The Detroit Lions have made it apparent they were thrilled to land Penei Sewell in the first round of the draft last month, largely because they didn’t expect the Oregon offensive tackle to still be on the board at pick No. 7.
General manager Brad Holmes hasn’t said much about the team’s contingency scenarios. Prior to the draft, he noted the team was comfortable with a cluster of players at their slot. And after taking Sewell, he acknowledged they were eyeing three players, including Sewell. But as for specifics, Holmes declined to say “out of respect for the process,” which has become one of the go-to lines for the first-year general manager.
But in an interview with “Pardon My Take” this week, coach Dan Campbell shared some additional details about Detroit’s alternatives at No. 7 in a world where Sewell wasn’t available.
“Look, it fell that way,” Campbell said in the podcast interview. “It really did. We did not think he would fall to us like that. We were hopeful, but we didn’t think he would. Man, we want to take the best player at that position is what we wanted to do. Listen, we were prepared now to take a receiver. We had no problem with that. If he was the best player on the board because Sewell was gone, we would have taken him, no problem.”
Campbell doesn’t mention a specific receiver, but the other two from Holmes’ group of three likely came from the trio of Ja’Marr Chase, who went No. 5 to the Bengals; Jaylen Waddle, taken by the Dolphins at No. 6; or Waddle’s college teammate, DeVonta Smith, selected by the Eagles at No. 10.
Chase, like Sewell, was not expected to make it to the Lions. The Bengals, for weeks, had reportedly been debating between Sewell and Chase. Had they gone with the offensive lineman instead, Chase likely goes to the Dolphins, leaving Detroit to choose between the two Alabama wideouts.
Instead, the Lions were gifted their top preference.
“My heart does lean big guys, believe me, man,” Campbell said. “The guys in the trenches, because I still believe you win and lose there. I just do, deep in my soul. Leading up into this, we did know that Sewell was one of, if not the best prospect in this draft. That’s what we really believed. Just for the player that he was, it was hard to ignore that.”
In all, Campbell spent more than 30 minutes on the program, discussing a variety of things, bouncing between football conversation and more lighthearted topics.
► Campbell acknowledged he missed his long hair from his playing days, but he has no intention of bringing it back as a coach.
“I do miss it, but I don’t feel like I can rock it like I used to,” he said.
He called the decision to grow it out a one-time deal, even if that one time spanned the duration of his 10-year playing career. He waited until after college because his father, a former Marine, would have frowned at the idea.
► Although he’s debunked it several times, Campbell once again explained he didn’t run Oklahoma drills during his first practice with the Miami Dolphins. But he also shared an interesting story from his second practice as the interim coach, where he gathered up the team’s rookies and had the veterans circle them. Campbell then told the team they wouldn’t start practice until the rookies escaped the circle.
Campbell said he probably wouldn’t pull the stunt again, but the players had a lot of fun with it and it gave the team a great energy in practice, even if the rookies were dead tired.
► Campbell was quizzed on his analytical approach to situational football. Posed with the scenario of being down 14 with four minutes remaining, would he go for two after scoring a touchdown? The coach chose the conservative route of kicking the PAT, much to the disappointment of the hosts.
“I get it, and I know the numbers, man,” Campbell said. “I understand all that. And I’m not telling you that I’m off of that and I don’t listen to any of that crap. Because I have, my eyes have been opened to some of these analytics. I’m not opposed to any of that. Doesn’t mean we won’t use it, but my God, tell me where we’re at in the game, tell me how our defense is playing, how’s our offense. I know we’re down 14, but is that 14-0? Is that Aaron Donald over there? I just think that plays into it, that’s all.”
Campbell said he would prefer to wait until his team scores a second touchdown, is down one, and he can weigh a make-or-break chance to go for two and win the game.
► Asked if he’ll have someone designated to manage his timeouts, Campbell said they’re working through it as a staff. He noted that he lost a really good candidate for the role when that person took a job with the New England Patriots this offseason.
Campbell was presumably taking about Evan Rothstein, the team’s former research assistant.
► Campbell joked about pitching the purchase of a pet lion to owner Sheila Ford Hamp.
“I don’t know if PETA is going to allow that,” Campbell said. “It’s going to be hard. Believe me, we’d take great care of it. It would be fed well, it would be petted, it would be manicured. I might end up losing an arm because of it, but that would be even better.”
Campbell said he’d allow a lion to eat his arm in exchange for winning a Super Bowl for Detroit.
► Finally, Campbell was asked about his comments in an earlier radio interview about not wanting any turds on the roster. The coach clarified exactly what he meant by the comment.
“A turd is somebody that’s constantly getting in trouble off the field,” Campbell said. “He does not love football. He’s not very smart. He doesn’t care about studying. He’s not a team guy. He’s got major ego problems. That’s a football turd, man. I don’t want to deal with it. It’s not worth it.”
Campbell praised the character of the players brought in by previous general manager Bob Quinn and former coach Matt Patricia, noting they didn’t leave any turds on the roster that was inherited.