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Jim Schwartz: Riley Reiff must earn Lions playing time

Detroit Lions first-round draft pick Riley Reiff signed his four-year, $7.993 million rookie contract earlier this week, and according to a source with knowledge of the offensive tackle's contract, the deal included a $4,253,600 signing bonus and has $6,513,650 in guaranteed money. None of that, however, will help Reiff see the field this season.

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To play as a rookie, Reiff must earn a starting job over the next five weeks, head coach Jim Schwartz said during an appearance on WXYZ-TV on Wednesday.

"He brings a lot of credentials to the table," Schwartz said, via Justin Rogers of MLive.com. "He's smart, he's big, he's a hard worker. But where he plays and how soon he plays will depend on nothing but how he does over these 35 days of training camp, how he plays in these preseason games."

"It's not going to be where we drafted him, how much money he makes, his signing bonus, or the color of his t-shirt. It's going to be how he does in those practices."

Not to disagree with Schwartz, but a big factor in whether or not Reiff plays as a rookie hinges upon the health of incumbent starters Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus. Backus, who turns 35 in September, is coming off a torn biceps that would have ended his impressive 177 consecutive regular season and playoff starting streak had the Lions advanced in last year's postseason. Cherilus finished 2010 on injured reserve with a knee injury that would ultimately require microfracture surgery. Neither are locks to get through the upcoming season healthy.

Detroit has improved their depth at the tackle position, both with the selection of Reiff and this week's signing of Jonathan Scott, who was released by the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. Reiff is the most talented player of the group and it would not be a surprise if he grabs the left tackle job right away and has Backus and Cherilus competing for the right tackle job.

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