injuries and was not in pads when the Lions began practice Thursday. The offseason also saw him accused of inappropriately touching an exotic dancer at a Detroit club. The Wayne County prosecutor's office declined to pursue criminal charges but the 20-year-old woman has filed a civil suit against him.
The man who'll line up next to him believes all the turmoil has passed and Rogers will be back as one of the league's most feared interior pass rushers.
"When the guy turns it on on Sunday and grows two inches taller and turns green -- when he becomes the superman that he knows and believes he is -- nobody can stop him," Redding said. "He wants to make a comeback and go back to the Pro Bowl status that he knows he is."
At 6-4 and 340, Rogers can cause havoc in the middle. Marinelli said he'll ease him back into practices.
"We've got some work to do still," he said. "He's a guy that I want to make sure is right."
The Lions begin preseason play Aug. 9 against visiting Cincinnati and start the regular season Sept. 9 at Oakland.
Notes: WR Calvin Johnson, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft, was the only player not in uniform Thursday. Marinelli said the Lions had not made any progress in signing their top pick. ... TE Dan Campbell (elbow), RB Kevin Jones (foot) and WRs Devale Ellis (knee) and Shaun McDonald (knee) joined Rogers on the opening-day physically unable to perform list. ... RB Shawn Bryson was released Thursday morning after failing a physical. ... The Lions will host an open practice at 5 p.m. Aug. 4 at Ford Field. The team will broadcast former TE Charlie Sanders' Pro Football Hall of Fame induction during the event. ... A thunderstorm forced the Lions to move Thursday's afternoon session indoors.