While most Detroit Lions fans seem to appreciate Dan Campbell’s authenticity, some national media types have been more dismissive.
Campbell, the first-year Lions coach, was forced to defend his epic kneecap speech as being “for our players and for our community” after he endured criticism following his epic introductory news conference. He dealt with eye rolls for joking about wanting a pet lion for the team’s Allen Park practice facility. And caught more flack last week for donning a Formula 1 helmet during a news conference that doubled as an announcement he would serve as grand marshal of the Detroit Grand Prix.
Asked about that criticism before the start of mandatory minicamp Tuesday, Campbell said it did not bother him in the least.
“Honestly, I’m not worried about it,” he said. “I mean, I get it. There again, my whole thing, it was kind of a joke. The helmet was sitting here, but it was also like, ‘Hey man, it’s the Detroit Grand Prix. I think that would be a pretty cool deal for our people, our fans to see that,’ and I think if I’m associated with the Grand Prix it’s like, ‘Hey, man, that’s pretty cool.’ So that’s really as far as it went.”
Campbell’s fun-loving approach to the offseason is a sharp contrast to the way his predecessor, Matt Patricia, handled business in Allen Park — and the way most of the rest of the buttoned-up NFL operates.
And while Lions players tuned out Patricia early in his tenure in Detroit, they so far have embraced Campbell and his personality.
Tight end T.J. Hockenson told the Free Press in April that Campbell’s authenticity helps him connect with all corners of the locker room, and that Campbell being himself allows players to be themselves, which in turn should help their play on the field.
“Dan is one of those guys that is going to be himself and going to — he’s not going to BS you,” Hockenson said. “He’s always going to just be straightforward with you and I think that’s what we love as players and that’s how I like to be coached is don’t BS me. Just tell me what it is. And same thing with us to him, tell him how it is. I think that goes a long way and just being able to just be yourself and not worry about what people are saying, because there’s going to be people that love you and there’s going to be people that hate you. You can’t change that either way.”
The Lions close the formal part of their offseason program this week with practices Tuesday-Thursday. Rookies will stay in town for an additional week of meetings and workouts, and some veterans may stick around, too.
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To what degree Campbell’s approach will change once training camp opens and the regular season begins remains to be seen, but Campbell said Tuesday he ultimately will be judged on something more meaningful — his team’s performance on the field.
“Look, I’m gonna get criticized either way,” he said. “That’s what you guys do and everybody outside of this world, and ultimately I’m going to be judged on wins and losses. There again, I was just kind of keeping it light. Those things aren’t going to happen during the season. I mean, I’m not — but right now I’m just kind of being me. I’m having a good time with it.”