ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Tim Wright could have been cutting hair on Wednesday. It's what he has done for years now and what he has been up to over the past year after injuring his knee in Detroit Lions spring workouts. He finalized opening up his barber shop in New Jersey, and in between workouts he had been making people look pretty.
Then came this week, when Wright showed up in Detroit, worked out for his old team and found himself on the field Wednesday morning, once again back in the NFL with the Lions, trying to win a job. It had been a long process for Wright, who rehabbed in Jersey and continuously put his workouts on Instagram for the world to see his progress.
He doesn’t know if the Lions were tracking that, but they brought him in, he did well and they signed him. Wright suffered a torn ACL during spring workouts with the Lions last year. After being cut and then placed on injured reserve, he spent the entire season there before becoming a free agent at the new league year. He said a couple of teams were interested, but nothing ever manifested. Then it did with the Lions, who stayed in touch with Wright’s agents during the process.
“I don’t know, man,” Wright said. “I just know everybody, it’s a social-media world, you know what I mean. I’m sure you guys are about to put stuff on Twitter, Instagram, stuff like that. That’s what the NFL and most leagues are now, and I used it to my advantage a lot for people to see what I was doing and how I felt and I’m here now.”
And it looked as if Wright had never left. He got a lot of work in his first day on the field, from playing on special teams on the field-goal unit to getting some first-team looks with Matthew Stafford and the rest of the offense.
“I know what to expect,” Wright said. “I know how to pick up where I left off.”
Wright said the offense hasn’t changed much from when he was injured last spring, so he was able to slide back into action immediately. That’ll be important as he tries to make a push for a roster spot at a crowded position with Eric Ebron, Darren Fells and Michael Roberts probably holding on to roster spots. That means there would be room for possibly one more tight end -- a competition with Cole Wick and Khari Lee. But clearly the Lions are going to give Wright a chance considering he spent his first day back catching passes from Stafford.
Some other thoughts and observations from a morning Lions practice before the team heads to joint workouts in Indianapolis:
1. Greg Robinson’s day: The former first-round pick got a lot of work with the No. 1 offense on Wednesday, perhaps a sign that he’s picking up the playbook better and pushing Cyrus Kouandjio to be the starting left tackle. This probably will be determined by how Kouandjio and Robinson fare in the first three preseason games, but it’s the first time I can remember in camp where Robinson has taken work before Kouandjio unless Kouandjio has been injured. It’s tough to gauge how he’s really doing in camp when contact is somewhat limited, so practices against the Colts and then Sunday’s preseason game should give Detroit an early barometer on both players. For Stafford’s sake, he better hope one emerges as at least an average option.
2. Alex Barrett continues to be a name to watch: Yes, the Lions have injuries at defensive end, which could be pushing Barrett up the depth chart, but the undrafted free agent from San Diego State is starting to make an impression. He got first-team reps opposite Kerry Hyder on Wednesday -- although I didn’t see Anthony Zettel do many, if any, team drills -- and handled himself well in the process. Lions coach Jim Caldwell said Barrett is “relentless.” It still could be a tough road to a roster spot for him, but he is at least playing his way into contention. At 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, he’s undersized for the position, but his speed helps him as he’s trying to get around the edge. He is one of five players to pay the most attention to during the first two preseason games because if he plays well there, he could have a real shot.
3. Charles Washington could be a surprise candidate, too: The safety from Fresno State continues to be on the field before some established veterans and other safeties. When he’s out there, he’s usually around the ball, too. He made a big play Wednesday during 11-on-11 drills, running under a tipped ball by cornerback Johnson Bademosi to pick off Jake Rudock. Washington has been one of those players who hasn’t made a bunch of flashy plays during training camp but it always seems like he’s around. He also has taken reps on the first-team kick coverage, a sign he’s getting a real look on special teams, too. He’s another player, like Barrett, who could make things interesting on the Lions with some good preseason performances. He seems to be well-liked among his teammates, too, often pestering them during interviews. So the personality is there.
This and that
Caldwell won’t say what has kept running back Mike James out of practice, other than it is not a personal reason. ... The Lions got Cornelius Washington, T.J. Lang and Brandon Copeland back to practice Wednesday, but Ebron and Theo Riddick sat out. ... Speaking of Copeland, he’s making a real push to be the team’s starting SAM linebacker. That he offers positional flexibility as a defensive end, too, makes him valuable for roster flexibility and perhaps being able to keep an extra player at another position. ... The Lions will spend the next two days practicing with the Colts before Sunday’s preseason opener.