ALLEN PARK, Mich. Eddie Drummond is halfway through his sixth training camp with the Lions, but he still convinces himself it s the first day of class.
It has to be that way, the return specialist said yesterday. I tell myself I m a rookie and I m just trying to win the job.
That s what gets me going.
That mind-set will be useful this summer. Drummond is two years removed from a Pro Bowl season and doesn t appear to fit into offensive coordinator Mike Martz s plans, so he s fighting to start another year as the team s punt and kick returner.
Drummond was not a factor in Martz s scheme last year. He took offensive snaps in 14 games but caught just two passes for 10 yards.
I was disappointed, he said of the limited role, but I believe in the coaching staff. They had a role for me to play, and after a certain point they felt they had to put other people in that would work better with the schemes they wanted to run.
I had to suck it up and go out and do my job.
He s been used sparingly as a receiver in camp workouts, leaving his focus on the specialist job he s held since 2003.
And there is competition.
New acquisitions Shaun McDonald and Troy Walters have seen action as returners during camp. McDonald, likely the fourth receiver on the Lions depth chart after coming from St. Louis, returned 23 punts for the Rams last season.
Walters, an eight-year veteran who played last season in Arizona, also has an extensive punt-return resume. Brandon Middleton also has caught a handful of practice punts. None of it fazes Drummond.
I know I need to stay competitive, he said. With the attitude I ve got, I think I m one of the best, so I m glad they put something in front of me to motivate me. They ve done a good job of that every season I ve been here.
He ranked fourth in the NFC last season with a career-high 1,349 return yards and averaged 21.8 yards per kickoff and 10.6 per punt. Both numbers were down from 2004, when he became the second NFL player to return two punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same season and earned a spot on the Pro Bowl roster.
Drummond did not play the last four games of that season with a broken scapula and has missed six games in the last two seasons with assorted injuries. Still, he believes new special teams coordinator Stan Kwan, a protege of the retired Chuck Priefer, can use him
I play all special teams, so they re going to want me here, he said.
I ve had that mentality since the day we started.
The Lions begin the regular season Sept. 9 at Oakland.
NOTES: Thursday s preseason opener against Cincinnati did not sell out in time to lift a league-mandated TV blackout. A tape-delayed telecast begins at 9 p.m. tomorrow on WKBD-TV in the Detroit area. Detroit Tigers pitching coach Chuck Hernandez visited yesterday s practice. Two days after giving the players their first day off, head coach Rod Marinelli took a day off of his own and did not speak to reporters. Coordinators Mike Martz and Joe Barry took his place.