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The Detroit Lions finished their rookie orientation program with a Play 60 clinic for PAL football players. (Dave Birkett/Detroit Free Press)

At some point this summer, perhaps Day 1 of training camp, perhaps later in August, Tahir Whitehead will return from the knee injury that kept him out of practice all spring and take his expected place with the Detroit Lions’ starting defense.

When he does, he’ll be at a new position – weakside linebacker – and playing next to a new teammate calling defensive signals, rookie Jarrad Davis.

Davis, the Lions’ first-round pick whose arrival forced Whitehead from the middle linebacker spot he occupied last year, said Thursday he and Whitehead have been working to develop a chemistry even with Whitehead sidelined this spring.

“To be honest with you, it just takes time,” Davis said. “It takes time to develop that relationship. You got to put time in, and it’s something that we’ve been able to do in the meeting room.”

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Davis and Whitehead are the favorites to start at the Lions’ top-2 linebacker spots this fall, and with the off-season program finished, several veterans said they walked away with favorable first impressions of Davis and fellow rookie Jalen Reeves-Maybin.

“Smart guys,” Whitehead said last month. “They’re athletic and they’re eager to learn. They ask questions. I give them feedback and I tell them as much as I possibly can. They’re definitely good players from what I see so far, and they’re smart.”

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Paul Worrilow, who took first-team reps at weakside linebacker in Whitehead’s absence, said both rookies have the work ethic it takes to be successful in the NFL.

“They’re ballers,” Worrilow said. “And they love ball. They’re in here a lot….