Allen Park — After just a couple practices, Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell didn’t have much of a scouting report to offer on any of his players, particularly first-round draft pick Penei Sewell.
“Look, he looks like a rookie,” Campbell said Thursday after a pause when asked for early impressions of the 330-pound offensive tackle.
That makes sense. Even the best prospects don’t hit the ground running, and Sewell, who is just 20 years old, missed out on the team’s rookie minicamp a week earlier after contracting the COVID-19 virus.
Sewell acknowledged he’s feeling much better, and with the virus in the rearview, his focus during his first few practices has been quietly observing the veterans, both studying their routines and their personalities and getting to know them better as teammates.
“I just kind of pick up the little things they do and try and see if it fits me, my personality and my process to where I can feel comfortable to do those things and perform at the level I want to perform,” Sewell said. “Just going in each and every day, learning new things is what I’m doing right now.”
Sewell is also laboring through a position switch. A left tackle in college, the Lions are moving him to the right side of the offensive line. And even though he had been preparing for the possibility during his training ahead of the draft, he admits it’s not as easy as it might sound.
“It is not that easy,” Sewell said. “Man, it’s a whole different feel. Again, it’s like let’s say I’m right-handed, so I’ve been writing right-handed my whole life. Then one day you’re just asked to write your full name left-handed at full speed, the same speed that you write with your right hand. So yeah, it’s a little bit of an adjustment.
“But again, I love a challenge and it’s something I’m looking forward to. Again, it takes me back to my high school days and I’m looking forward to growing into that position.”
Beyond looking like a rookie, Campbell did praise Sewell’s hunger, aggression and athleticism. Those are the traits that led to the Lions selecting him with the No. 7 pick in the draft last month.
“Even in three days, you see him improving already,” Campbell said. “That’s all you can ask for right now. It’s good to have him here and to be with those guys, it’s exactly what you want.”
A final note from Sewell’s first week of practice is he landed the No. 58 jersey he wore in college and high school after linebacker Jamie Collins switched from that number to No. 8 earlier this week. It’s an unusual number for an offensive tackle, but like the choice for many players, there’s a significance to Sewell — it’s the number his father wore in high school.
“I just saw one of his pictures, his old pictures, back when he was like the only person on the field with that tinted visor,” Sewell said. “I was like, ‘Oh, pop’s got some swag on the island (Samoa) and I don’t even know how he got that back then.’ To see him wear that number, I really wanted to carry on his legacy and kind of carry out the dream that we both had.”