Why ‘workaholic’ Detroit Lions OL Jonah Jackson added martial arts to offseason training

Detroit Free Press

Jonah Jackson changed his diet this offseason and added a new training regimen in an effort to build on his solid rookie season — martial arts.

Jackson, the Detroit Lions’ second-year guard, said Monday he spent two days a week this offseason working on hand fighting with Lions assistant strength and conditioning coach Morris Henry, a black belt in Taekwondo.

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“This is my first time doing it and I’m learning a lot of the different block techniques, working my hands,” Jackson said. “Learning how to get hands off me and it’s become completely beneficial to my development as an offensive lineman.”

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A third-round pick out of Ohio State last year, Jackson started all 16 games on the Lions’ offensive line as a rookie, playing both left and right guard.

He projects to start at left guard this fall, between Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow, and joked Monday that, “in case I got to handle some business, I’m ready to roll.”

“I was getting these hands right,” Jackson said. “Getting them fast and ready.”

Along with his weight room sparring sessions with Morris, Jackson changed his diet to eliminate most fast foods. He spent most of the offseason working out at the Lions’ Allen Park training facility and said he added about 10 pounds of muscle after playing around 305 pounds last season.

“I know the work that he’s put in and I know what his body is able to put out,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “We’ve had our eyes on him and he’s a workaholic. He’s hungry, he’s smart. I’ll tell you what, this kid’s a leader.

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“Maybe he’s quietly the guy that gets a little bit lost, but we’re looking for a big year out of him. … We have high expectations for him. We do, and I’m glad we got him.”

Fire’d up

He coaches running backs and serves as assistant head coach, and the way Campbell describes it, assistant Duce Staley is the Lions’ de facto fire chief as well.

“Duce is a guy that carries around his fire extinguisher,” Campbell said. “That’s what he’s got in his hip pocket. There are things that I won’t even know about and don’t need to know about because that’s what he does. He’s going to put out fires before I have to worry about them or even need to know about them. That is invaluable.”

Campbell lured Staley away from the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason with an expanded role designed to help Staley become a head coach in the NFL, similar to what New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton did for Campbell years ago.

Campbell said Staley coordinated player fines and oversaw various projects this offseason, and in the months ahead he will produce pre-game official reports, run various team meetings and handle some media obligations in addition to his coaching duties.

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As for his role as fire chief, Staley said it is invaluable for NFL coaches to have someone to “take things off his plate.”

“No matter how many reminders you get, no matter how many sticky notes are on your desk, that’s on your door, you forget,” Staley said. “It’s natural. And being in that position, I’ve never been (a head coach) before but I know guys that’s been in that position that have the workload. As heavy as it is, you need someone that’s going to have your back.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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