INDIANAPOLIS --The first coach to talk at this year's scouting combine was Detroit Lions head man Jim Schwartz, who's been part of a rather amazing rebuilding effort in the Motor City. From 0-16 to a playoff berth in three years is a pretty impressive climb, but Schwartz is already looking for more.
Among other things, Schwartz discussed the importance of free-agent defensive end Cliff Avril, who has threatened to hold out if the Lions give him the franchise designation. "Cliff's very important to us," Schwartz said. "I talked a little bit before about [linebacker] Stephen Tulloch -- young, fits the scheme, was durable this year. Cliff took a big step this season. We talked about [quarterback] Matt Stafford being healthy, but Cliff took a big step forward just being on the field.
"When you have those guys that you can continue to build with, that's obviously very important to us. He was an impact player for us last year -- has 11 sacks and a lot of forced fumbles -- there were a couple games he sort of iced. The interception late against San Diego. Sack and strips on a couple games that really made a difference for us."