Allen Park — Predictably, Lions coach Jim Caldwell wouldn’t shed any light on the pending contract negotiations with either defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who is trying to work out an extension, or rookie tight end Eric Ebron, the team’s lone unsigned draft pick.
“I think the way in which this game is, every year is going to be a little bit different,” Caldwell said Thursday, the final day of a three-day minicamp. “Not the first guy that’s gone through a contract negotiation and it won’t be the last. I think those things, Martin (Mayhew, general manager) and Tom (Lewand, president) and those guys and ownership, will do a tremendous job.
“What I have to do is stay focused on what’s happening out there on the field and get our guys ready to play.”
A point of reference for Suh: Matthew Stafford didn’t sign his extension until July before the 2012 training camp. Ebron has until the start of camp in late July to sign his rookie deal.
Caldwell wouldn’t single out any individual performances over the minicamp, but he had high praise for the gains made by the offensive line.
“They’re a close-knit group and a highly competitive group,” he said. “Every one of them is getting a little bit better. (LaAdrian) Waddle’s getting better, Larry’s (Warford) getting better. I mean, across the board — they’re working at it, but it’s a pretty heated competition.”
Caldwell said the players were measured in terms of their weight, body fat and general strength from the beginning of organized team activities through Thursday.
“The improvement amongst the group was extraordinary,” he said. “I mean, they did a great job. So you can tell that they’re taking care of their bodies, watching what they eat because our strength gains were great. Guys that needed to gain a little bit more muscle gained the muscle that they needed, guys that needed to trim down a little bit, did so.
“Now, it’s an ongoing process, but these last few months have been incredible.”
Safety James Ihedigbo’s first impression of Stafford and the Lions’ offense — favorable.
“Wow. That’s all I can say,” he said. “That offense, it’s going to be a force to be reckoned with. They’re learning a new scheme now. This is different than anything they’ve done previously. So the ability that they have to stretch the field and our run game, it’s definitely going to be a force … You’re looking at one of the top offenses in the NFL.”
…The cast of non-participants remained the same Thursday. Receiver TJ Jones, middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch and cornerback Chris Houston were absent. Present but sitting out were receivers Golden Tate and Kevin Ogletree, running backs Joique Bell and Mikel Leshoure, defensive end Ziggy Ansah and guard Rob Sims.