Lions sign RB Best to five-year deal, hope to lock up Suh soon

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- For Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz, Friday was a reminder of a late-summer childhood ritual.

"This is like the first day of school, but for adults," Schwartz said as he waited for his players to report to training camp. "It is a chance for everyone to see each other again, and then to start a new year together."

Lions president Lewand disciplined

Lions president Tom Lewand was suspended 30 days and $100,000 by the NFL on Friday following his June arrest for operating a motor vehicle while impaired.

Unfortunately for the second-year coach, he'll have to start teaching without his prize new student.

While the Lions reached a five-year contract agreement with running back Jahvid Best -- the 30th overall pick -- late Friday night, they haven't signed their top choice, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

Schwartz, though, remained hopeful that, with other first-round picks starting to sign, the second overall pick could be under contract in time for the team's first practice Saturday afternoon. Most expectations are that Suh's deal won't be done until after the first choice, quarterback Sam Bradford, signs with the St. Louis Rams.

"It's like dominoes -- once the guys around your pick start to sign, things tend to start happening," Schwartz said. "Obviously, Sam Bradford is going to be the big domino when it comes to Ndamukong."

Suh's absence has put a slight damper on a training camp with a new feature in Detroit -- optimism. Despite winning just two games over the last two seasons, the Lions believe they have built a powerful offense around quarterback Matthew Stafford.

"I think our No. 1 improvement over this offseason has been at quarterback," Schwartz said. "Matt has spent every day of our offseason program as our No. 1 quarterback, both on the field and in the film room. Last year, he had to go through the draft process, win the job and deal with all of the distractions of being a rookie. This summer, he hasn't had the distractions, and he hasn't had to worry about his role. He's our starter."

Last season, Stafford also was handicapped by a lack of high-impact skill players. While Calvin Johnson remained one of the league's most dangerous receivers, the Lions weren't able to give him much help.

"Calvin is one of the best players in the NFL, but when you only have one guy, teams can take that away from you," Schwartz said. "This season, we've added a lot of pieces -- we picked up Jahvid in the draft, we've got another threat at wide receiver in Nate Burleson, and we've got a quality pass-catching tight end in Tony Scheffler."

Detroit, though, still has to fix the NFL's worst defense. The additions of Suh and veteran defensive tackle Kyle Vanden Bosch are expected to solidify the line, but the other two position groups are still major question marks.

"I think the two spots where we have the most work to do are linebacker and the secondary," Schwartz said. "We're going to be giving a lot of players chances to earn playing time in those areas. We need to find the group of players that gives us the best combination there."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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