By Teresa Varley
It didn't take long for wide receiver Shaun McDonald to see the difference between his new team, the Steelers, and the one he played for the last two seasons, the Detroit Lions.
It had nothing to do with the way the teams finished their 2008 season – with the Steelers winning Super Bowl XLIII while the Lions went 0-16. Instead, it was about the approach from the start.
After going through just one offensive meeting during the team's minicamp, McDonald understood why the Steelers are so successful.
"I see a difference in meetings," said McDonald. "That is big. Last year (at Detroit) there weren't a lot of details, a lot of direction. It's good to be in there really getting coached and having set goals and stuff like that. I am glad to be around that again."
McDonald, who signed with the team at the start of minicamp last week, endured a season last year with the Lions that he hopes no player ever has to go through in their career.
"Terrible, it was just terrible," said McDonald. "It was tough. I try to not even talk about it and forget about that year and move on. I am glad I get an opportunity to make this team. I need some winning in my life."
It was no wonder McDonald was all smiles during minicamp despite being thrown into a new offense without much notice. He has that new lease on his football life he was so hoping for and he plans on enjoying it and making it work for him.
"It's going to be fun," he said. "I am just going to work my hardest, try to get better and hopefully make this team.
"It's definitely good to start off new. I am trying to learn the playbook. It's different from what I know. I wanted to be around something new. Two losing seasons in a row in Detroit wasn't fun. I wanted to get to a team where I can help win a game."
McDonald was originally drafted in the fourth round by the St. Louis Rams in 2003 out of Arizona State. He spent four seasons with them before joining the Lions. In 2007 McDonald led the Lions with 79 catches for 943 yards and six touchdowns.
"I have been playing for a while so I know how to read the zone or man," said McDonald. "I have learned from playing with some good receivers back with the Rams. I can also bring veteran leadership and mesh with other veterans and try to get out on the field."
And there are different methods he will use to get that playing time. He got a look during minicamp on special teams as a punt returner, something that he would welcome the opportunity to do.
"I hope so," said McDonald of being given the chance to be a part of the return game. "I am ready to do whatever I need to do. Whatever they let me do I will be out there trying to make plays and trying to help the team."
He also is hoping to be a part of the team's passing game. Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes have a stronghold on the starting wide receiver spots, but with Nate Washington gone to the Tennessee Titans via free agency and a lack of experience behind the starters, there is definitely an opportunity for McDonald.
"It's a young receiving corps, but it's talented," said McDonald. "I saw some guys out there making plays. I am just trying to get better right now. I am going to try and make as many plays as I can. When the ball comes my way I am going to try and make the play and get up field."