Why Detroit Lions interim coach Darrell Bevell’s first practice had ‘buzz’

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
 
| Detroit Free Press

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As they waited to return punts Wednesday, Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Hall danced in the end zone while “No Sucker” by Lil Baby and Moneybagg Yo played in the background.

Some 50 or so yards away, Darrell Bevell, in a black winter coat, black athletic pants and a blue Detroit Lions baseball cap, surveyed his special teams while fiddling with the white piece of paper in his hands.

The Lions held their first practice of the post-Matt Patricia era Wednesday, and it had a different look, sound and feel to it.

Bob Quinn did some good things with Lions, but one decision doomed his tenure ]

Music blared throughout the open portion of practice, which started with 10 minutes of stretching and lasted through a long, 20-minute special teams period. Bevell, the Lions’ interim head coach, walked among his various assistants and support staff members, stopping to chat with a handful as he moved across the field.

And in a quick 8-minute team meeting to start the day, Bevell said he felt “a buzz” that was due in part to the different set up of the room, but may have had something to do with the man delivering the message as well.

“I feel like we bring the energy every day,” Lions cornerback Justin Coleman said. “If other people say it’s more energy, I mean, that’s on them. I know we’re going to bring it no matter what. But I definitely sense a little bit more energy than before.”

The Lions fired Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn on Saturday, and while the organization immediately turned its attention to parallel coach and general manager searches, Bevell, Coleman and the rest of the team remain focused on the business at hand.

Bevell held a Zoom meeting with members of the Lions’ leadership council earlier this week in which he discussed minor schedule and practice changes, and wanting players to “come in here refreshed and of the mindset that we still have something to play for.”

That is a stark departure from Patricia and his one-day-at-a-time approach. Taylor Decker, a member of the Lions’ leadership council, said Bevell even mentioned the Lions, despite their 4-7 record, are two games back of the final wild-card spot in the NFC.

The Arizona Cardinals, who the Lions beat in September, would be the NFC’s seventh seed if the playoffs started today, though the Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers and this week’s opponent, the Chicago Bears, also are ahead of the Lions in the standings.

“There’s still a lot to play for,” Decker said. “And if you can’t get excited to go out there and try and win, then, I mean, do you have a pulse?”

Interim coach Darrell Bevell is a candidate for permanent job ]

On the field Wednesday, the Lions took a different approach to preparing for the Bears.

Decker said Bevell stressed practicing at a better pace, and after the long individual and special teams period to start practice, the Lions went ones-vs.-ones in red zone and other drills as a way to ramp up the competitiveness.

“We had it sprinkled in there where we were going to compete,” Decker said. “There was plenty of reps of ones on ones. There was plenty of reps for that, so I’m expecting to every day see Everson Griffen or Romeo Okwara, so that’s a big thing.”

Decker said he reached out to both Patricia and Quinn after Saturday’s firings to thank both men for bringing him to Detroit. Decker was Quinn’s first draft pick in 2016 and has blossomed into one of the best left tackles in the NFL.

Coleman said he was not surprised by the firings because of both speculation about the moves and recent seasons the Lions had. He said players did not campaign for Patricia’s firing, and laughed when asked if he thought it was the right move.

“I’m going to sound cliché, but I’m with whatever move the organization makes because at the end of the day, we’re going to have to get it done some type of way and the way we was handling things, obviously, wasn’t going the way we wanted to,” he said.

Linebacker Jamie Collins, who was excited to reunite with Patricia when he signed with the Lions as a free agent in the spring, said it hurt him to see Patricia fired – “It’s tough, man,” he said – though he has been through a midseason firing that sparked a team before.

In 2018, Collins was part of a Cleveland Browns team that went 5-3 after Gregg Williams replaced Hue Jackson as head coach. Collins said the Browns used Jackson’s dismissal as motivation, and he encouraged his Lions teammates to do the same Wednesday. 

“It’s hard when you lose your head guy, but at the end of the day, we can’t tank it,” he said. “We can’t sink, so I just try to tell guys, just try to use it as a crutch and use the motivation, use it as a stepping stone to be great. It’s hard, but we can’t drown in it. We got to keep moving forward, we got to keep doing what we got to do to be great, to be successful, to win games, to stay positive around here. We can’t be negative.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. 

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