Lions first to begin roster cutdowns

The Detroit Lions became the first NFC North team to start addressing the NFL's looming roster cuts by releasing five players and beginning to assess the injuries of two others.

According to Tim Twentyman of the Lions' web site, the players released were: defensive back Domonique Johnson, receiver Chaz Schilens, offensive lineman Derek Hardman, defensive tackle John Drew, and cornerback Ross Weaver. Meanwhile, the Lions will have to decide what to do with running back Montell Owens, who seemed to suffer a serious knee injury Thursday night, and rookie tight end Michael Williams -- who has a broken hand and will require surgery, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.

Owens and Williams could be candidates for injured reserve if their injuries are serious enough. One beneficiary could be undrafted rookie tight end Joseph Fauria, whose unique skill-set had the Lions contemplating whether to open a fourth tight end spot for him.

The biggest name of those released is Schilens, whom the team signed just before camp to provide extra depth at receiver. Since then, however, veterans Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles have appeared fully recovered from their season-ending injuries. Young players Patrick Edwards and Matt Willis have also pushed for playing time, lessening the Lions' need to hold on to veteran depth.

NFL teams must cut their rosters to 75 by Tuesday and 53 by Aug. 31.