July 22, 2014 at 11:57 pm

TJ Jones, Lions rookies ready for camp kickoff: 'Football is life'

Receiver T.J. Jones was drafted in the sixth round out of Notre Dame. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)

Allen Park — Lions rookies and some veterans arrived at team headquarters Tuesday to report for this year’s training camp, which begins Monday.

While the next few weeks will be grueling with practice six days per week and daily meetings, sixth-round pick TJ Jones said he’s excited for his first NFL camp.

“It’s the next step,” the rookie receiver said. “You dream about the days when you would get this opportunity. And if it was seven days a week, this is all we have now. There’s no classes, there’s no other distractions.

“Football is life, if it wasn’t before.”

The rookies will have physicals Tuesday as well as a team meeting and position meetings. On Wednesday, Jones said players will hit the field, though they’ll be limited to mostly walk-throughs of the plays the coaches want to install.

Some younger veterans, like second-year running back Steven Miller, also arrived early. Veteran running back Joique Bell, who has been dealing with a knee injury, made an appearance at team headquarters Tuesday, too. Most veterans will report Sunday.

After mandatory minicamp closed in July, coach Jim Caldwell said he liked the team’s progress in the new system to that point, but the team will, of course, have to show more in training camp.

Travis Swanson, a third-round offensive lineman, said he was nervous about adjusting to the NFL when he was first drafted, but with an offseason program under his belt, he’s more prepared for training camp.

“That first week we came in here before starting OTAs and everything and it was like we were wide-eyed and, ‘What do we do, how do we act?’ and stuff like that,” he said. “I’m going to think that (training camp is) somewhat like college, and guys are a little bigger and a little faster.”

Arriving early also gives the younger players a chance to be immersed in the NFL lifestyle five days before camp.

For Swanson, training camp will be a chance to showcase his skills, but he’s ultimately battling for a backup job. He played center the past four years at Arkansas, a position held by veteran Dominic Raiola. And although Swanson is comfortable playing guard, veteran Rob Sims and Larry Warford, who had a stellar rookie season, have those two starting jobs locked down.

“I’m just going to try and contribute any way I can, whenever that is that they call on me, and you’ve just got to be ready at any point,” Swanson said.

Jones may not be able to play at the start of camp. In June, he underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery for an injury that happened during his senior season at Notre Dame.

Although he’s been doing rehabilitation in Atlanta since the surgery, Jones said he’s not sure how the shoulder will respond when he has to block or fight off a defender.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s as healthy as it can be,” he said.

The Lions’ July 28 training camp start is the latest in the NFL this year, and Caldwell will likely explain the reason next week.

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

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