Five things to know about Matthew Stafford on eve of training camp

No news on contract extension for the quarterback

ALLEN PARK >> Matthew Stafford knew the questions were coming before he took the podium on Saturday.

He had no contract extension to announce.

Also, no details on the ongoing talks.

“No timetable. I know that Tom (Condon) my agent and the guys upstairs are continuing talks. That’s all I can really tell you,’’ Stafford said. “That’s why I hired him to deal with that stuff and I don’t have to talk about it except when you guys ask questions.’’

Stafford, who is entering his ninth season with the Lions, has one year remaining on his deal.

“Honestly it’s not difficult for me. I come in every season no matter five years on the deal, one year on the deal, three years on the deal. There’s no difference to me as far as my preparation,’’ Stafford said. “I’m just doing everything I can to be ready mentally and physically ready to go.

No matter what happens I’ve got a year left on my contract so I’m going to be here this year playing football for this team. It’s on my shoulders to be as good as I can to help this team win.’’

Stafford spoke to the media on Saturday afternoon, before the official start of training camp on Sunday.

Here are five other things to know:

1. Coach Jim Caldwell said Stafford is in the best physical shape that he’s been since Caldwell has coached him. “I feel really good physically, I put a ton of work in. I did some extra stuff I hadn’t done in the past. I put some work in with some people I feel like I’m going to benefit from,’’ said Stafford, the dad of 4-month-old twin girls. “As far as with twins it just adds to it, busier than I ever was, keeps you in good shape.’’

2. He worked with a private quarterbacks coach this summer. “It is the first time for me ever since John Stafford (his dad) taught me how to throw a football,’’ Stafford said. “Like I said earlier when you’re competing against yourself to be as good as you possibly can be why not give everything you’ve got, find different people with different ideas that can help you out. I thought it was an opportunity and went for it and enjoyed it.’’

3. That said, he said the changes will not be apparent to fans or media. “Nothing that I feel like you guys would see that would ever make a difference. It’s not only on the field, it’s in the locker room. It’s all of that, it’s all encompassing,’’ Stafford said.

4. He didn’t mention the words Super Bowl when asked about the goal this season, but he tiptoed around it. “Obviously our No. 1 goal is to win the division. You win the division, you’re automatically in the playoffs and then you go from there,’’ Stafford said. “Would love to make a run, it’d be a lot of fun. I feel I, we as a team, have tasted the playoffs but I know it’s going to be special when we make a run and I’m doing everything I can to put us in that position.’’

5. It may be his ninth training camp, but he still is loving it. He sprinkled in the word “fun” throughout his answers. “It’s still exciting every year, every team is different. We have a different group of guys — different 90 now, we’ll have a different group of 53 than we did last year. So that’s exciting,’’ Stafford said. “New players to see and watch develop as far as young guys and new free agents every year to come in and help us right away. It’s still fun for me, still have a blast doing it. As difficult sometimes of a grind as training camp is, it’s still a whole lot of fun too.’’

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Ten Lions to watch during training camp

Young players could take on bigger roles

When Lions training camp gets into gear on Sunday, it’s the start of an interesting stretch.

Like every year, there are positions — starters and backups —  that will be determined in camp and through the four preseason games.

And, of course, several are vying to grab one of the 53 roster spots.

Who will excel? Who will suffer an injury? Whose game will drop off?

Here are 10 players (five defensive, five on offense) to watch who are not rookies:

DEFENSE

— Safety Miles Killebrew took total advantage of his playing time as a rookie last season. He was clutch in third-down packages. Look for defensive coordinator Teryl Austin to find more ways to get him on the field. He was a standout in the spring.

— Kerry Hyder certainly was not expected to lead the defense with eight sacks last season. Hyder could earn a starting defensive end spot with a good showing in camp. He’s not resting on his laurels, he knows the eight sacks mean nothing at this point.

— Ziggy Ansah, unlike Hyder, was expected to follow up his 14.5-sack 2015 season with as many or more in 2016. He finished with just two. Ansah wasn’t fully healthy to start the season and never really caught up. There is no reason to think he can’t return to Pro Bowl form.

— Antoine Williams worked his way onto the field as a rookie last year too, starting three games. He has a good shot to earn the starting role at strongside linebacker. A good camp and preseason will cement that.

— Tahir Whitehead has lost the starting middle linebacker role to first-round pick Jarrad Davis. Whitehead has been trained at every linebacker spot. So he will be able to handle a move to the weak side.

OFFENSE

— Ameer Abdullah looked solid in the spring OTAs after he missed the final 14 games in the 2016 season with an ankle injury that required surgery. Other than Matthew Stafford, Abdullah may have the most important role on the offense which struggled in the run game again in 2016.

— Theo Riddick should be fine but we will see. He missed the offseason workouts after surgery on both wrists. He was still wearing a brace on his right hand in June. He’s ready to go and, like Abdullah, the offense needs him.

— Jace Billingsley hasn’t taken a snap in a regular season game, but he was impressive in the preseason games as an undrafted rookie last year. He stayed around on the practice squad until he was promoted to the 53-man roster with two games remaining. He’ll likely be in a battle for one of the final two wide receiver spots.

