Allen Park — Frustrated by the league’s lack of a plan amidst surging COVID-19 cases in the state of Michigan, the Detroit Lions veteran players issued a statement through the league’s union last month indicating they wouldn’t attend the voluntary portion of the team’s offseason workouts.
Yet on Thursday, 90% of Detroit’s roster was on the field for the third day of the first set of organized team activities, one of those voluntary segments of the offseason program.
Some of the credit goes to the league for clarifying plans, but also to individual teams for addressing player concerns about the tempo and physicality of these May and June practices.
Detroit’s Dan Campbell was one of the coaches who consulted with his veterans and made some adjustments.
“The best way to put this is, look, what do we want this to be?,” Campbell said he asked the players. “Not just them, but us. What do we want this to look like? What are we willing to do? And so, I would just say, man, almost all of them are here. To me, that sends a message loud and clear that at least they’ve taken the first step. They’ve taken the first step and that tells us as coaches, like, they are committed. This is something that they want to do, and they chose to be here because it is, it’s voluntary.”
One of the primary changes for the Lions was with the third and final set of OTAs, which the team will conduct after mandatory minicamp June 8-10. Instead of a normal full-team session, Campbell said those final OTAs will be for the team’s rookies, although any veteran that wants to attend is welcome to do so.
Campbell is utilizing the high attendance as a culture-building opportunity, using competition to foster a work environment where players are enjoying their jobs while getting in the necessary work. And according to the handful of players who talked after practice, that vibe was shining through.
“These guys, everyone is having fun,” tight end T.J. Hockenson said. “Completely different environment, you know? The guys are excited to play football. We’re out there having fun, out there competing.”
The Lions still were down several players on the day. Missing from the practice field were linebacker Jamie Collins, defensive tackle Michael Brockers, offensive tackle Tyrell Crosby, defensive tackle John Penisini, defensive tackle John Atkins, wide receiver Tom Kennedy, tight end Charlie Taumoepeau and defensive lineman Joel Heath.
Heath reportedly suffered a serious knee injury earlier on Wednesday, while Kennedy and Taumoepeau also had been participating earlier in the week. Rookie running back Rakeem Boyd was at practice, but running on the side after suffering an injury in rookie minicamp a week ago.