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Lions coach Marinelli reunites with former Bucs players

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Rod Marinelli doesn't like to take risks.

That's why his Detroit Lions are starting to look like a reunion of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Turning to old friends

Lions coach Rod Marinelli has used the offseason to reacquaint himself with some players he had in Tampa:

"The worst part about free agency is grabbing guys that you don't know," said Marinelli, who came to the Lions after a long stint as a defensive coach in Tampa Bay. "We're trying to fill holes, and you can't afford to miss with free agents. That's why it is so important to have knowledge of the players you are adding."

The Lions have picked up four players that worked with Marinelli in Tampa Bay -- defensive tackle Chuck Darby and defensive backs Brian Kelly, Dwight Smith and Kalvin Pearson.

"These are all old Bucs, but they have also played in different places," Marinelli said Monday. "These men all have great familiarity with what we are doing and what we are about. I know the type of guy I want, and that is what we are getting with these men."

Marinelli said the Lions are still looking at low-cost free agents, but he wants to build the team through a strong draft.

"It might seem crazy, but I'm looking at this team five or 10 years down the road, and it is filled with good young players from the draft," he said. "I'm percolating coffee here. I'm not making instant."

Two spots that the Lions will probably target in the draft are running back and offensive tackle. At the moment, they are in the odd position of counting on two players -- Tatum Bell and George Foster -- that appeared to be totally out of their plans at the end of last season.

Bell didn't play after the fifth game of 2007 and didn't even make the trip to Green Bay for the team's final game, while Foster lost his starting right-tackle spot to Damien Woody.

But with Woody gone in free agency and the team's surprise release of Kevin Jones, Marinelli is now hoping for a resurgence from the duo he acquired from Denver for Dre' Bly.

"George is still a big, young player that had some success in Denver," he said. "Some of our new schemes will help him, and the same thing is true of Tatum."

Bell's surprising return came about after the Lions decided they couldn't spend a second offseason waiting for Kevin Jones to get healthy. A year after sustaining a serious foot injury, Jones tore his right ACL late in the season, and his status for training camp was uncertain.

"We wanted clarity at that position -- we had to go through this a year ago with K.J.," Marinelli said. "He was a real good player for us last year, but he's injured and he was going into the last year of his contract, and we need to move forward."

Releasing Jones meant giving up on another of Matt Millen's first-round picks, but Marinelli insisted that Roy Williams wouldn't be the next one to go.

"He's here," he said. "Roy is here. Look at my eyes -- he's staying here. I want to see what he and Calvin (Johnson) can do out there together."

Marinelli acknowledged that the Lions will get offers for Williams, but he doesn't plan to be swayed.

"When you are a beautiful girl, people will keep knocking on the door and asking for dates -- but the old dad has to keep coming out and saying 'Nope."'

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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