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Ex-Bucs hold key to Lions secondary

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) -Dwight Smith and Brian Kelly are quickly becoming two of the most important players in the Detroit Lions' training camp.

Both defensive backs joined the Lions as free agents during the offseason, and coach Rod Marinelli is counting on their experience in his Tampa Two defense to help solidify Detroit's weak secondary.

"It is big to have players like Dwight and Brian with us this year," Marinelli said. "Those are players that we can trust on the field, and that can help us teach the system."

Smith and Kelly both played for Marinelli and Lions defensive coordinator Joe Barry when they were assistants in Tampa Bay.

"The fact that we know the system is obviously a help with the learning curve here," said Smith, who started his career with the Buccaneers before moving to New Orleans and Minnesota. "It is still an adjustment, but in this league, every year is a new adjustment whether you change teams or not."

Smith, who returned two interceptions for touchdowns in Tampa Bay's victory over Oakland in the 2003 Super Bowl, also thinks it is easier to get comfortable with a new team in today's NFL.

"These days, with all of the offseason activities, you get a lot more time with your teammates before the season," he said. "I've been here since March, because this is now a 10-month-a-year job. It's not just six months like it used to be in the '60s and '70s."

Smith and Kelly are now familiar enough with the team that both are serving as unofficial assistant position coaches.

"I've been able to work with the other safeties and give them some ideas, and I know Brian has been able to do that with the corners," Smith said.

Kelly, who played for Tampa Bay from 1998-2007, thinks he can be helpful to more than just his fellow cornerbacks.

"I can help the corners, but I'm also talking to the safeties," he said. "I played with guys like John Lynch, so I'm able to go up to them and say, `This is how John handled that type of play."'

Kelly and Smith aren't the only Lions with Tampa Bay experience. Detroit also signed safety Kalvin Pearson and defensive tackle Chuck Darby in the offseason, both of whom had played for Marinelli when he was an assistant with the Buccaneers, while defensive end Dewayne White joined the team a year ago.

"These are system players, and that's important," Marinelli said.

Notes: Detroit signed free-agent LB Teddy Lehman and released LB Alfred Fincher on Saturday. Lehman played for the Lions in each of his four seasons before signing with Tampa Bay in March. He was released by the Buccaneers on Friday. "Just signing another old Buccaneer," Marinelli joked. Lehman is wearing No. 58, since free-agent signee Gilbert Gardner had already taken his old No. 54. ... The team held a normal practice in the morning and a special-teams workout in the afternoon. ... WR Reggie Ball is expected to need surgery on a knee injury sustained Friday and could miss the entire season.

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