Friday, July 23, 2004
Millen: George not for Detroit
By Mike O'Hara / The Detroit News
ALLEN PARK — Eddie George might have enough yards left in his legs to be an effective tailback in the NFL, but he won’t get to prove it in Detroit.
The Lions are committed to using young tailbacks to upgrade a running game that was the league’s worst in 2003. Signing George, released Wednesday by the Titans, does not fit in their plans.
“Not with our running-back situation,” Lions President Matt Millen said Thursday. “We’re pretty comfortable with where we are.”
The Lions ranked 32nd in the league last year. That was not a one-season fluke. They were 29th in 2002 and 28th in ’01. They have released James Stewart, who missed all of last season because of a dislocated shoulder suffered in the last exhibition game.
Until someone takes command of the position, Coach Steve Mariucci will have a tailback-by-committee approach, with the emphasis on new players. Rookie Kevin Jones, a first-round draft pick from Virginia Tech, and second-year back Artose Pinner figure prominently in 2004. Shawn Bryson, who started 13 games last year and led the team with 606 yards, will provide veteran depth. Olandis Gary also will compete for a roster spot.
George turns 31 on Sept. 24. He did not miss a game in eight seasons with the Titans. Last year, he gained 1,031 yards and averaged 3.3 yards per carry.
On Thursday, the Titans signed Antowain Smith, who had been released by the New England Patriots, to a one-year contract.
George is scheduled to visit the Cowboys today.
Tom Lewand, the Lions’ chief operating officer and lead negotiator on player contracts, expressed optimism again that the logjam on negotiations with rookies will break with training camps about to open. As of Thursday, three first-round picks had signed contracts or agreed to terms.
Linebacker Jason Babin of Western Michigan, drafted 27th overall by Houston, and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork of Miami (Fla.), taken 21st by New England, have signed. Wide receiver Michael Clayton of Louisiana State, drafted 15th by Tampa Bay, had agreed to terms.
The Lions’ six draft picks report Sunday. On Monday, they will begin a four-day orientation and training program. All players report Friday and begin double practices the next day.
“I would expect that the pace would pick up here over the next few days and we would have some things to announce, probably the early part of the week leading to the reporting date Friday,” Lewand said.
Rookies can take part in the orientation program before signing, but no player can participate in training camp without a contract.
Material from personal interviews, other beat writers and Detroit News wire services was used in this report. You can reach Mike O’Hara at (313) 982-3810 or (313) 222-1488.