Camp observations: Lions take kid-gloves approach with Riddick
Allen Park — Here are some notes and observations from the first day of Detroit Lions training camp.
■ Theo Riddick was a full participant in his first practice of the offseason, but the shifty running back with a knack for making tacklers miss in the open field was the only non-quarterback in a red, no-contact jersey. This is an understandably cautious approach for a player coming back from wrist surgery. You may remember, the Lions had Ameer Abdullah in a red jersey much of last offseason, when returning from shoulder surgery.
■ Also back after missing the early portion of the offseason program was linebacker Tahir Whitehead. He slid into the starting weak side linebacker next to rookie Jarrad Davis, as had been expected. Whitehead and Davis also appear to be the team’s linebacking tandem of choice in their nickel package.
■ Three Lions, not already on the physically unable to perform or non-football injury list, missed Sunday’s practice. Offensive tackle Tony Hills, defensive lineman Bruce Gaston and safety Charles Washington didn’t participate.
■ Offensive tackle Greg Robinson might be the front-runner to fill in for injured starter Taylor Decker, but Robinson wasn’t quite ready to participate in the team portions of practice. Cyrus Kouandjio got the first crack at working with the first team, and although it’s difficult to make assessments in a pad-less practice, the recent addition appeared to be moving well after offseason hip surgery. As for Robinson, coach Jim Caldwell intimated that he’s close to working in team portions of practice.
■ Tight end Eric Ebron left practice early with what Caldwell believed was a hamstring strain.
■ In one-on-one drills, undrafted rookie tight end Robert Tonyan looked sharp, getting separation on a deep in route against second-round pick Teez Tabor and following it up by besting Adairius Barnes for a catch on an out route.
■ Tabor had a hit-and-miss session, blanketing veteran Keshawn Martin on a short route to the boundary, but allowing undrafted rookie Michael Rector to blow past him on a go route that should have been a touchdown had the receiver not dropped the well-placed ball from backup quarterback Jake Rudock.
■ Speaking of drops, there were way too many, even for a first day. That was something Caldwell noted after the session. The Lions really struggled in that department last year and has been a point of emphasis this offseason.
■ It wasn’t just the offense dropping passes. Cornerback Darius Slay undercut a deep ball intended for Marvin Jones with Nevin Lawson in coverage. The throw hit Slay in the chest, but he couldn’t come down with it.
■ Alex Carter, making the transition from cornerback to safety, had better luck. On an underthrown deep ball to Jared Abbrederis, Carter got into position and outmuscled the receiver for the 50-50 ball.
■ Linebacker Steve Longa also came up with an interception, snagging a tipped pass in seven-on-seven work.
■ Lions owner Martha Ford was in attendance and warmly welcomed by fans as she was driven around the practice field in a custom golf cart. One fan shouted, “We love you, Martha.”