It’s official: Lions sign DE Mike Daniels; surprisingly release Theo Riddick

ALLEN PARK — The Lions made it official on Saturday morning that they’ve signed veteran defensive end Mike Daniels.

Running back Theo Riddick was released to make room for Daniels.

Coach Matt Patricia made the announcements Saturday morning just before the start of camp.

“I have a lot of respect for (Daniels), he’s had really good production in the way he plays the game, he’s very intense,’’ Patricia said noting his knowledge of the game.

Patricia said he met with Daniels on Thursday. 

“He’s very aware of the division which is nice,’’ Patricia said.

Daniels joins Damon “Snacks” Harrison, A’Shawn Robinson, Trey Flowers, Da’Shawn Hand and Romeo Okwara on the defensive line. 

The Green Bay Packers released the 30-year-old Daniels just before the start of camp.

The seven-year veteran signed a one-year deal worth $9.1 according to several reports. He was set to make $8.1 million in Green Bay this season.

Daniels, a Pro Bowler in 2017, had 29 sacks in his seven years with the Packers. He was a fourth-round draft pick in 2012. 

Patricia would not get into details of why they cut Riddick who was scheduled to make $3.2 million this season.

“Theo is obviously a great professional, did a lot of great things for us,’’ Patricia said.

Riddick spent the last six seasons with the Lions. Last season in 14 games he had 40 carries for 171 yards and 61 catches for 384 yards.

The Lions added veteran running back C.J. Anderson in the offseason and have depth at the position with Kerryon Johnson, Zack Zenner and rookie Ty Johnson.

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Detroit Lions’ C.J. Anderson describes his run game as ‘just nasty’

ALLEN PARK – Running back C.J. Anderson has three words to describe his style: “It’s just nasty.”

OK, then. The seven-year NFL veteran expects to bring some of that nastiness to the Detroit Lions offense.

“It’s just downhill, there’s nothing special about it if it’s 4 it’s 4. If it’s 6 it’s 6, if is’t 46 it’s 46. It is what it is,’’ Anderson said on Friday, the second day of training camp.

He’s averaged 4.5 yards per carry in his first six seasons in the league — the first five with the Denver Broncos and then in 2018 he played nine games for the Florida Panthers and two for the Los Angeles Rams.

He credits his respect for coach Matt Patricia as the reason he signed with the Lions.

“Me and him had a lot of battles (when I was) in Denver in his New England days,’’ Anderson said. “I respect what he’s trying to get done over here, I see what he’s trying to get done over here. He respects me as a player and he asked if I could help him accomplish that and I said. “Why not?’’’

Anderson owns one Super Bowl ring and came up on the short end in two other Super Bowls.

That experience is a part of what he brings to Detroit.

“aCome out here and work every day, we put our heads down, try to eliminate bad football, understand situational football,’’ Anderson said. “That’s the difference between really good teams and really bad teams — understanding those little situations, getting off the field on third down on defense, keeping drives alive on third down for us. Some of those things are being talked about, I can’t speak what was talked about (last year) I wasn’t here. I just know the past two successful teams I’ve been on — two losses, one (Super Bowl) win —  those are some of the things we did.’’

He said it’s about attitude and leadership.

“I pride myself on preparation. I’ve been raised in this league by the more better, correct vets, I guess you could say,’’ Anderson said. “Just trying to bring that knowledge of football to the team.’’

It’s early but he’s quite impressed by running back Kerryon Johnson who is heading into his second season.

“Kerryon is a good man, he’s going to be fun,’’ Anderson said. “I had a young guy last year, C- Mac (Christian McCaffrey), just trying to give him everything I can. I’m here to help whether that’s on the field or whether that’s off the field or in the meeting rooms. I’m here to help hopefully push his career beyond mine or up to mine — Year 7 or past Year 7. That’s my goal with the young guys.’’

Without pads in the first two days of training camp, it’s impossible to judge Anderson’s game. He does seem to be alongside Kerryon Johnson for much of the workouts.

 

 

Detroit Lions camp: Rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson impressive early

ALLEN PARK — Tight end T.J. Hockenson’s catches deep in the corner of the end zone have been among the highlights during the first two days of Detroit Lions training camp.

Even his teammates appreciate it — hooting and hollering for the rookie each time he brings in a ball thrown by Matthew Stafford.

