Mayhew's Vision: Lions Getting Bigger

When Martin Mayhew became the Lions' general manager, he talked about acquiring bigger, stronger players. When Jim Schwartz became the Lions' coach, he talked about the same thing. Thus far into the off-season, the team is backing up that stance. Much more inside.

When Martin Mayhew became the Lions' general manager, he talked about acquiring bigger, stronger players. When Jim Schwartz became the Lions' coach, he talked about the same thing.

Former coach Rod Marinelli wanted smaller, quicker players, particularly to fit his Tampa Two defense. But his plan didn't work. He was fired after the NFL's first 0-16 season.

Mayhew and Schwartz have bulked up, especially on the offensive line and at tight end, defensive tackle and linebacker.

The players the Lions have added include guard Toniu Fonoti (6-foot-4, 340 pounds), tight end Will Heller (6-6, 270), defensive end Eric Hicks (6-6, 280), defensive tackle Sammie Hill (6-4, 329), defensive tackle Grady Jackson (6-2, 345), guard Daniel Loper (6-6, 320), linebacker Julian Peterson (6-3, 240) and tight end Brandon Pettigrew (6-5, 263).

"I mentioned to somebody not on the coaching staff today when we were warming up, and I asked him his impressions," Schwartz said after a recent organized team activity. "He said, 'Well, we're a lot bigger than last year.' "

Turns out, size has always mattered to Schwartz, who grew up in Baltimore and has been on the infield for the Preakness Stakes.

"We talked about wanting big here," Schwartz said. "My system of betting horses was always bet the biggest horse. Gosh, I hit on one."

It was Risen Star, the son of Secretariat, who won the Preakness and later the Belmont in 1988. He caught Schwartz's eye as soon as he came out of the paddock.

"The horse was twice as big as the other horses," Schwartz said. "I bet the horse right there was going to win. It won going away. But I'm not a very good handicapper, so don't go with that."

PLAYER NOTES:

  • The Lions did not sign cornerback Rod Hood, who visited Detroit as part of his free-agent tour. Hood signed with the Browns after also visiting the Bengals, Bears and Rams. Coach Jim Schwartz hadn't made Hood sound like a real possibility, though. After Hood's visit, Schwartz said: "I think he was still in the exploratory range, looking around, checking his options out. We're going to look at everybody. We're at that point -- I keep saying the same things -- there's no spot that we feel great about that we go in right now saying, 'We're 100% set.' So anybody that comes available, we're going to do our due diligence."
  • Linebacker Paris Lenon, whom the Lions elected not to bring back as a free agent, went to the Patriots. "Paris is excited to finally be a part of a winning organization and eager to contribute in whatever way coach (Bill) Belichick and his staff see fit," Lenon's agent, Jon Persch, told the Boston Globe. "Now, quite simply, he's eager to go to work." Lenon follows cornerbacks Fernando Bryant and Leigh Bodden. The Lions released Bryant last year, Bodden this year. Both signed with the Patriots afterward. Bryant was cut last year but ended up with another excellent organization, the Super Bowl champion Steelers.
  • The Lions claimed cornerback Tra Battle off waivers from the Cowboys. Battle played one game for San Diego and five for Dallas last year as a rookie.

    They then got defensive end Brian Johnson on waivers from the Chiefs. He played nine games in 2008, his rookie season. Johnston is the seventh player the Lions have been awarded on waivers this offseason. That includes wide receiver Will Franklin, who was claimed from Kansas City and subsequently released.

  • Schwartz mentioned safety Louis Delmas, the first pick in the second round this year, when asked for his first impressions of the rookies practicing with the veterans. "First impressions are important," Schwartz said. "Some guys are able to assimilate pretty quickly. I think it was the first day, Delmas was out there and was telling his corner, expect some route, and the communication was good right away. It's good to see that. But again, I don't want to read too much into what they're doing in three days."

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Nothing. I'm just getting out here trying to gain reps, as many as I can get. I don't care who it's with. I'm trying to learn the offense, and all that stuff will come with time." -- QB Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 pick in this year's NFL draft, on what he reads into splitting second-team reps with Drew Stanton behind Daunte Culpepper.

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