In case they needed another reminder that this is not a normal NFL training camp, Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia gave his players one Thursday.
“I said this to the team (Thursday) night, ‘Think about where we would’ve been (tonight) if things hadn’t changed,'” he said. “It would’ve been our first game. So from that aspect of it, things are completely different. We would’ve been coming back and evaluating the game tape already.”
Instead, the Lions spent Friday holding what was effectively their third practice of training camp.
On Wednesday, they welcomed all 80 players in the building for the first time this summer and held the first of two straight limited workouts that mimic what teams typically do in Phase 2 of the offseason program.
Friday’s practice was similar to a spring Organized Team Activity workout, with offense and defense allowed to square off in pad-less drills.
After a day off Saturday, the Lions have one more OTA-like practice before they take the field Monday for their first padded practice of training camp.
Naturally, they’re a little behind when it comes to installing their offense and defense because of the NFL’s all-virtual offseason.
But from a glass-half-full perspective, Patricia said the cancellation of the entire preseason means the Lions actually gain three workdays this summer when taking into account schedule changes.
“We kind of have an idea of how many installs it takes to get ready to go,” he said. “Without those preseason games and without travel the day before, the post-game, the day-after kind of evaluation, we actually pick up three extra days with that. So we’ve spaced it out accordingly and kind of put it at that target point of the third preseason game to make sure that everything is being installed so that we can go through and run and prepare to approach that week like we normally would, and put the emphasis on getting ready for the season.”
In that regard, Patricia said there’s a delicate balance to strike in the weeks ahead between keeping players healthy after this ramp-up period and getting them ready for the rigors of the season.
Normally, the Lions would have two sets of joint practices and four preseason games to reacquaint themselves with football basics like tackling and blocking. Now, Patricia said they’ll have to do more of that — including live tackling — against each other in practice.
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“That’s one of the biggest issues we got right now is just trying to get that tackling, those tackling fundamentals full-speed and live,” he said. “We do kind of mix in some live periods when we get to training camp, certainly down on the goal line. And we usually do that relatively quick. One of the things we have had to evaluate is we’re going to need to tackle somebody before we get to that first game. You need to feel it, you need to see it, you need to see the speed of it.”
Extra tackling aside, Patricia said training camp practices won’t look too different than they have in previous years, though measures are being taken to keep players safe when they’re not involved in the action.
“I think everything looks differently right now and I think that guys are getting used to that, so maybe by the time we fully get on the field it will feel normal even though probably just compared to last year it is different,” he said. “There are certain aspects of things that we do that are going to look exactly the same, but maybe it’s after the snap that looks different where guys are maybe paying a little bit more attention to what they’re doing with their equipment or obviously the water bottles and things like that.”
Patricia did not directly answer Friday when asked if any members of the Lions coaching staff have tested positive for COVID-19.
“Really our positive tests have been limited from that aspect of it,” he said. “I can’t remember off the top of my head. Obviously, there’s nothing pressing otherwise I’d (tell you). And I’m also not really sure how deep into all that I’ll go just in general with just everybody’s own individual kind of care.”
The Lions have removed all eight players they placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list in the first week of camp, with rookie safety Jalen Elliott coming off Friday. They have not had a player test positive since Matthew Stafford, who was quickly cleared to return, on July 31.
The Lions waived rookie safety Jeremiah Dinson to make room for Elliott, and activated defensive end Romeo Okwara from the non-football injury list.
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