— Joe Dahl can play any position along the offensive line. The Lions had so much faith in him that they gave him a look at left tackle after Taylor Decker injured his shoulder in June. Two veteran tackles were then signed giving Dahl a chance to go back to guard where he is more familiar. He could be in a battle for the starting left guard spot.

— Laken Tomlinson lost his starting spot to Graham Glasgow after five games in 2016. The 2015 first-round pick needs to step up. It seems unlikely that he would not make the 53-man roster but there is a chance that he could be traded. General manager Bob Quinn didn’t draft him so there would be no egg on his face if he let a first-round guy go.

Training camp open to fans on 7 days

Fans get a chance to get up close to players at camp

Seven of the Lions training camp sessions will be open to the public starting on Monday, the second day of camp.

One of those open days will be family day at Ford Field at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 5. Gates will open at 9:30 a.m. with the Lions mock game scrimmage starting at 11 a.m.

The others will take place at the Lions headquarters and training facility. The dates for those are:

July 31 — Gates open at 2:30 p.m., practice at 3:30 p.m.

Aug. 1 — Gates open at 2:30 p.m., practice at 3:30 p.m.

Aug. 2 — Gates open at 2:30 p.m., practice at 3:30 p.m.

Aug. 4 — Gates open at 8 a.m., practice at 9 a.m.

Aug. 6 — Gates open at 2:30 p.m., practice at 3:30 p.m.

Aug. 7 — Gates open at 1 p.m., practice at 2 p.m.

The parking situation is different this year. Fans will take a shuttle from the Fairlane Town Center between Sears and Macy’s on the southeast side. Shuttles start two hours before practice. Enter Fairlane Town Center via Burlwood Drive from the Southfield Freeway service drives (M-39 south: Exit 7 Ford Road; M-39 north: Exit 6 Michigan Ave to Hubbard) and follow signs for the blue lot.

Family Day at Ford Field  is also free but requires tickets. Fans can register at DetroitLions.com/training camp or visit any Southeast Michigan Ford Dealer to claim a Lions wristband which is good for a special reserved seating area.

Five position battles to watch at camp

All eyes will be on offensive and defensive lines

Lions players report on Saturday and then get down to business on Sunday for the first day of training camp.

Like every offseason there has been plenty of roster tinkering by general manager Bob Quinn. Once again he has put emphasis on the offensive line and appeared to beef up the defense.

Here are five position battles to watch during training camp:

1. Left tackle is a big question mark until Taylor Decker recovers from shoulder surgery. He could miss the first month or so. The Lions tried out Joe Dahl there in the spring before signing two veterans in Greg Robinson and Cyrus Kouandjio. It’s likely one of those two will be the starter until Decker returns. Corey Robinson could also be in the mix. The Lions like Dahl but perhaps tackle is not the best fit. He should compete at guard.

2. Left guard is probably Graham Glasgow’s to lose. He started the final 11 games there in 2016 after taking over for Laken Tomlinson who wasn’t getting the job done. It is not a lock for Glasgow who performed well as a rookie. Along with Tomlinson he’ll face competition from Joe Dahl. Veteran T.J. Lang was signed to start at right guard so all the competition will be for the left side. Don’t sleep on Dahl. The only thing he is lacking is experience.

3. Defensive end to play opposite Ziggy Ansah is another huge question mark. Devin Taylor was not brought back. Armonty Bryant, who could be in competition, has been suspended for the first four games. It’s not his first offense so he could be gone. Kerry Hyder is probably the favorite after he led the team with eight sacks in 2016. He will compete with Cornelius Washington (who was signed as a free agent) and Brandon Copeland. Hyder is so motivated that he thinks he’s fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster even though that is as close to a lock as it gets.

4. Linebacker was the defense’s weakest area in 2016 but should be improved with first-rounder Jarrad Davis who was drafted to start at middle linebacker. He takes over for Tahir Whitehead who could move to the weakside. The defense plays so much nickel that usually two linebackers are on the field. Veteran Paul Worrilow could start on the strong side. Also look for fourth-round pick Jalen Reeves-Maybin to get some playing time. He’s another one who had an impressive spring. Would be a shocker if Davis isn’t the starter in the middle come September.

5. Rookie Kenny Golladay, who is 6-foot-4 and wears No. 19, had a standout spring, making tough catches with rarely a drop. If he keeps that going in camp he could easily be the third wide receiver. The locks are Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. Then there’s are the fourth and fifth spots. In 2016, the Lions kept five wide receivers on the 53-man roster. That could change if they keep an extra tight end. But if they keep five they seriously have to look at Jared Abbrederis (who had a good spring), TJ Jones, Jace Billingsley, Keshawn Martin (Michigan State) and possibly Ryan Spadola. It’s a make-or-break camp for TJ Jones who was drafted in 2014. Billingsley is one of more interesting guys on the roster. He’s undersized at 5-foot-9, but makes it work for him. He’s speedy and shifty. He was a standout in the preseason games last year as a rookie. Do not count him out.