Allen Park — As if NFL rookies don’t have enough on their plate already — particularly with a truncated offseason and no preseason — it hasn’t stopped the Detroit Lions from asking offensive lineman Logan Stenberg to learn a new position.
A three-year starter at left guard for the University of Kentucky, the Lions have thrust Stenberg into the mix for the team’s backup center job.
Center is one of the most difficult positions in football. You have to share a set of eyes with the quarterback, being able to identify defensive alignments and communicate what you see to the rest of the offensive line. And from the physical standpoint, you need to be equally adept with your footwork and hand placement to block a defender on your right or left.
Oh, and there’s the whole snapping business, which is no walk in the park if you’re not used to doing it. Needless to say, training camp has been a bit of a whirlwind for Stenberg, who was selected by the Lions in the fourth round of the draft this year.
“Yeah, just trying to be a sponge out there,” Stenberg said. “It’s a very difficult position. Thankfully I’ve got Frank (Ragnow) ahead of me, a great center, and he’s teaching me a lot. (I’m) just trying to go in every day and improve on one thing per day and get to that final goal. It was basically just need-based, so I’m in there playing center, playing guard. I don’t know where I’ll end up, but I’d like to play all three.”
Ragnow, one of the top centers in college football when the Lions drafted him in 2018, didn’t even play the position for the Lions his rookie season. And Graham Glasgow, the team’s center before Ragnow, didn’t see work at that spot until Week 14 his rookie year.
But in addition to Ragnow, who has developed into one of the league’s best young players at the position, Stenberg also can lean on fellow rookie Jonah Jackson. Not only are the two going through a shared experience as a first-year NFL player, but Jackson can offer some advice on playing center, having spent time at position early in his college career.
“Me and Jonah, obviously, we became very close in the offseason with the COVID (pandemic),” Stenberg said. “We got really close trying to learn the playbook together and then coming out here and finally getting to see and work with each other. It’s done nothing but grow our relationship. We’re just trying to learn and bounce ideas off each other every day. I think he’s been a great help to me, and I think he would say the same for him.”
Fortunately for Stenberg, he’s not being counted upon to start immediately in Detroit. That’s giving him time to work out the kinks with his fundamentals — the footwork, hand placement and overall pad level that are requisite for any successful offensive lineman.
His position coach, Hank Fraley, who played more than 100 games at center during his NFL career, is hammering home another piece of advice for his young pupil.
“The thing that he’s really focused on me with is: Don’t go in there and think too much, just play the game,” Stenberg said. “I’m a good football player, just go in there and do what I’m supposed to do, play the game at high speed and the rest will take care of itself.”