ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions are once again navigating the loss of a significant player, and the dark irony is that their greatest asset in such pursuits is experience.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford was lost before halftime in Week 1 last season to a shoulder injury. The same thing happened to cornerback Aaron Berry, a surprise starter as a nickelback. In the wake of tailback Mikel LeShoure's torn Achilles tendon, receiver Nate Burleson reminded teammates that he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in Week 1 of the 2008 season while playing for the Seattle Seahawks. Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch missed 13 games of his rookie season with the Arizona Cardinals and all of his third season because of injuries.
So coach Jim Schwartz had an easy answer on Tuesday when I asked how he would combat the kind of "woe is us" response that could naturally result from LeShoure's injury.
"We've been though that with a lot of different players," Schwartz said, "and we have a lot of players on our team who have been through stuff like that."
If there was a silver lining to the timing of LeShoure's injury, it's that it came during the experimentation of the Lions' offensive scheme. We have all assumed the Lions planned some sort of one-two combination between LeShoure and starter Jahvid Best, but Schwartz said: "I don't know that we had mapped it out that much, anyway."
No doubt repeating the message he gave his team, Schwartz emphasized what we discussed Monday: While the loss will impact the offense, it's not as if the team has been left barren.
"That's one of the reasons you go through the preseason," Schwartz said. "It's to find things that guys can do and how you're going to use them and the best way to utilize that talent. It's not like we don't have other good players on offense and it's not like our plans have been dashed because of this.
"[LeShoure] was going to be an important part. He was doing very, very well, not just physically but mentally for a rookie. But we still have a lot of time and we still have a lot of good players."
At the same time, I think the Lions really missed out by not convincing free agent tailback Ricky Williams to sign Tuesday. Schwartz acknowledged the Lions had interest and said "there were other names, too," but in the end the Lions had veterans Mike Bell and Jerome Harrison on the field for practice.
Williams' hard-charging style would have complemented Best much in the way LeShoure was going to, but he chose to sign with the Baltimore Ravens instead. I wouldn't be surprised if the Lions continue to scan the market for other possibilities as the preseason rolls on.
A couple of notes from the Lions' indoor practice in helmets and shorts:
Offensive lineman Jason Fox returned with relatively good news from a visit with a North Carolina foot specialist. He does not have a fracture and won't need surgery. Instead, he will be immobilized in a cast for a period of time and then begin rehabilitation.
Receiver Titus Young (leg) was again held out of practice and was walking on the sideline with an obvious limp. There is no sense on speculating how long it will take him to recover, but it doesn't look like it will be anytime soon. For now, the Lions can't expect a contribution from any of their top three draft choices.
I spent some time watching Berry, especially after hearing so much about him despite very limited practice and game time last season. In one instance, at least, Berry covered receiver Calvin Johnson as well as could possibly be expected. He was physical, remained stride-for-stride and forced Johnson to make an extraordinarily difficult catch on the sideline.
In nickel packages that I saw, the Lions were inserting Brandon McDonald and removing linebacker Stephen Tulloch. While Tulloch was in the middle during first-team drills, Schwartz said it is likely he will rotate between the middle and the outside during the preseason. Tulloch made a nice play during positional drills to knock a pass away from Best.