Lions players appreciate the help

Detroit's active offseason has infused a new level of urgency among players, center Dominic Raiola told local reporters Thursday.

"I think it's very encouraging," Raiola said. "What they're doing upstairs is showing us they're going to make a push to win right now. We realize it's only the middle of March. But we in the locker room feel the importance of the moves they've made. I guess it's more urgent with the kinds of moves they've made. Not moves that are geared toward the future. They're geared toward right now."

Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, receiver Nate Burleson, defensive tackle Corey Williams and backup quarterback Shaun Hill have all added credibility at their respective positions. Is that improvement enough to challenge for an NFC North division title?

Maybe not in 2009. But, receiver Calvin Johnson said, players feel confident in franchise's direction.

"If we have a good draft and start putting pieces together, little by little [we'll get there]," Johnson said. "Yes, you want to win the Super Bowl every year. But you've got to take baby steps first."

Johnson, meanwhile, said he spent the early part of his offseason working out with a personal trainer to improve the strength around his knees. The exercises were an attempt to avoid what Johnson termed "nagging" injuries that plagued him in 2009.

"The big thing for me this year is to stay healthy," Johnson said.