Lions expect smooth transition to Swanson at center

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Allen Park — After a few miscues in training camp and the exhibition season, Lions rookie center Travis Swanson hasn't fumbled a snap in practice in about four months.

Completing the center-to-quarterback exchange in practice, though, is a much different beast than doing it on a cold Sunday in December in Green Bay with a division title on the line. But Swanson is looking forward to making his first career start at center Sunday in the Lions' biggest regular season game since the turn of the century.

"You can't ask for more," he said Thursday. "Honestly, you can't ask for anything better."

Swanson will make the start Sunday with 14-year veteran Dominic Raiola suspended one game for stomping on Bears defensive tackle Ego Ferguson's ankle last Sunday. The Lions drafted Swanson in the third round of May's draft as the heir apparent to Raiola after he started 50 games at center for Arkansas, but he's also proven he can play guard, starting three games for left guard Larry Warford earlier this season.

"It's a bad thing to lose Dom for a week given his situation, but I'm going to prepare like I've prepared this entire year, like I did in college, just so I can do as much as I can so I can help this team win on Sunday," Swanson said.

And Lions players have plenty of confidence in Swanson, despite the circumstances.

"We haven't missed a step this week so far," left guard Rob Sims said.

Because of Raiola's veteran status — he's started 203 games — he's given opportunities to rest in practice. Swanson fills for the first-team reps when Raiola sits, so snapping with Stafford won't be anything new.

In the offseason, Swanson had to snap to four quarterbacks, but now that he's mostly snapping to Stafford and backup Dan Orlovsky, he said the chemistry has improved greatly.

"He'll be fine, man," Orlovsky said. "Swanny's a good player, and he's easy to take snaps from, which people overlook as not important. It's a big deal when playing quarterback when you can put your hands under somebody — I know that sounds a little graphic — and not have to think about it. When you have to put your hands down there and think about it, you don't think about so many other things, and we have enough to think about."