Golden Tate, Lions work to pick up offense

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Everything is still a bit of learning for Golden Tate. He’s in a new city with a new coaching staff and a new offense.

He’s missed time to go to the White House to be honored with his former Seattle teammates and also at least part of the past week of Detroit Lions practice due to a sore shoulder. So the wide receiver, the team’s biggest free-agent acquisition this offseason, is still in the process of picking everything up as he adjusts to his new life.

And considering his time away to meet President Barack Obama and the injury, he’s doing pretty well with it.

“I think I understand the majority of the material. I think I understand the concepts. I’d say around 70, 80 percent,” Tate said. “The last 30 will really be understanding how to run their routes and how it’s supposed to be executed.”

Tate has spent practices where he's run routes without wearing a helmet and bothering the coaches after plays to help explain things to him so he can learn even while he’s on the sidelines. This isn’t uncommon, but it's part of him pushing forward from his current 70-80 percent understanding rate.

When that comes is unknown, although it’ll almost definitely be before the end of the first week of training camp when the Lions reconvene this summer to actually prepare for the season. This has been the commonplace answer when it comes to Detroit’s new offense and somewhat commonplace among the team’s skill position players.

There’s a lot there to learn, from positioning to phrasing. The combination of having to forget what they once knew by rote will take time, especially when it is being replaced by similar things with different names.

It’s something the Lions' quarterback, Matthew Stafford, had issues with early during the offseason workouts. Even offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi admitted to sometimes forgetting exactly what he was calling because he was so ingrained in what New Orleans, his former team, used to call everything.

And the Lions, even though they are using a lot of the things the Saints have done, will absolutely use different terms.

“You know, there’s a time where I’m calling a play and I’m like, ‘Dang it, that’s not what we call it anymore,’" Lombardi said. “We’re all dealing with that a little bit, but that just comes with reps and time.

“By the time we hit August it’s going to be second-nature to everybody. It’s a bigger issue in May than it’s going to be in July, August and certainly September.”

Even though it is taking time to learn and even though Tate hasn’t been out there, what he has seen thus far has been on the same level as what he expected when he signed his contract in March. He likes the pacing. He likes the personnel.

It’s just getting everything down.

“This is a very, very fast-paced offense. I’m having fun,” Tate said. “I’m still trying to learn the plays to running those routes where Coach Lombardi wants them. It’s another challenge and I think I respond well to challenges.

“I’m just trying to get as good as I can in this offense so once late July comes, early August, it’s not really that learning process.”

He and the rest of the offense are all doing that together.