NFL

Steady improvement for 1st-round pick Reiff

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ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP)

Riley Reiff has made slow and steady improvement in training camp.

Which is a common experience for many NFL rookies.

Each day provides the Detroit Lions' first-round draft pick the chance to learn from veterans.

But learning requires patience.

''I'm just trying to get better every day,'' Reiff said.

Reiff worked with the reserves again Monday, getting a chance to prove himself after studying the veteran linemen that work with Detroit's starters. The work continued after practice, when he spent extra time in individual drills for the Lions (No. 11 in the AP Pro32).

But the constant reps and work with his technique and footwork are paying off for Reiff, whose steady improvement has impressed Lions coach Jim Schwartz.

Reiff, who has played guard during training camp, has been pushed to face talented, more experienced defensive ends.

Reiff may have a lot to learn, but Schwartz sees a lot of promise in the talented lineman.

''We've got some guys out there that really test a young offensive lineman and if they've got a weakness in technique or scheme, they can exploit it,'' Schwartz said. ''(Reiff) has been challenged, but he has also risen to the challenge on a daily basis.''

In just a short time, Reiff has shown the ability not only to learn new information, but to also put it into practice.

For that, he credits the veterans that he's not only trying to compete against for playing time, but the ones that he knows can help bring him along.

One of those veterans is Jeff Backus, who has started every game since 2001.

Reiff is not concerned with if or when he could possibly crack the starting lineup, he's willing to do whatever he can to continue to get better.

''I just want to help the team any way I can,'' Reiff said. ''We've got some great veterans here and they're great leaders and I just try and take after them.''

Each individual drill or the chance to watch starters provides another opportunity for the Reiff to learn.

He watches how they approach their business, and takes note of how hard they work.

But despite the improvement Reiff has shown so far in camp, he knows there's plenty to accomplish.

''I still need to get better,'' Reiff said.

That's where the extra work and time spent working with offensive line coach George Yarno will factor in.

Reiff has demonstrated the ability to remain in the hunt for a starting job, but must continue to make progress if he hopes to move ahead of some of the veterans.

But so far, Schwartz continues to like what he sees.

''You see daily improvement from him,'' Schwartz said. ''You look at him now compared to a week ago and he's correcting things that maybe he gave up a week ago.''

Notes: Defensive end Cliff Avril made his camp debut Monday after ending a nine-day holdout Sunday when he signed a 1-year, $10.6 million deal. Avril said he's looking on improving on last year, while proving he's worthy of the Lions' franchise tag. ''I'm just worried about going out there and performing and having fun,'' Avril said Monday. ''I try and improve every year. I left a lot of sacks out there (last year) and I feel like I can improve as long as I put the work in.'' Schwartz said Avril needs to get into game shape and said he hasn't decided whether Avril will play in Friday's preseason opener against Cleveland. ... Schwartz said the team may look into bringing in another running back after Stephfon Green suffered an injury to his right knee early in Monday's practice. The Lions only have four healthy running backs as Mikel Leshoure (hamstring) continues to rehab an injury. ... Leshoure, along with safety Louis Delmas (knee), wide receiver Ryan Broyles (knee), Jonathan Scott (knee) and cornerback offensive lineman Don Carey (hamstring) all missed Monday's practice.

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Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Tagged: Lions, Cliff Avril, Riley Reiff

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