If you had even the slightest thought that Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell was going to be a one-year wonder in the culture category, forget that thought. After just one day of training camp for the Lions, Campbell has already immediately taken that thought and punched it repeatedly in the face.
When the Lions hired Campbell to be their new head coach before the 2021 season, the mood quickly went from “I can’t believe the Lions hired this guy” to “I love this guy!” faster than I think anyone anticipated.
His early press conferences showed that he was going to be an entertaining and infectious force and that part just never went away. Campbell’s pressers became appointment television. On Wednesday, he kept on being that fun guy. The Athletic Lions beat writer Colton Pouncy can attest to that.
Stuff like this isn’t super surprising. At least it shouldn’t be since we know Campbell is an entertaining guy. You just can’t help but remember Matt Patricia yelling at media members and telling them to sit up straight. So every time Campbell and company do something fun, you’re reminded of how much more joyful the team is on a day-to-day basis.
The thing that did surprise me on Wednesday was Campbell getting in up-downs with the team to start off camp. Campbell joined in on up-downs to start camp last year and it was an endearing thing to see. You loved to see a coach put himself out there to show the guys that everyone is in this together. Fans loved it and players did too.
Still, my reaction at the time was that while it was cool, it felt like a classic thing that a high school coach would do once to build trust, and you would never see him do it again.
But that’s not what happened. Fifty-six-year-old Campbell went out there and joined his team for up-downs yet again. He didn’t just do one or two either, he went out there put in the work. I have to say, he looked a lot better doing them this year than he did last too.
Stuff like this goes a long way. Culture is talked about so much when it comes to the Lions. Almost every free agent the team brought in had a comment about the Lions culture being one of the reasons that they chose Detroit. Campbell doing stuff like this is a big part of that. It’s not just about him putting in the work, but acknowledging and knowing what the players put themselves through during this grueling camp.
One of the biggest breaths of fresh air in 2021 was the Lions’ transparency, and that isn’t going anywhere either. On Wednesday, we got full injury updates on Josh Paschal, Jeff Okudah, Romeo Okwara and more. It wasn’t just coach speak either. Campbell didn’t tell the media members to check the report and he didn’t use vague generalities when describing injuries. He gave specific labels to injuries and didn’t mind revealing that Josh Paschal had surgery.
This isn’t necessarily something that pushes the culture since this info is really for the fans and the media, but it really drives home the point that Campbell is, at all times, authentic.