Allen Park — Detroit Lions rookie receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown drew some unwanted attention his first week of training camp after he tossed a couple haymakers in a heated scrap with teammate Ifeatu Melifonwu.
But that fiery competitiveness the Lions knew they were getting when they selected St. Brown in the draft this offseason is showing up in other, more positive ways, as well.
During Wednesday’s practice, St. Brown found himself repeatedly matched up against Detroit’s top cornerback, Jeff Okudah, while more than holding his own on those snaps.
Their day started when the coaching staff paired the two against each other in an open-field tackling drill. Known as an excellent tackler, Okudah tried to go low on the receiver, only to see Amon-Ra go up and over with a half-hurdle before zipping by unscathed.
“Obviously, it’s a one-on-one, I don’t want to get tackled, so make a guy miss,” St. Brown said. “But it was kind of instinctual. He jumped down, and me just being a ball carrier, just jumped last minute.”
Later in practice, St. Brown again got paired with Okudah in a one-on-one route running segment. On the first rep, the receiver ran a slant, and even though he managed to catch the ball, the cornerback’s tight coverage and quick tackle resulted in no gain.
Not liking that result, St. Brown asked Okudah to run it back, even cutting in line to quickly get in another rep. This time, it was St. Brown winning the matchup and Okudah demanding the rematch. Again, the two cut in line ahead of teammates, with St. Brown netting the tie-breaking victory.
“Jeff’s an amazing corner,” St. Brown said. “He’s been balling all of camp. So for me, it was just a challenge. I wanted to go against one of our top corners. He challenges me, and I love it. We challenge each other. It’s awesome to have a teammate like that you can go against every day, just compete and make yourself better.”
As for the fight with Melifonwu, there’s no lingering hard feelings on St. Brown’s end. He said the two quickly buried the hatchet, with St. Brown even congratulating the cornerback for the excellent blocking that sparked the conflict.
“Me and Iffy are boys,” St. Brown said. “We did the rookie minicamp, we came in together, we talk, we’re friends. So right after the rep, I told him, ‘Good job, nothing personal.’ Obviously, we were just out there competing. So me and Iffy, we have no beef at all.”
As for St. Brown’s role with the team, he’s been getting a lot of work as a slot receiver, where he often lined up during his freshman and sophomore years with USC. He also remains in the mix as a return man, something else he did in college.
“I love punt return because it’s just such a dynamic play,” he said. “Much different than kick return, where you have guys scattered around. You can make one guy miss and gash the defense, so I love punt return.”