Allen Park — It’s no secret that second-overall pick Aidan Hutchinson is talented.
He stands 6-feet-7-inches tall, weighs 260 pounds and logged 14 sacks in his senior season at Michigan, but at the end of the day, he’s still a rookie — and by his own admission — is still learning how to be an NFL player.
“It’s just the pace of the game (that’s different),” Hutchinson said after practice Thursday. “The plays you get, the tempo, everything just kind of hits a split second faster.”
Just like many young players who have come before him, Hutchinson said he leans on veterans, specifically those in his position’s room.
One such teammate is Charles Harris, a former first-round pick in 2017 by the Miami Dolphins who struggled to find success through his first four seasons, until the Lions acquired him via free agency in 2021 on a one-year, prove-it deal.
He registered 7.5 sacks and led the team in pressures by a wide margin in his first season in Detroit, earning a lucrative two-year contract earlier this offseason.
“Charles is a guy that works, he works so hard,” Hutchinson said. “I just see him getting that extra work in, (and) I try to, whenever he does something, he pushes me to do more. I definitely look up to him and I admire his work ethic.”
Head coach Dan Campbell explained before practice how pleased he’s been with Hutchinson’s progression, citing his silence and sponge-like attitude.
“I think he’s been all business,” Campbell said. “I told my wife this last night, I was like, ‘What’s great about him is he just is quietly getting better right in front of us.’ He doesn’t say anything, he listens, he’s like a sponge in there, he absorbs the information, he watches how things are done and the way coaches want them done.
“Then he’s got a motor, and he goes, he just learns and gets better every day, you just see it. I love that about him. Every day, man, there’s growth right in front of us.”
Not only can Hutchinson learn from the veterans in his position group, but he can also benefit because of who he matches up with day in and day out at practice.
The projected starting offensive line is expected to be Penei Sewell, Taylor Decker, Vatai Halapoulivaati, Jonah Jackson and Frank Ragnow, a unit that has the potential to be among the elite in the pros.
“I think we’ve got one of the best offensive lines in the league if you look at all five starters, those guys are studs,” Hutchinson said. “Getting able to go up against them, especially when we get to camp, one-on-ones and just team reps against those guys will be super beneficial to me. I practice against them in here, it sets the bar pretty high.”
Hutchinson did say, however, that he hasn’t really had the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with his teammates on the offensive line. He’s going to have to wait until training camp in July when the pads come on to really see how he fares.
Until then, though, and up until the beginning of the season, Hutchinson will just continue trying to be that sponge he has been and absorb all the information he can.
“I’m just trying to soak in as much info as I can before the season starts, and then we can just play without thinking.
“That’s the goal.”
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