Okay, a summary and some details of my day at the first open practice.
First, the entire experience has been changed, and almost all of it is better, imo. Instead of the port-a-jons just being at the entrance to the practice field they were spread out all over the public access areas. So too were the bleachers. And upon entry, the cheerleaders. Also retail shops, food trucks, and there was more games too at more then one location. There was a lot less seating on the east side and a lot more seating on the west side of the practice areas. Enough to hold all who want to show up, no one was or will be turned away (unless they try to bring in stuff they aren't supposed to). They had real shuttle buses to the parking areas, not just mostly missing golf cart driving ladies. They even changed the practice jersey's. Every since watching Barry Sanders practice in Saginaw the practice jersey's had a number only on them. This year, first time, the name was also on the back above the number. So much easier not having to look in my printouts to see who is doing what (usually after the day is over).
Second, the practice area is still 3 football fields. Two side by side, one edge-wise at the north end of the first two. I sat on the west side facing out over all 3 fields towards the inside practice building and offices of the Allen Park facility (see pics).
Now, as you can see, it is no easy task watching things on the far fields. The actual practice has the players all over both ends of all three fields. It's completely and utterly impossible to watch all of things happening. The best you can do is watch what's in front and occasionally check out some of the stuff further out.
At the end of practice a few players and others went to the fences on the west, south, and east sides of the fields to sign autographs. My granddaughter got signatures from LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin & C Leo Koloamatangi, then after heading out got one more, from the head coach himself.
The whole thing was about 35 minutes of checking out the exhibits, shops, food and games... then about 1 hour and 50 minutes of actual practice, then about 40 minutes of autographs. Now some notes I took....
The first part of practices usually involve position groups doing some fundamental practice of one kind or another, before things pick up into 7 on 7s and 9 on 9s and so on. So positiuon groups practice notes...
An example of how hard it is to know what they are working on (aside from the distances involved and the multiple things going on)... one of the first things in front of me was a number of wide receivers trying to get out of being double teamed... or was it a bunch of DBs practicing how to double team a single wide receiver? Or was it both at the same time? I watched the whole thing, I can not tell you which it is.
At first I noted Quin and Slay without helmets inbetween two groups basically throwing high balls up for some kind of self practice (interceptions/hands stuff). The whole while they were doing it, about 6 or 7 minutes, Slay was basically jogging in place, Quin was not moving as much.
Most of the guys who are supposedly hurt were either not dressed or dressed but without helmets. Not yet sure if there was a rhyme or reason to it.
Next practice I caught was with all 3 QBs doing a 3 step drop, a lateral move to either direction, then making a 30 yard(ish) throw. I'll just say this part right now instead of repeating it a hundred times... #14 Ruduck appeared to me to be less productive then #8 Kaaya, and #9 Stafford was better then either by miles and miles. But I already know that most won't care how well he or they practice, only how well they play. So I really didn't watch the QBs so much as the rest of the team in this practice.
Next up in front of me were various WR practices, with lots of fundamentals and route tree practices. The ball was thrown by a coach, no QBs near me for any of it, and there was a lot of it. Each WR went through the practice no matter what it was, then a different practice with them would start, 1 snap per WR for each set. I noted that Billingsley appeared to be one of the shortest WRs of the corp. That Golladay one of the tallest, and when running, one of the smoothest. He has long legs and strides really fast. Reminds me of a certain recently retired Lion WR (as far as height and speed goes, no other comparison intended). I say that because as I was noting these things down they ran a set with the WRs high stepping through a rope like ladder layed out on the ground, then after about 12 steps they had to cut left sharply. The only WR to not make that catch was Golladay. I'll probably mention a couple of other drops by others later, but for the most part, there really wasn't that many drops during the entire practice.
During these WR sets every once in awhile Tate III would motion for a fan to throw their personal football out to him on the field, the fan would, then Tate would throw it back, then he'd get back in line for the next set. He was the only player to really interact with fans during practices. Not sure if he'll be called out on it, but that's the kind of stuff he's done every year since the first year he played in Detroit. He's just a really cool player not afraid of the fans and likes to interact with them.
