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Decker vs. Ansah highlights Lions’ first day in pads

Justin Rogers, and James Hawkins
The Detroit News
Taylor Decker works during drills on Sunday.

Allen Park – Until the Lions get to the regular season, the next best thing will be the preseason contests. But until the team kicks off its exhibition slate, the closest thing to real football are the limited number of padded practices conducted through training camp.

The first such practice was Sunday, bringing with it the much-coveted physicality that makes the game so appealing to those who play it.

“(Riley Reiff) broke two facemasks today out there, so pretty rough day,” coach Jim Caldwell said.

The Lions players were allowed to unleash some pent up intensity during the session, although tackling remained off limits. Still, there were plenty of bodies hitting the ground, including rookie running back Dwayne Washington getting knocked down twice on one carry.

“There’s a difference between you go out to practice and there may be some contact or when there’s pads on,” Caldwell said. “It’s a little different kind of contact. So yeah, it does kind of spice things up a little bit in terms of the intensity.”

Of course, Washington wasn’t the rookie everyone wanted to see. That distinction belonged to offensive tackle Taylor Decker and he didn’t disappoint.

While Caldwell wasn’t able to break away from overseeing seven-on-seven work to get a first-hand look at the one-on-on matchup, the crowd of defensive and offensive linemen was joined by nearly every media member in attendance, seeking a close-up view of Decker going head-to-head with Pro Bowl defensive end Ezekiel Ansah.

On the first rep, Decker showed exceptional footwork, staying in front of the fearsome edge rusher as he tried to convert his speed rush to power by dipping back inside. On the second snap, Ansah took the prize, bending sharply around the edge on a wide rush and knocking down the tackling bag dangling from a chain that is supposed to symbolize a quarterback in the pocket.

The rest of the day, Decker didn’t stand out, which for an offensive lineman, is a good thing. If you’re going unnoticed up front, it means you’re doing your job.

The Lions will be back out of pads Monday, but are scheduled to get in a few more padded practices before the team opens the preseason against the Steelers Aug. 12.

Riddick sits out

Theo Riddick, who fully participated in the team’s first two practices, was sidelined Sunday with a minor undisclosed injury.

“He’s got a little bit of an injury but he’ll be OK,” Caldwell said. “Any time you don’t have someone out there, you’d like them to be out there working, but he’ll be all right.”

Second-year back Ameer Abdullah continued taking first-team reps in the backfield and remained in a red no-contact jersey for the third consecutive day as he works his way back from offseason shoulder surgery.

Receiver Ryan Spadola also didn’t practice due to injury.