The first-round pick takes his early stand-out plays in stride.

“We’re all just trying to have fun out here. I’m just trying to have fun playing the game I love, being able to do it with these guys means a lot,’’ Hockenson said. “This group of veterans has taken you in really well, they’ve accepted me as part of this team and I’m super excited to get started.’’

If the first two days of camp are any indication, this could be a very tight-end friendly offense under new coordinator Darrell Bevell.

Hockenson doesn’t put more pressure on himself because he’s a first-round pick. Like each and every one of the Lions he repeats the mantra that he just wants to get better every day.

“He knows that he has a lot to earn and he’s got a long way to go, but he is a hard worker. He loves the game. The guy’s got a great attitude, the guy just loves the grind and the passion of the game,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “So, you take it, you work with it, you go forward, and he’s got a skill set that hopefully we got to see out on the field. He’s got to go out there and do it consistently and do it every single day.”

Hockenson, who is 6-foot-5, is one six tight ends on the camp roster. All of them are new to the Lions this season, although Logan Thomas (6-foot-6) and Jesse James (6-foot-7) bring years of NFL experience. 

“It’s competition in camp, we have such a great tight end room. Logan and everyone in that group has been great, they’ve accepted us they’ve done everything that I can ask,’’ Hockenson said. “They’ve taught us things that a rookie wouldn’t normally see. It’s nice to be with that group of guys.’’

Hockenson repeatedly mentioned how the intelligence level is so much higher than it was in college (Iowa).

“The defense can see a formation one time and know the play. You have to be smarter than the 10-year vet that is in front of you,’’ Hockenson said. “Being a rookie you have to come in and study and work at it, that’s what we’re all trying to do, that’s what I’m trying to do.’’

Tight end is traditionally one of the hardest positions to learn as a rookie requiring that they know how to catch and also block for the run game. Hockenson said it’s all a challenge.

“It’s the next level. Everything is faster, everything is more dynamic, everyone is smarter, it’s different,’’ Hockenson said. “I’m coming to work every day trying to take that next step and get better every single day.’’

Detroit Lions training camp: Danny Amendola out to develop his role

ALLEN PARK — Danny Amendola’s challenge is finding where he best fits in the Detroit Lions’ new-look offense.

“I’m trying to develop a role on this team and I’m trying to expand that role as much as I can, do whatever I can to help the team win in whatever capacity that is. That’s why I’m here,’’ the 33-year-old said on Thursday.

Amendola  played in 15 games for the Miami Dolphins last season with 59 receptions and a touchdown. The previous five seasons he spent with the New England Patriots where he got to know Matt Patricia who was the defensive coordinator.

“He’s tough man, he demands a lot, he expects a lot, he has high expectations. I knew that coming here that’s why I wanted to come here, he’s a great coach,’’ Amendola said. 

Patricia obviously thinks highly of him too.

“I think just in general you’ve got to love Danny Amendola, you’ve got to love everything he brings every single day,’’ Patricia said on Friday. “He’s probably one of the most intense people you’re going to talk to. When you’re passionate about the game of football like we all are and like he is passion breeds passion … 

“He’s like everybody else he’s got a lot of work to do to improve. But as far as a person he’s a football guy, he loves the game, he loves being around the guys, loves every aspect of it. All of that energy is contagious and that’s great to be around all the time,’’ the coach said.

The veteran wide receiver — he is 33 —  been working overtime with Matthew Stafford to develop a rapport.

“Anytime we’re able to get together we try to get as many reps as we can is possible. We’re out here right now trying to steal as many reps, before practice, after practice, in the weight room,’’ he said. “We’re always talking about ideas, trying to get better.’’

Amendola, who wears No. 80, was among those returning punts in training camp on Thursday.

During the spring Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay were sidelined with injuries which gave Amendola more reps with Stafford.

“It’s great to have them back they’re two explosive players and I’m happy to be playing with them,’’ Amendola said. “I’m excited to be it he huddle with them.’’

He’s not the only veteran wide receiver signed as a free agent. Jermaine Kearse has also been added to the roster.

Amendola also has the utmost respect for Stafford.

“Exceptional. He’s up there with the best I’ve been with,’’ Amendola said. “Extremely cerebral player, he can anticipate and he’s been doing it for a long time at an extremely high level so I’m excited to be here with him.’’

