Lions running back Joique Bell takes passes from a passing machine at the end of practice Friday. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)
Allen Park — The Lions still are a week away from their exhibition opener against the Browns, but it wasn’t too early to go through a pseudo-dress rehearsal.
Saturday’s practice featured a simulated scrimmage — mostly with the first and second teams — giving the players a sense of what first-year coach Jim Caldwell’s game-day routine would include.
The scrimmage featured four eight-minute quarters and just one touchdown, by Reggie Bush — set up on a long pass play from Stafford to rookie tight end Eric Ebron along the sideline.
Caldwell noted some of the mistakes made in the scrimmage but didn’t put too much emphasis on the morning practice, which included only shoulder pads and shorts.
“Well, I hope they’re not ready to start it now because we’ve got a lot of practices in between. We’re a week away,” Caldwell said. “We certainly made some mistakes out there in terms of some of the things that we’re trying to be done, but this is the time to do it. I do think at this stage, in terms of the timetable, I think we’re right on schedule.”
Receiver Calvin Johnson didn’t participate in the scrimmage, part of an effort to ease his preseason workload and keep him fresh for the season.
The first- and second-team offenses each had a handful of possessions, with Stafford leading the first team to a score and each group getting a field goal: a 50-yarder by Giorgio Tevecchio for the second group and a 47-yarder by Nate Freese.
For Caldwell, the emphasis wasn’t completely on points; rather, he wanted to work on execution and getting into a good routine.
“I thought overall the rhythm was good (and) the pace was good. (There were) no delay-of-game penalties, the guys were able to get the plays and communication to their teammates in a timely manner,” he said. “I thought the pace was pretty good overall on both sides of the ball. I thought that was encouraging.”
Golden Tate’s birthday came at a good time.
The receiver was able to enjoy the rest of the day after Saturday’s morning practice — and Sunday is an entire day off.
He said he didn’t have any grand plans for celebrating — that was until he got an unexpected visit.
“I had a great surprise and my girlfriend ended up surprising me, coming across the country. It’s been a great start and I made a few plays today,” he said.
But after six straight days of training camp, he’ll get to revel in the day to help restore his strength before getting back to work on Monday.
“(I’ll) relax and stay off my legs as much as possible,” he said. “(I’ll) probably hang out with some of the guys on the team just to get to know some more people and build that camaraderie and just really relax and let this first week sink in. Now we’re getting closer to that first preseason game.”
During Saturday’s practice, several fans screamed out to wish Tate a happy birthday — and he took notice.
“I love it, I appreciate the support and the sincerity of it. It’s awesome — it feels like you’re cared about,” he said.
Tate picks Sherman
After spending the last four seasons with the Seahawks, Tate has seen cornerback Richard Sherman up close — and has developed a healthy respect for him.
Though Sherman has had his share of media attention, he’s also gotten some notice on social media, including a run-in with Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, about who is the better defender.
Tate is unequivocal on whom he favors.
“It’s just who Sherm is — Sherm backs up his talk. He’s the best corner in the league, I believe,” Tate said. “He goes out week in and week out and proves that. People are always going to try to talk about or criticize him because they’re another cornerback’s fan.
“Numbers don’t lie — this guy has been balling out for the last few years and you can’t say it’s because of the defense. He’s been doing his job making plays. That’s what makes some players great — system they’re in and they’re good at it. I’m team Richard Sherman — he’s a good guy too.”
Veteran center Dominic Raiola has been around through the winless season as well as a playoff appearance. He’s seen the ups and downs of the franchise but isn’t riding too high, especially with the disappointing finish last season.
“We’re happy where we’re at right now. We’re never going to be completely satisfied until we get to where we need to get to, whatever that may be,” he said. “We’re excited about where we’re at. We put together some good days.”
But with higher expectations on quarterback Matthew Stafford this season, Raiola expects him to make a jump this year.
“I’m really impressed with Stafford, how far he’s come with this offense because obviously he has the toughest job on the field,” Raiola said. “I’m proud of him, how he’s learned it and how he’s progressed.”
Just kicking it
After going through some turbulence in the first week, Freese and Tavecchio have picked up their games, helping Caldwell breathe easier. The kickers missed a couple of last-second attempts during drills but responded with some clutch field goals during Saturday’s scrimmage.
“They haven’t missed any (kicks) lately. They’re doing a great job, I think,” Caldwell said. “They’re working at it and they’re competitive guys. They love the challenge that’s presented to them and they’re doing a good job of battling out there with one another.”
Rookie linebacker Kyle Van Noy didn’t participate in the scrimmage, though no injury was noted by Caldwell.
… Receiver Kris Durham started with the first group with Calvin Johnson out of the lineup.