Lions' Caldwell thrilled for pair's Hall of Fame induction

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Jim Caldwell was beaming with pride Saturday, looking forward to the Hall of Fame inductions later in the day.

Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell watches over his team during the first day of training camp.

Tony Dungy and Marvin Harrison, two men who Caldwell worked closely with while with the Indianapolis Colts, are part of the 2016 class to be inducted into the pro football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Caldwell was planning on leaving for Canton directly after Saturday’s practice to see the inductions.

Last year, former Colts executive Bill Polian was inducted.

“It’s been two years in a row now that I’ve had a chance to go down and see Bill Polian inducted, and it certainly was quite a moving experience, and now I have an opportunity to see both Tony and Marvin go in on the same evening,” Caldwell said. “Two guys who I think have had a tremendous impact on our game, and on me personally.”

Dungy, a Jackson native, hired Caldwell in 2001 as the quarterbacks coach when Dungy was head coach in Tampa Bay.

When Dungy left for Indianapolis the following year, Caldwell went along, spending the next seven years as the quarterbacks coach with the Colts – a span involving coaching Peyton Manning.

Caldwell rose to become Dungy’s assistant head coach, and took over the head coach position after the 2008 season after Dungy retired.

Jackson native Dungy enters Hall of Fame

“Tony, I think we all know that he’s certainly been impactful in so many different areas in our business on every level,” Caldwell said. “Obviously an author, a commentator on television, a great father, and he’s done some tremendous things with ‘All Pro Dad’ and alike, but also he’s had an impact on our league.”

Caldwell, Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers), and former NFL coach Lovie Smith all have been a part of Dungy coaching staffs.

“Certainly, we all benefitted from his tutelage, so yes, it’s going to be great to see him go on and great to see a number of the guys that were there with us during the time that Marvin was there and then we were there with Tony, so it should be a lot of fun.”

Lions' Ebron carted off field during team's mock game

Harrison caught 1,102 passes for 14,580 yards (13.2 yard average) and 128 touchdowns, all with the Colts when Caldwell was part of the coaching staff.

Caldwell felt Harrison’s work ethic in practice led to the receiver's success.

“Marvin is a great player who, without a question, was one of the great practice players, but also one of the great players in the games as well,” Caldwell said. “That’s usually why he played so well, because we saw probably better catches in practice than he ever made in games, and he made some great ones in games.

“Always in tip-top shape, a constant professional, great competitor. It’s great that he’s going in, and well-deserved.”

Also included the 2016 class are:  quarterback Brett Favre, linebacker/defensive end Kevin Greene, offensive tackle Orlando Pace, quarterback Ken Stabler, guard Dick Stanfel, and owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr.

Run through

Saturday’s Family Day at Ford Field was the final open practice of training camp, before the Lions travel to Pittsburgh Monday evening for practices against the Steelers (and the first exhibition game later in the week).

Caldwell felt Saturday’s mock game-day experience was a valuable tool for the Lions.

“We get an opportunity for a lot of guys who have not had an opportunity to play here in the stadium to get a feel for it,” Caldwell said.

Substitutions, getting players acclimated to Ford Field, and getting the correct offensive and defensive packages on the field were stressed.

“Big thing is that we get our substitutions right, our focus right just in terms of in and bout, offense, defense, kicking game,” Caldwell said. “Also, just game situations. They’re going to change and we have to be able to adjust.”

The players were in shoulder pads but no tackling was involved.

Caldwell felt the experience in front of playing in front of a crowd was also beneficial.

“Just in terms of where we are in this point of the preseasons, often times things can get a little mundane,” Caldwell said. “Having an opportunity to come out and in front of the fans is a great time for the guys. It does bring some energy.”

Going to Pittsburgh and getting a chance to practice against the Steelers is also a benefit.

“Having an opportunity to play and practice against a really good football team, it’s like a road trip for us and we’re going to have a few of those this season,” Caldwell said.

Lee excels

Free agent wide receiver Jay Lee stood out during the mock game.

The 6-foot-2, 211-pound Lee caught five passes, including a touchdown.

“Obviously, it’s against our guys and we’ve been going against them for two or three weeks now,” Lee said. “It’s a good feeling going into Pittsburgh, the first preseason game, and getting that under our belts.

“I think I did pretty well. There are a lot of things I still have to go out and fix as far as what I’m doing on the field, but I think I did pretty well today.”

No contact

Running back Ameer Abdullah continued to wear the red no-contact jersey and it doesn’t appear that will change heading into Pittsburgh.

Abdullah had offseason shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum.

“He won’t be out of that red jersey today, I can tell you that,” Caldwell said. “But we’ll see. He’s coming along.
“We won’t change in terms of our protocol to make certain that he’s in great health when we finish. If it looks like if he might not be where we want him, then we certainly won’t let him participate either.”