ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- They've been absent throughout the offseason. While the organized team activity programs for the Detroit Lions have been voluntary to this point, that changes Tuesday.
With cornerback Darius Slay and defensive tackle Damon Harrison not going to minicamp as they fight for new contracts, it’ll likely mean a fine for both players. And while it doesn’t look great, optically, for the organization, it shouldn’t hurt Detroit much at this point. The players, while they are forfeiting their money and are subject to fines, are doing this to try and benefit themselves further down the road and considering what they have already done in the league, that they aren’t there isn’t as big of a deal as a young player or new free agent skipping the minicamp.
In reality, neither player needs the OTA program that much this year. Both are veterans who are among the best in the league at their positions. They are also coming into another year in the same system, unlike the Lions' offense, which is being installed for the first time under new coordinator Darrell Bevell.
That the players have not shown up so far will not be a big deal in terms of on-field performance as long as they are ready to go once training camp starts in July. But in a portion of the year when not much is going on, barring injuries, whether two of Detroit's top defensive players appear qualifies as a storyline worth watching.
With that in mind, here are some others:
Will the number of players rehabbing get smaller? The Lions, at least during open OTAs, had a decent number of key players working on the side instead of participating in the majority of practice. That includes both of the starting receivers, Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. Trey Flowers, the Lions' biggest free-agency acquisition this offseason, was also in that group. Being able to see all three, if they are healthy enough, work with the first units in minicamp would probably benefit Detroit as it prepares for camp.
It would make more sense for Golladay and Jones to get first-team work due to the new offense. Even a few reps here and there can give the Lions a better picture of what they have, even though the football this time of year doesn't always provide a true picture of what's to come in the fall.
How do the corners shake out if Slay shows up? One of the Lions' biggest questions entering training camp will be who plays opposite Slay now that Nevin Lawson is with the Raiders. The Lions signed Rashaan Melvin and have given Teez Tabor, the former second-round pick, a lot of reps. when Slay returns, theoretically in training camp, which of those players gets the No. 1 reps first? Does Tabor start to show the promise Bob Quinn saw on tape before he drafted him in 2017, or does he continue to struggle? It's tough to say what's going on with any player this early, but there have been some encouraging plays from Tabor in the open workouts. He has to build on it, though. Detroit’s cornerback depth is also something to pay attention to.
How much work does T.J. Hockenson get? The first-round pick has worked in a rotation at tight end thus far. That's a departure from the first-round picks before him -- Taylor Decker, Jarrad Davis and Frank Ragnow -- all of whom received all the No. 1 reps from the start. Detroit has a little more depth at tight end than it did in those other situations, and the position is a harder one to learn. But don't be surprised if Hockenson starts to push his way into more work with the first offense as minicamps go along.
Similarly, where do the Lions deploy Davis? Davis has been an intriguing player this offseason. He's in incredible shape and is a player the Lions seem to want to move around based on his role last season. That Jahlani Tavai, the team's second-round pick, got work with the No. 1 defense in OTAs suggests that the Lions are experimenting with ways to use Davis this season. This is the time to do it so they can spend training camp refining it. The Lions know what they have in Davis. The question is, "How much more can he do?"
Does Tom Savage continue to distance himself? The veteran backup quarterback has shown off a strong arm in open OTAs, and it looks like he could beat Connor Cook as Matthew Stafford's primary backup this fall. This is one of those smaller position battles the Lions hope never matters, but the three-day minicamp could give Savage even more of an edge heading into camp.