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NFL Owners Meetings: What stood out and what intrigued?

Posted Mar 20, 2013

Detroitlions.com writers Tim Twentyman and Mike O'Hara recap the NFL Owners Meetings, including what players they think will be back in Detroit, offensive line personnel and rule changes

PHOENIX – It might be because of the time change or the weather change, but this week's Wednesday breakfast has turned into lunch – but chewing on fresh material at the annual NFL owners meetings.

GM Martin Mayhew and President Tom Lewand addressed the Detroit media in separate sessions. What stood out for you?

Mike: Two things for me. One was that it's almost certain that linebacker Justin Durant won't be back. And the second is that I'm wondering more and more if Jason Hanson will be back for a 22nd season. The Lions have turnover at linebacker, leaving Durant without a job.

There is no influx of talent at kicker – yet. Hanson wants to play another season, but agent Jack Mills insists Hanson won't play for the veteran minimum of $940,000 on a one-year deal. The Lions could look to get a young kicker and let him begin his career at a cheaper price than they'd have to pay Hanson.

What's rocked you, besides the weather and my company for three days?

Tim: The weather certainly does rock, Mike.

I agree with you about Durant from the Mayhew interview on Monday, but I'd maybe add in there a bit of an apprehensive quote when he was asked about the offensive line.

"I guess as confident as it would be prudent to be," he said when asked about the group that will include some younger and more inexperienced faces in 2013.

And the fact that they still don't seem to have a defined role in mind for last year's first-round pick, Riley Reiff.

Riley Reiff
T Riley Reiff (Photo: AP Images)

"It's great he can play so many positions," Mayhew said. "On the other hand, it's really causing a problem because he probably wants to know where he plays more than anybody else so he can start preparing himself mentally for that. I guess we'll have to wait and see."

We'll have to see how all of that shakes out over the next few months. The Lions would like Hanson back but they also want to improve their touchback percentage of 34.5 last season (ranked 27th in NFL) and continue to function comfortably under the cap. It appears if Hanson wants too much money, the team is ready to move on.

We got a chance to talk to the AFC coaches Tuesday morning over breakfast, anything stand out?

Mike: I wanted to hear what Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said about Reggie Bush, and Philbin's comments should hearten Lions fans. There's no doubt that, to outsiders and casual fans, Bush is a celebrity. But on the practice field and in the locker room, he's a good player and a good teammate.

That's good news that Bush doesn't act like a prima donna. It also should be encouraging that Texans coach Gary Kubiak spoke so highly of Glover Quin, his former safety who signed with the Lions. He's durable and productive.

It also was interesting to hear Ravens coach John Harbaugh talk about his relationship with brother Jim. The Ravens beat Jim's 49ers team for the Super Bowl. That has not changed their relationship.

"There's never, ever, been a time when we're not competing," John Harbaugh said.

That included going down the giant slide at their hotel.

Up next Wednesday are the NFC coaches. What intrigues you about that session?

Tim: First, one quick observation on the AFC. Bill Belichick gave a lot of one-word answers, John Harbaugh seems like he'd be a hoot to cover from a media perspective and Andy Reid seemed much more relaxed now being in Kansas City.

Now to the NFC.

I think Lions fans would like to know a little bit more about new defensive end Jason Jones from Seattle head coach Pete Carroll.

I also want to hear what the three division opponents – Packers, Bears and Vikings – think of the Lions' offseason moves and how they view some of the new pieces in Honolulu blue.

I'd like to hear Jim Schwartz's thoughts on his new offensive line, too.

Mike: The offensive line is a puzzle, and there's no way to know right now which pieces will fit in which places.

The line was locked in place the last three seasons, with the same starters at all five positions. This year will be different. It's already guaranteed that there will be new players at left tackle, right guard and right tackle. Let the guessing game continue.

Some rules changes are coming up for vote on the last day of the meetings. The challenge flag issue, notoriously popular in Detroit, and enacting a rule on offensive players hitting with the crown of their helmets have gotten the most attention.

Both should pass easily, right?

Tim: Slam dunks, in my opinion.

The important thing should always be getting the call right and the challenge flag rule will pass. One of the oversights last year by the NFL brass.

I know some offensive players have been outspoken about the crown rule, but if they saw the footage the competition committee showed when talking about the rule change, they might feel different.

The rule doesn't say an offensive player can't lower his head to protect himself. They just can use it as a battering ram like they're trying to storm down the castle gate.

They basically want to get rid of the Earl Campbell play when he placed a devastating head butt to the chest of Los Angeles Rams all-pro linebacker Isaiah Robertson that leveled Robertson out of the game.

I think Jeff Fisher said it best when he said the rule is meant to bring the shoulder back into the game. Everyone should be for that.

Overall impressions of the trip, other than my driving, since you did bum a ride from me to the meetings every day.

Mike: The NFL is a slick, well run business, and there aren't many loose ends. The league covers all the details, large and small, and it's rare when something is overlooked.

The penalty in the challenge flag rule – when the Texans were given a touchdown by rule last year because coach Jim Schwartz threw an illegal flag – is one of those things where the ramifications were overlooked. They'll be corrected when the rule change passes.

Other than that, the overriding feeling is that it's good to see all the big names in management together once a year. You hear different viewpoints on how teams were built.

As for your driving, no comment until we're safely at the airport and I don't get stuck for a cab ride.

Tim: Good company. Good weather. And it's always good to get Martin Mayhew, Tom Lewand and Jim Schwartz all together over a three-day period directly after free agency starts and leading up to the draft.

The NFL is a well-oiled machine.

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