Allen Park — The Lions began organized team activities Tuesday with plenty of new faces, but perhaps the best sign was the returning players felt more comfortable in Year 2 of the staff's scheme.
With coach Jim Caldwell, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, Lions players still were trying to learn on the fly last May in the final phase of the offseason program. Now, backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky said players can spend less time proving their comprehension and focus on performing at a high level.
"I think we all are significantly more comfortable," Orlovsky said after the first of 10 scheduled sessions. "I think you'll see that with (quarterback Matthew Stafford) a lot. There's just so much more of a grasp, a confidence. That's a big thing. It's hard at our position to demand things out of guys or express things to guys when you're not fully believing or confident in it yourself because you're learning it."
The Lions will hold voluntary OTAs through Thursday this week and Tuesday-Thursday next week as well as June 8-11. Mandatory minicamp follows June 16-18.
Strong safety James Ihedigbo reported despite his contract dispute, and linebacker Stephen Tulloch, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament last September, was a full participant on Day 1.
With Caldwell taking over last season, the Lions underwent a schematic overhaul after spending the previous five seasons under Jim Schwartz.
Orlovsky said players were commenting this week on how much the team improved its grasp of the playbook compared to the end of last season. Having a chance to watch film during the offseason helped improve their knowledge of the system, too.
Caldwell's message to players was to play with high intensity, according to linebacker Jerrell Harris.
"Definitely not looking for it to be perfect on the first day, but just want to show good effort and understanding of the defense," Harris said.
Because many players have been at headquarters working out the past month, they were glad to have a chance to return to the field.
"You go through such a long time of working out, it's nice to get back to football and doing football and practicing instead of just going to run and push weight and stuff," Orlovsky said. "It's nice to get back out there."