By Nicholas J. Cotsonika
DETROIT FREE PRESS
06/01/2006


DETROIT (KRT) -- Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz spoke to the Detroit media Thursday for the first time since the NFL scouting combine in February.

Among the highlights: He said quarterback Joey Harrington felt adjusting to his system was going to be "just too hard." He said his players were "grossly out of shape" by his high standards, and couldn't be evaluated properly yet, but they were at the "baby steps" stage and working hard. He also said he had seen good things from several players, including wide receivers Charles Rogers and Mike Williams.

Martz addressed the Harrington situation for the first time. The Lions traded Harrington to Miami in May, but it was in March, when Martz brought the quarterbacks in for orientation, that things fell apart.

"Joey made that decision on his own, and I respect that," Martz said. "It was such a drastic change from what he had been doing, he felt like it was going to be just too hard for him to do, and I understand that. . . . I was a little surprised by it. But things happen to work out for the best. It'll work out for him."



Martz gave his impressions of his offense on the second day of the Lions' three-day minicamp.

Wide receivers: Martz said Rogers had made a "big, big jump" in the last few days and he was pleased with his effort.

"Charles is starting to get in shape," Martz said. "He's doing a great job now of getting in and out of cuts. He couldn't put his foot in the ground and change direction early because he wasn't in very good shape. ...

"It's hard for him because this is different. He's going to make some mistakes mentally. He doesn't know how to deal with that. But he'll learn. I think Charles is going to be fine."

Martz said Mike Williams had better speed and quicker feet than he realized. He thinks Roy Williams could become an elite receiver.

"We've made no effort really to isolate him at all," Martz said. "We're just teaching the offense. But when we do, I think he could be very effective. He's still trying to get in shape. He's not used to the tempo. We'd like to get him in better shape."

Kick returner Eddie Drummond is battling for time at slot receiver with Mike Furrey.

"He's working hard, boy," Martz said. "That's a guy that is in shape right now. He can run forever, and that's what you want. If he just keeps practicing and just eliminates (a mental error here and there), as the preseason comes around, he should be real effective."

Quarterback: Jon Kitna has the most experience and the edge over fellow free agent signee Josh McCown and 2005 fifth-round draft pick Dan Orlovsky. But Martz called that "a starting point."

"Josh has made terrific strides in the last, I'd say, two weeks, and I'm excited about where he is," Martz said. "I'm very pleased with all three of them."

Fullback: Martz said he didn't have a feel for longtime Lion Cory Schlesinger at first, but he does now.

"He's probably one of the better competitors on this football team--the consummate professional, great shape, intense, doesn't make mistakes," Martz said. "He's what you're looking for in the NFL now. I really like Cory. He's a guy I'm excited about."

Running back: Kevin Jones has improved his ball-catching ability and pass protection.

"He's really a well-rounded back," Martz said. "He has to do it all, and he's accepted that very well."

Line: There are 20 offensive linemen on the roster. They will have to prove themselves tough physically and mentally to win spots on the 53-man roster.

"The competition on the offensive line is very severe, and it's very healthy for us," Martz said. "It's going to make us better."

Martz showed different sides of his personality Thursday. While working with the receivers and quarterbacks, he was calm and patient, walking through routes, talking about leverage and angles. During full team drills, he was intense, yanking a receiver who lined up incorrectly, chewing out a lineman who didn't stay down.

"We teach all the details, then we start putting it together," Martz said. "Once they learn the details, then you starting mixing and matching, then it becomes a lot of fun. But we're a long ways away from that."

Asked if they could get there by the opener, Sept. 10 against defending NFC champion Seattle, Martz said: "Sure. Absolutely. These guys are so willing, we'll be fine. I'm excited and encouraged about their attitude."

Notebook: Asked if he was still hopeful about signing free agent wide receiver Az-Zahir Hakim , who played for him in St. Louis in 1999-2001 and played for the Lions in `02-`04, Martz said: "Probably not. I think Az has got a knee that he probably needs to have looked at a little bit before he's ready to go."