Allen Park — The Lions’ defensive line typically is the most energetic unit at practice, with coaches Kris Kocurek and Jim Washburn constantly shouting. But free-agent defensive end Darryl Tapp is doing his part to keep the volume high, too.
“I’m the energy guy,” said Tapp, who’s entering his ninth NFL season with his fourth team. “I enjoy playing the game, I enjoy practice, and I’m trying to create that same energy around here.”
When other players are doing drills, Tapp is the one constantly providing encouragement and alreadyhas given several of the younger players nicknames.
“If everybody is at that same energy level, practice goes a lot smoother,” he said. “(There’s) more intensity from a defensive standpoint, and we’re kind of the catalyst for the team. If guys up front are playing well, usually the team follows.”
Tapp signed with the Lions on a veteran minimum salary benefit deal worth $920,000 and chose Detroit so he could return to his natural position after playing outside linebacker in Washington’s 3-4 scheme last year. He also liked playing for Washburn in Philadelphia from 2011-12.
For now, Tapp is the favorite to be the No. 2 end on the closed side behind presumed starter Jason Jones while second-year ends Ziggy Ansah and Devin Taylor will handle the open side.
Tapp isn’t necessarily done playing linebacker, though. New defensive coordinator Teryl Austin will run a diverse scheme with players lining up at varied positions to keep offenses guessing.
Rookie outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy has been working as a stand-up defensive end, and by the same token, Tapp could mix in some snaps as a linebacker, though he said it’s too early to tell how much that will happen.
“I can’t give away all our tricks right now,” he said. “I’m just coming out here with a clear mind, ready to learn whatever I need to learn.
“That’s the nature of the game. It’s all about the more you can do. You can’t be tied into playing one position or be able to do one thing. You’ve got to be able to do multiple things to help the team.”
Tapp has also been working with the special teams units during the offseason practices, including the first two days of mandatory minicamp this week.
As for his desire to energize his teammates, Tapp said he learned that from veteran defensive linemen Bryce Fisher, Grant Wistrom and Patrick Kerney during his first few seasons in Seattle, the team that drafted him in the second round in 2006.
“That’s the way they raised me, and I’m trying to do my part to bring along the young guys like they brought me,” he said.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell is a fan of Tapp’s enthusiasm.
“I think Darryl was a great addition for us because not only does he bring some enthusiasm and love the game, but he’s a professional — a consummate professional,” Caldwell said. “I mean, he does every right. He listens, (and) he reinforces what he’s being taught.
“You can’t get enough of those kind of guys that have been around, that have won, that understand what it takes, been in the league a while. He’s such a great example for a number of young guys that we have in that room.”