Lions GM surprised Best hasn’t been cleared yet

Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew prides himself on

not sharing too much information.

He laughs at reporters who try to exchange more than

pleasantries with him throughout the year when it’s not one of the

rare days he makes himself available to the media.

However, Mayhew did take and answer questions on Tuesday morning

and couldn’t hide his feelings about waiting for Jahvid Best to be

cleared for practice.

”I’m a little bit surprised, a little bit disappointed,”

Mayhew acknowledged. ”Everything was trending toward him being

ready to go the first day of training camp.”

Best had a season-ending concussion on Oct. 16, 2011 – his

second of the year and at least his third overall – and seemed to

be making progress during the offseason.

Like the Lions, Best isn’t pleased that he’s being held out by

doctors despite not having any obvious concussion symptoms.

”It’s definitely frustrating,” he said.

Detroit is counting on Best to help strike a balance with its

stellar passing game led by quarterback Matthew Stafford and

receiver Calvin Johnson.

The Lions are also banking on defensive end Cliff Avril

reporting to camp to sign a $10.6 million, one-year deal after he

and the team couldn’t agree on a long-term contract.

”Eventually, I know he will be here,” Mayhew said. ”And he’ll

be in great condition when he gets here.”

Messages left with Avril, seeking the planned date of his

arrival in Allen Park, haven’t been returned.

”If anything is positive or encouraging to me, he’s very

optimistic about how he’s going to perform this season,” Mayhew

said. ”He has his reasons for not being here. We made a very solid

offer to him that we felt was a really good offer. He was willing

to bet on himself and bet that he’s going outperform what was on

the table, and I like that.”

The Lions, ranked No. 11 in the inaugural AP Pro32 NFL power

rankings, are coming off their first appearance since the 1999

season. Mayhew said he thinks this team is better than the last

one, but he’s not willing to say returning to the postseason is an

expectation of his.

”It’s important for us to not start focusing on the playoffs

right now,” he said. ”My focus right now is to have a good

practice today and I think a lot of our teams feels that way. I

know Jim (Schwartz) preaches that. The only way you get back to the

playoffs is by taking care of the steps along the way.”

Center Dominic Raiola has endured a lot of losing since Detroit

drafted him in 2001, including the NFL’s only 0-16 season just four

years ago. He said the Mayhew-led front office deserves a lot of

credit for turning the franchise around.

”If you look at the talent that we’re bringing in and keeping,

it’s night and day,” Raiola said. ”They’re giving us everything

it takes to win.”

Detroit is missing only one starter from last season, cornerback

Eric Wright, who signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent, and he left

a void that Aaron Berry was projected to fill this year. However,

Berry had his contract terminated last week after being arrested

twice this summer. That leaves the Lions with lackluster options –

Alphonso Smith, Jacob Lacey, Justin Miller along with rookies

Dwight Bentley and Jonte Green – to start opposite cornerback Chris

Houston.

”My belief in the spring was that we had a very heated

competition at the right cornerback spot,” Mayhew said. ”There

were a number of players involved and a lot of those guys are still

here competing.”

Mayhew said he would be willing to add a veteran running back or

cornerback at some point, but believes it is too early to make such

a move.

So, what is his biggest concern a little more than a month

before opening the season at home against the St. Louis Rams?

”Not saying anything silly right now in talking to you guys,”

Mayhew said.

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