Eventually I realized, that unlike past years when there was no rhyme or reason to the order in which players would run a set, that every practice set had the guys go out in the exact same order. First WR would be Tate, Second would be Jones Jr, Third would be TJ Jones, Fourth would be Billingsley, and Fifth would be Golladay. Every set. All 8 or 10 or 12 of them, however many there were. I didn't write down the rest of the order because by the 5th dude I realized it wasn't a depth chart kind of thing, nor a seniority kind of thing, nor a salary kind of thing, in fact, I have no idea what criteria they used to set the order... I just know they followed that order every set.
Oh, I had made a note at this point that the 2 camera platforms that had been used for the past 19 years of practices were not present, instead were 3 camera poles... with a base station. I got a look inside one of the stations, there was like two 25" tv monitor inside for the camera man to use and a means of directing the cameras on the poles to cover whichever field or part of the field they needed to cover. Looked like hi-def and definitely hi-tech stuff. Other then the portable goal post system, and the one net to catch field goal tries, the camera poles were the tallest objects on the south, east and west sides. The north side has a lot of light poles to light that field for late practices. In this pic is some of the south side objects including one of the camera poles.
For a while I had seen #2 (Redfern) out running 60 or more yards with no helmet (and he's pretty fast too). Later though, I saw him with a helmet on holding for Prater.
I had made a note about there being a come back route set for the WRs, probably because it always upset me the Lions rarely ever use the come back route but they did practice that set with all the WRs this first day out.
I also noted that there was a missed catch in one set but it wasn't a drop, #8 threw it too high. This caused the whole set to be stopped, some coaching was done, then the set continued. First time, only time, I saw that. This was (obviously) after the coaches stopped throwing the balls and the QBs joined in to do the throwing.
Later #8 throw another ball a bit high, but #11 Marvin Jones Jr made a great one handed grab. Shortly after that, not sure who threw it, but Golladay made a great two handed grab on a high ball. Most players wouldn't have been able to reach high enough to get two hands on the ball that play. And later yet Billingsley had a drop, the ball appeared to me to be on target.
That was pretty much it for drops or missed catches but I didn't see all the plays for all the practices obviously. I noted there was a slot route practice for WRs, RBs, and TEs but it was way across the field, so like 130 yards away or so.
All three QBs and various players did a drill of lining up and throwing for several plays then doing a spike to stop the clock. QB #14 either messed it up or the OL did and that series was interrupted.
My notes say that #2 had his helmet on and kicked a 33 yard field goal that not only cleared the goal posts but nearly cleared the net beyond it. Heck of a leg. Later, Prater made a 60 yarder after doing mostly 40 yarders all practice.
Next I noted to myself that #14 needs a lot of work. Not sure what he did to make me write that down.
As the temp hit 88 degrees towards 5pm I realized why these first 3 days were all set to start at 3:30pm... to get the team out in the hottest part of the day. There's no 2-a-days any more, no stamina practices or grueling all day stuff. So coach is using the sun.
Next was the 9 on 9 and 7 on 7 stuff. All of that was done on the east side, in front of the VIP tent, so hard for us non-season-ticket-holders to see clearly. I did notice something new there though. There was a portable stand with about 4 steps up to the landing that was located about 20 yards behind the QBs... on it was a camera man with a portable camera filming the entire set or sets of plays. Never saw a portable stand out on the field before for more film... and I assume it will be used to see who needs what fundamental stuff after watching 9 on 9s. Oh, and the 9 on 9 had refs, with whistles, and down markers on the sidelines. The whole thing.
#87, Fells, is a big boy, easy to see even at 90 yards away.
#38, Tion Green, also flashed a couple of times, caught my untrained eye more then once.
The last practice I caught appeared to be a 1 or 2 minute drill that was to end in a field goal. While they did take the portable field goalposts down there to do this series, the net was not there, the ball would nearly hit the port-a-jons on the SE corner of the spectator area.
All in all, an interesting day, lots of new stuff never seen at a Lions practice before.