Detroit Lions rookie running back D’Andre Swift has a new mentor: quarterback and fellow former Georgia Bulldog Matthew Stafford.
Like a lot of rookies, Swift likes to pepper his mentor with questions. He just has one rule about bothering Stafford too late.
“I don’t text him at 10 o’clock,” he said Tuesday. “I’m studying by myself in the bed. But he’s been great.”
It sounds like Stafford has been more than great. The 11-year pro has opened his arms and home to Swift since the Lions selected him in the second round of the NFL draft in April.
“We actually were working out when I was training in Georgia about a month or two ago,” said Swift, who joined tight end Isaac Nauta, receiver Quintez Cephas and fullback Nick Bawden at Stafford’s home in Atlanta. “Just been great ever since. Just making sure that I know what I’m doing out there.
“Met his wife, met his kids. So he’s just been welcoming me into his family, his life, so I appreciate him for that and our relationship’s been getting better, been growing every day.”
The tutelage Swift is getting from Stafford and other veterans appears to be paying off.
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Swift shined as a receiver at camp Tuesday, when position-mates Kerryon Johnson and Bo Scarbrough had limited workloads.
But before you get too excited about Swift usurping the starting running back’s role from Johnson, coach Matt Patricia confirmed Tuesday that no starter on the team has been decided.
Nevermind. Get excited.
As for Swift, he says he’s not reading much into rep counts and depth charts right now.
“Just trying to be consistent, put good stuff on film and have good day after good day,” he said. “That’s what I’m going to be looking for, just going out there and competing.”
Consistency. It’s the key for any player. The fact Swift mentioned it proves he’s also been listening to his most important tutor.
“For me,” Patricia said Tuesday, “for Swift, obviously I think he’s got a great skill set of what we saw in college and we’re exploring those different things that he can do — certainly at our level — and just being out there to do it consistently is a big thing for us right now.”
That’s where listening and studying comes in for Swift. As he transitions from college, he’s learning the playbook is bigger, the quarterback speaks faster and the signals come faster.
“I can see you’ve got to make your reps count up here,” he said. “I can see that already. I don’t want to put anything bad out there. Just making sure that I’m prepared for the day, whatever install we have. Just making sure I’m on my P’s and Q’s for everything that’s in there for that day.”
Two of the highest compliments Patricia can give a player is to laud their intelligence and their willingness to grind. Swift earned one of those accolades Tuesday when Patricia said Swift is “a smart guy and he can handle a lot.”
Patricia also said Swift has “done an outstanding job of handling” the way coaches have helped him improve in the passing game, including pass protection. One of the next steps for Swift is proving his ability as a runner.
“And certainly as we get toward more and more live contact at the running back position and being able to have really good contact balance,” Patricia said. “Things like that that we saw in college and being able to break some of those tackles, the more of those scenarios we can get into and see and have that confidence in, certainly that will help him along the way.”
Swift said he feels comfortable on the field, building a rapport with teammates while he’s bending their ear about anything and everything about life in the NFL.
“Just anything that comes to my mind,” he said. “I go to them because I know that they’ve been here, they’ve been through it before.
“So I’m just trying to make sure that I’m doing my part. They’ve been just phenomenal. Ty Johnson, Bo, all the running backs, Kerryon, they’re welcoming me and just treating me like family.”
Sure sounds like it. But even family knows not to call too late.
Contact Carlos Monarrez at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.