The way outside observers discuss position switches for football players, you would think it would be easy. A cornerback is too slow, move him to safety. An offensive tackle doesn’t have long enough arms, just put him at guard.
But the reality is there is a tremendous amount of nuance that goes into each position, and for even the most gifted athlete, a change can be a trying process.
Detroit Lions first-round pick Penei Sewell admitted as much after his first full week as a right tackle, the position he was drafted to play despite dominating as a left tackle at the University of Oregon.
Sewell compared the switch to asking a right-handed person to be immediately as adept performing everyday tasks with their left hand. And that’s been backed up by others who play or have played offensive line, from former Lions guard turned media analyst Geoff Schwartz — who played left and right guard, as well as right tackle during his career — to Ronnie Stanley, the Baltimore Ravens All-Pro left tackle who played both tackle spots in college.
“Way harder then people make it out to be,” Stanley wrote on Twitter last week.
So Sewell faces a learning curve, and, according to Dan Campbell, there are no short cuts to flattening it. It simply goes back to the age-old adage, practice makes perfect.
“Reps, reps and more reps,” Campbell said. “That’s really the best thing that he can possibly have right now. It’s just the more that he does it and the more comfortable he gets in that stance and working on that side and flipping things in his head, the better he’ll get.”
Subscribers: Wojo: With Jamaal Williams, Lions could have a juiced-up backfield
Given the Lions drafted Sewell with the intent to playing on the right side, Campbell has little doubt the lineman will have success at that spot, even if it takes some time to get fully acclimated.
“I have all confidence that he’ll be able to make that transition,” Campbell said. “Now, when does it come? How fast does it come? I don’t know. But look, there again, he’s already making improvement.
“It’s hard, it’s real hard right now, for the linemen because we’re not in pads, we’re not in contact,” Campbell continued. “Until he gets a speed ball, a true speed ball from (edge rusher) Romeo Okwara, then it’s kind of, eh, he doesn’t quite know yet. But he is improving and he’s working at it and it’s just reps, man. Day after day, one rep at a time. That’s the best solution for him right now.”
We’re running a new-subscriber special. Support local journalism, and subscribe here.