ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) With Dominic Raiola gone, Travis Swanson is set to become the man in the middle for the Detroit Lions.
''We anticipate he's going to be a very, very vital part of what we're doing up front,'' Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. ''Right now he's at the apex of our offense and that's a very, very important position because he sets everything for us.
''Echoing maybe the calls by the quarterback but then also making adjustments quickly as well. He kind of handles that whole operation.''
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Raiola replaced Eric Beverly as the team's center in 2002 and became a mainstay as the linemen surrounding him came and went. The Lions did not re-sign Raiola after the season, so now it's the 24-year-old Swanson's turn.
Swanson said the year he spent learning from Raiola helped him immensely.
''Dom helped me in so many ways that it's hard for me to say everything that he did for me,'' Swanson said. ''But to be able to come in to a situation like I did, to have a guy like him that had been in this profession for so long, it was something that was just invaluable.''
Swanson knows there is no way to replace the many years of experience that Raiola had.
''I know it's something you've got to work at day in and day out,'' Swanson said. ''To me, I try to have a clean slate every day I walk in. What happened the day before doesn't really matter and you've got to prepare.''
Swanson played in all 16 games last year, starting five of them. He also started at right guard in the NFL wild card game in Dallas.
''He certainly has the intelligence to do it,'' Caldwell said. ''He played quite a bit for us last year so he's had some experience both at guard and center, so that's helpful.''
Also helpful is having veteran Manny Ramirez in camp. Ramirez, originally drafted by the Lions in 2007, returned to Detroit in a trade with the Denver Broncos.
''Manny brings a lot of things to the table,'' Swanson said. ''Being a veteran, he's been around, seen a lot of things, had a lot of experiences that you have to be in this league a while to have. It's good to kind of bounce ideas off of him.''
Swanson said the feeling in training camp this year is very different from the feeling he had as a rookie.
''You're kind of more on your feet a little bit,'' Swanson said. ''I kind of use the reference that's it's kind of like high school, coming to college. When you first get to college you're not sure what to expect, your head's kind of spinning a little bit. It's kind of the same way last year - not sure where you are, whole new system, learning as you go. So this year it's a lot slower, I guess I could say.''
NOTES: RB Joique Bell, currently on the physically-unable-to-perform list, worked on the side with an athletic trainer and appears to be getting closer to returning. ... LB DeAndre Levy missed his second straight day of practice. ... TE Joseph Fauria tweaked his left knee Thursday and did not practice Friday. ... Former TE Michael Williams continues to impress in his transition to OT. Williams was practicing with the starting group. ''He's encouraging, what he's doing right now,'' Caldwell said.
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