Lions Darius Slay watches 1st day of training camp from sidelines

ALLEN PARK — Darius Slay didn’t want to talk about his hold-out during the offseason program.

No matter from which angle the question was asked on Thursday, “next question” was his reply.

The Detroit Lions Pro Bowl cornerback did report to training camp on Wednesday, but was placed on the non-football injury list along with Damon “Snacks” Harrison, another veteran hold-out. Neither participated in the first day of camp on Thursday.

Coach Matt Patricia said it was just a matter of conditioning after being away from football for so long.

Slay has two years remaining on his contract which will pay him $12 million this year and $10 million in 2020.

One exchange went like this:

Reporter: Are you content with your current deal?

Slay: What do you think?

Reporter: I’ve been pretty vocal saying I think you’re underpaid but my opinion doesn’t …

Slay: Everybody in the world knows.

While he hasn’t been at the practice facility he has not lost touch with his teammates.

“It was cool, I was here in Detroit. Guys came over the house, hung out, chilled, cooked them crab legs,’’ Slay said. “It’s a business so it’s all good.

No matter his contract situation he said they’re his guys, his brothers.

“Everybody knows it’s a business,’’ said Slay who is entering his seventh season.

He said he’s happy the Lions signed a few veteran cornerbacks like Justin Coleman, Rashaan Melvin and Marcus Cooper.

“Oh, they’re great guys. It’s a little less pressure on my shoulders. This is really my first year stepping into the role of a leader, leader, leader with GQ (Glover Quin) not being here (which I miss so much, it’s hard to walk on the field without my dog). He’s chilling. Other than that it’s been good,’’ Slay said.

He said that the contract situation will not affect his play on the field.

“I’m going to do out there to dominate,’’ Slay said. “So I play for the name on the back of my jersey and this organization and my teammates. So ain’t going to never stop me from what I’m doing on the field.’’

He has set goals for himself but said he’s not worried about interceptions. He had three last season after pulling in eight to lead the league in 2018.

“That will come, I’m not stressing on that …’’ Slay said.

Instead he wants to step up his leadership since Quin has retired.

“Be a better leader, be more vocal with the guys, just helping these guys be better than I am that’s my goal,’’ Slay said. “Try to get these guys Teez (Tabor), (Jamal) Agnew, the young corners that just came in I want them to be a lot better than what I did. That’s my goal.’’

 

 

After challenging offseason, Lions’ Matthew Stafford gets up to speed

ALLEN PARK — It was a busy and challenging offseason for Matthew Stafford.

Here is all you need to know about the Lions quarterback entering his 11th season in Detroit.

“I still love this game, I still love preparing for it, I love competing,’’ Stafford said on Wednesday when the veterans reported for training camp which starts on Thursday.

It’s not just another new season, it’s the first under offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell who is changing up the offense.

In May, Stafford’s wife Kelly underwent 12 hours of brain surgery to remove an acoustic neuroma. 

(Photo from Instagram account of Kelly Stafford)

At the time, the Lions organization told him to take care of his wife, not to worry about the team. Still he missed little time at the practice facility.

“I try to think I do a decent job of separating the two,’’ Stafford said. “When I’m home, I’m home and when I’m not, I’m here obviously all in. I think Ii was able to kind of compartmentalize. Obviously it helped a lot with the way the Lions treated me through the whole process. It made it easy for me to kind of separate those two.’’

Along with the team he credited the support of family and friends for getting them through the tough days. That included helping with their three daughters ages 2 and under.

“Obviously Kelly was a stud, she was a trooper and is continuing to get better and better,’’ Stafford said.

For the most part, Stafford has turned his attention to football for the next few weeks. During the spring he got a running start on learning Bevell’s offense which is expected to be more balanced with an increased emphasis on the run game. The new coordinator said he told Stafford he was impressed with his offseason.

“He was really committed to us and he was here, he was putting his time in. He was working hard, he really led the way on learning the offense, in verbiage, getting to know the new language, sitting in the huddle being able to call it, helping guys when they needed help,’’ Bevell said. “I was impressed with the level of dedication and commitment that he had to us with the other things he had going on.’’

Bevell and Stafford both emphasized that the better their communication, the sharper the offense will be on Sundays.

