Broncos, Chiefs, Lions hit field

Updated: April 19, 2009, 12:36 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The start of their first NFL minicamps gave three rookie coaches a preview Friday of what's to come.

A spring snowstorm forced coach Josh McDaniels and the Denver Broncos to move his first minicamp practice indoors in Englewood, Colo.

Kansas City Chiefs coach Todd Haley, taking advantage of an NFL rule that lets first-year head coaches have an extra three-day practice session, welcomed more than 60 players to the first day of their voluntary camp.

[+] EnlargeCalvin Johnson
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioLions receiver Calvin Johnson stretches among teammates in Allen Park, Mich., during minicamp drills Friday.

In Allen Park, Mich., Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz, the first coach in history to face rebuilding a 0-16 team, got to stop worrying about the NFL draft clock and be a coach again.

"I've been waiting a long time for this. It's something I've been wanting to do, and it was productive. It was a productive day," McDaniels said.

McDaniels, 32, kept a keen eye on Kyle Orton and Chris Simms, who are vying to win the starting job following Jay Cutler's unceremonious exit.

He offered no hint about when he would name the starter.

"Until it's clear. Until we know exactly who the right guy should be," said McDaniels, who mentored Tom Brady and Matt Cassel as New England's offensive coordinator. "You know they're doing everything they can every day, morning, noon and night to try to get themselves ready to go. I think they showed well for themselves today, both of them did."

Simms, who signed a two-year, $6 million deal over the winter to back up Cutler, has thrown just two passes since undergoing emergency surgery to remove his spleen after a game in 2006.

All signs, though, point to Orton possibly getting first crack under center. Orton is 21-12 as a starter.

"Right now, it's just two good-looking guys out there throwing the ball," said Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey, who's steadily improving from offseason surgery to fix a dislocated left elbow. "I know what they've done around the league, but I've never played against them, so I really don't know much about them."

In Kansas City, Mo., while Haley did not use the old cliche, "my way or the highway," that was doubtlessly the message received by players who have won six games the past two years. Their coach and general manager were both shown the door.

"When you're told it's a clean slate and you have a chance to be a part of this team and be a starter or a role player or whatever you are, I think that's a great opportunity for a lot of guys," Haley said. "You can see it in guys' eyes."

Haley, who was offensive coordinator for Arizona's Super Bowl run last year, agreed there are bad practice habits to be broken.

"It's just trying to do things the right way," Haley said. "There's a lot of different, new ways to do it. But this is just the way I believe is the most efficient and works to our advantage."

Media did not have access to the practice field or the players in Kansas City. The locker room will be open for a short time on Sunday, the last day of the camp.

But Haley indicated he was pleased with the attitude and the participation in the voluntary camp. The Chiefs' mandatory minicamp will be in June.

"I think we've all probably got an equal amount to learn," he said. "This is really my first time with my staff together on the field. So until you're out there and you're actually doing it, you think you covered everything. But you always realize a handful of things, pretty quickly, that you didn't."

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An inside look at quarterback Matthew Stafford from Georgia.

Schwartz said he was going to force himself to not get too excited or too depressed about anything he saw Friday afternoon.

"In the first practice, everyone is rusty, everyone is sloppy and the tempo is always out of control," Schwartz said. "Basically, if you can keep from getting anyone killed on the first day, you are doing well. We'll take a hard look at this weekend as a whole, but we can't put too much weight on today."

The Lions are only a week away from making the first overall pick in the draft, but Schwartz wasn't going to discuss that Friday.

"I'm going to leave all of that where it is right now," he said. "Our scouts and our front office are working hard, and I'll get back to it after we're done here."

Two of his veterans -- the ones most likely to be affected by Detroit's No. 1 pick -- were happy to get away from the draft talk and join their new coach on the field for his first minicamp.

Most speculation has settled on four players: Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford, Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry, and offensive tackles Jason Smith of Baylor and Eugene Monroe of Virginia. Curry would be expected to play middle linebacker, where Detroit has no established starter, but the other three would be competing with longtime veterans. Stafford would battle Daunte Culpepper for the job, while picking a tackle at No. 1 would probably mean that Jeff Backus would move to left guard after eight years as Detroit's left tackle. Both Culpepper and Backus seemed unruffled by the possibilities, though.

"As of right now, no one has mentioned guard to me at all, and I consider myself a left tackle," Backus said. "Obviously, that's my preference, but if they need me to play guard, I'll play guard. It would be an adjustment -- it is a position I've never played -- but I think I've got enough NFL experience to handle it.

"That spot has been a revolving door for us since I got here. I never expected that I'd be the one to fill it, but who knows what will happen."

Culpepper has only been a Lion since the middle of last season, so he doesn't have the claim on his position that Backus does. He still isn't worrying about the possibility of battling Stafford.

"My mind-set is that the draft doesn't have anything to do with me," he said. "I have no say in it, and I'm not going to worry about it. My only goal is to get ready to play."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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