With the COVID-19 pandemic shifting the early stages of NFL offseasons to a virtual setting, first-year players already were at a disadvantage compared to a normal year. So a leg injury that’s kept Detroit Lions running back D’Andre Swift off the practice field for more than a week is only steepening the second-round draft pick’s learning curve.
“It’s not ideal, we’ll say that,” Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “There’s a lot on these rookies’ plates right now, just in terms of everything’s new for them. Obviously, he’s trying to pick up a whole new offense, and he didn’t have the offseason. I think that’s what’s so critical.
“Every day that we miss, I think it puts you further behind, because, in terms of not just knowing your assignment, but then how your assignment fits to each and every one of the looks you can get from the defense,” Bevell continued. “It’s one thing to see them on paper, it’s one thing to see them on tape, but it’s another thing to go out there and actually execute what you’re supposed to execute, make the decisions that you’re supposed to make at a quick level, and he’s missing all those different reps.”
In Detroit’s first few training camp practices, designed in a way that focused on establishing player fundamentals, Swift’s talent stood out. His ability to create easy separation running routes out of the backfield was particularly impressive.
But while working a one-on-one rep against one of the team’s linebackers, Swift appeared to strain an upper-leg muscle, essentially shutting him down the past several days.
By being sidelined, he’s lost a stretch where he would have been building on that fundamental base, both with his technique and his understanding of the scheme. That means he’ll be behind once he’s cleared, which could impact the size of his role to start the season.
“We’re going to have to do a good job of making sure he’s acclimated for when he is ready to go to be in situations that we think he can handle,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said, “and work him in that way until we build up a background, little bit of a repertoire for him, where he knows what he’s going to see in those certain situations.”