“We’ve had some great conversations already. We’ve put a few things in that he feels comfortable with and other things we’re going to push him on, and I think by the time we get there we need to be able to have enough stuff offensively that we can challenge the defense but not too much where it’s overloading our stuff,’’ Bevell said. “That’s the balance we’re trying to get right now.’’

Bevell is Stafford’s fourth offensive coordinator after Scott Linehan, Joe Lombardi and Jim Bob Cooter.

“It’s definitely different, there are a lot of things I like about it, a lot of things I’m still getting used to, still learning,’’ Stafford said about the offense. “It’s my job to be a coach on the field. For me to do that I have to be as well versed as the guys that are teaching it, that’s a process and that takes time and experience something that this time of year is perfect for.’’

The Lions finished 6-10 last season but they are looking forward not back. Stafford didn’t have his best numbers in 2018 due to injuries to him (he finished the season with broken bones in his back), Kerryon Johnson and others.

However, he doesn’t look at this as a bounce-back year.

“I feel like every year I come in and try to prove myself. If you’re coming in here feeling like you’ve done everything you need to do and you’re sitting pretty, you’re in the wrong sport,’’ Stafford said. “It’s prove yourself every day out there and it’s prove yourself every week in the season. This year is no different.’’

(Paula Pasche has covered the Lions since Barry Sanders embarrassed defenses every Sunday. She has written two books on the team — “100 Things Lions Fans Should Know” and “Game of My Life Detroit Lions.” Both are available on Amazon.com)

 

Detroit Lions president says team wants to re-connect with Calvin Johnson

Also, updates on bringing draft to Detroit and ‘Hard Knocks’

DETROIT — One thing on Rod Wood’s to-do list is to get Calvin Johnson back in the fold — not on the field — but to have the former wide receiver as a part of the organization like Barry Sanders.

The Detroit Lions president spoke at the Taste of the Lions, an annual charity event, on Wednesday night at Ford Field.  

“I had it on my agenda today to talk internally about some things  to approach (Johnson) about getting back and involved,’’ Wood said. “It’s on the agenda to reach out to him. We have Barry (Sanders) coming in this week for a couple of events. I want to kind of try and find a way to do something similar with what we’re doing with Barry, if Calvin would be interested.’’

Johnson retired unexpectedly in March 2016 after nine seasons with the Lions.

“It’s a very high priority. I would expect in a couple years he’ll be considered for the Hall of Fame and I really want to have a relationship at that point that’s productive for both sides,’’ Wood said. “We could be there celebrating with him and find ways to have him here to celebrate as well.’’

Also on Wood’s agenda is bringing an NFL draft to Detroit.

The draft held in Nashville a few weeks ago seemed to be a success from all angles.

“I wasn’t down there obviously, but we had people down there. I saw it on TV. I think they did a great job,’’ Wood said. “Obviously they have a special area there with Broadway and the bars and the restaurants. I think what we learned is we need to do something, if we do it here, that’s iconically Detroit. We have a few ideas of how we may do that. We’re in the running for a couple years from now to bring the draft here.’’

His thoughts would be to showcase all of downtown Detroit, using multiple venues. He’s uncertain about the timeline but thinks the 2021 draft location could be announced next spring.

One more thing:  Wood said no word yet on whether the Lions will be featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” this preseason. He expects a decision to be announced soon.

Since the Lions have missed the playoffs for two straight years, they are one of the teams eligible for the behind-the-scenes, NFL reality show.

“So far I’ve not heard anything. I don’t know if that means we’re under consideration and no one has told us or it’s such a top secret thing they didn’t want to leak it out,’’ Wood said.

The tight-lipped organization would just as soon pass, but they won’t have a choice.

“The consequences of ending the season the way we did makes us eligible. We’ll deal with the consequences,’’ Wood said. “I’d much rather be here a year from now saying we’re not eligible.’’

The Taste of the Lions has become a major charity fund-raiser for the team.

“During the offseason it’s one of the big things we do to get the fans close to the players and the coaches,’’ Wood said. “When you’re in the building every day you kind of get immune to how special this is for a fan to get a chance to talk to one of our players or get a picture with coach, or Mrs. Ford is downstairs – get a picture with her. It’s a great opportunity to get close to the fans, raise some money for charity and showcase some of the great restaurants around town.’’