Detroit Lions head coach, Dan Campbell, has adopted a cautious approach to his side’s pre-season plans, leaving out most of his key players from the main action for fear of injuries being suffered during any overly physical contests. It’s a tactic that has certainly raised some eyebrows with many commentators, but there is certainly plenty of common sense to this tactic.
The 47-year-old coach saw his Lions side make huge strides throughout last season, which was a very pleasant turnabout when compared to his first season in charge of the Ford Field side. In 2021, the Detroit Lions only managed to rack up a paltry three regular-season wins, which was handily their lowest number since as far back as 2009, but 2022 was a whole other matter completely, as the Lions showed a massive improvement by ending on a healthy 9-8 record that only just kept them out of the post-season action.
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As for Campbell’s plan of action, he sees it as a sensible way to go about things, saying about his somewhat controversial stance, “For me, it was always going to be about — the nature of the way we practice.”
“We’re pretty physical, I think,” he continued. “Relative to most teams in the league. And we had two joint practices, two teams that we had joint practices with that were going to be pretty physical.”
“To me, that was — those were going to serve as building blocks to get our core (starters) ready. Just knowing where we were this game (pre-season finale vs. the Panthers) relative to playing K.C. (the Chiefs in Week 1), at that point, you’re under two weeks, I just didn’t feel like it was worth the risk.” Campbell concluded.
When asked about roster cuts, Campbell was similarly refreshingly honest.
“Yeah, it’s tough,” he admits. “And, here we are, in year three of what (general manager) Brad (Holmes) and I have done. It’s getting that much harder. I mean, we’re going to have to let go of some really good players, and that’s tough. It’s tough to do.”
It’s certainly true that this tactic does have a certain downside in that the team’s best players aren’t getting real-world practice against other teams and have to rely on doing so during their regular practice times. This should be enough, though, as long as he’s not letting his star players get complacent, which by all measures, he’s certainly not. And by keeping to this cautious strategy, he at least makes sure that when it really matters, when the season begins, he will have star players in full health, while those that were once at risk of being cut, having had the opportunity to hone their game in real matches against other top teams. This way, even if they are cut for this season, they may well be on their way to doing even better next year.
The last six seasons have, after all, been a real struggle for the Lions and their fans, as they managed to achieve precisely zero post-season action throughout this lengthy period. Indeed, to take things further, the last time they went beyond the Wild Card Playoffs was way back in 1991. That’s more than thirty years ago, now! In other words, Campbell has his work cut out to transform the fortunes of the Detroit side.
Campbell, as most fans know, actually represented the Lions as a tight end between 2006 and 2008, but this is his first stint as head coach, having served on the coaching teams at both the Miami Dolphins and the New Orleans Saints prior to coming back to Detroit in 2021. That intervening 15 years should give him the expertise and experience to really push his old Detroit side to bigger and better things this year, and we can see the 2021 season as just him getting his feet back into the water with a side he hadn’t represented for many years.
Support for Campbell is certainly growing from many quarters, and one notable pundit who is rooting for him to succeed is former NBA star and sporting legend, Charles Barkley. Barkley has been nothing less than effusive in singing the praises of the Texan coach.
“I love Dan Campbell,” Barkley makes clear. “That guy makes me, like, you know, I played football for one day, and I realized I was a wuss. I quit football after one day. When I’m watching Dan Campbell, I’m like, ‘I want a do-over, I want to play for that dude.’ So, the number one thing I’m looking for is, I want the Lions to do well because I love me some Dan Campbell.”
Those are big words from a big man, from one of the United States of America’s most beloved sports teams to another. But let’s be honest, Berkley may play with a completely different ball, but the man knows what he’s talking about. You don’t get to his position without knowing good leadership and having a keen mind for strategy. Campbell is clearly no slouch and with that sort of endorsement behind him, it’s hard not to have plenty of hope for him and his team’s performance in this year’s season and hopefully post-season and beyond. There’s a lot of heat on him, no doubt, but that kind of heat may be just what he needs to make the Lions roar once again.