The Detroit Lions are due to play an international game in the coming seasons, and when they do, it might make sense to send them to Germany and the NFL’s newest foreign frontier.
A German documentary crew was at Lions training camp Tuesday shooting the latest episode in its ongoing series about Lions receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, who has a large and growing fan base in the country.
St. Brown’s mother is a native of Leverkusen, Germany, he speaks fluent German, and he traveled to the country earlier this year as part of the league’s global outreach.
“I think he’s the most famous American football player in Germany right now,” said German documentarian Henrik Diekert of ZDF TV, the German equivalent of the BBC. “He was on our (weekend sports) show three weeks ago in Berlin with an audience of 2 million people.”
Diekert said he began filming his ongoing documentary in 2018, after stumbling upon St. Brown’s backstory while watching a college football game late one night in his flat.
Diekert was tending to his newborn son when the commentator on TV mentioned that a receiver who had just made a spectacular catch, Amon-Ra’s older brother, Equanimeous, had a mother of German descent.
Intrigued, Diekert did a quick google search of Equanimeous to learn more. He reached out to St. Brown’s mother, Miriam, on Facebook that night. Miriam, who happened to be in Germany at the time, responded immediately. The two met two weeks later for coffee and dinner, and soon after the documentary was born.
Already one of the most recognizable names on a Lions roster that’s light on star power, Amon-Ra St. Brown could be one of the NFL’s breakout stars this fall if he follows his productive rookie season with another big year.
MONDAY’S OBSERVATIONS: How Dan Campbell is leaning in kicker competition
HERE IS ‘HARD KNOCKS’: Detroit Lions expectations are going to soar even higher
If that happens, it would make sense for the NFL to showcase him to a group of fans who consider him one of their own.
The NFL has five international games scheduled this fall, three in London, one in Mexico and one in Germany; Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers face the Seattle Seahawks in Berlin.
Diekert said the NFL began regularly broadcasting games on free TV in Germany — most soccer games are pay-per-view in the country — in 2014, the season Brady and the New England Patriots beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.
Asked how St. Brown’s popularity in Germany compares to Brady’s, Diekert gave Brady the edge, though it’s closer than you might think.
“I think more people know Tom Brady than Amon-Ra St. Brown,” Diekert said. “But I mean when Dirk Nowitzki was in his second year in the NBA, nobody on a German street would recognize Dirk Nowitzki and now he’s one of our five biggest athletes so things can change.”
Diekert’s crew will be in town until Friday’s preseason opener and the sixth episode of “The St. Brown Story” will air sometime next month.
Observations from Lions Tuesday practice:
• The Lions got back into pads Tuesday, when a heavy emphasis seemed to be on the short-yardage running game.
The first- and second-team offenses combined to convert five of six plays in goal line situations, with the lone defensive stop coming when Jared Goff had a bootleg pass tipped in the end zone. I could not tell who got their hand on the ball given all the traffic, but Tracy Walker and Amani Oruwariye celebrated like it might have been Walker.
Jamaal Williams and Jermar Jefferson scored on the first two plays of the series, with the first-team offense, running behind the right side of the offensive line. Williams spun off a pile for a touchdown on the first play with the twos on the field, and Craig Reynolds and Jefferson followed with nice short-yardage runs for scores. Reynolds followed Dan Skipper into the end zone, while Jefferson bounced his run outside and broke an arm tackle by Jeff Okudah.
Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson lamented the Lions’ red zone running efficiency last season, so Tuesday’s performance had to give him some optimism about where his running game is at two weeks into training camp.
• I stood next to former Lions offensive tackle Lomas Brown during one-on-one pass rush drills Tuesday and it was enlightening to hear him pinpoint the intricate details of why a lineman wins or loses a rep.
After Frank Ragnow drove Alim McNeill to the ground, Brown said, “That’s how Kevin Glover used to be. No one could beat Glove.”
Maybe I’ll let the tape recorder run next time Brown and I are watching one-on-one pass rush together, but a few notes: Aidan Hutchinson drove Penei Sewell back in their first rep when Sewell set too high; Charles Harris, who has had a really nice camp, beat Skipper with a spin move and froze Obinna Eze with a stutter-step, but did not get much push against Taylor Decker; Hutchinson also had a clean win against Eze, who tends not to get enough depth on his second step off the line; and Evan Brown (against McNeill), Bruce Hector (against Ryan McCollum) and John Cominsky (against Tommy Kraemer) had impressive reps in the period.
• Maybe it was just because Trinity Benson was out Tuesday with an undisclosed injury, but Tom Kennedy got a first-team rep late in the Lions’ red zone period with the first-team offense. Kennedy will have to beat out Benson or Quintez Cephus for a back-end roster spot, but he’s a crafty receiver.
Goff threw a touchdown pass to St. Brown on the third-and-goal play from the 4 when Kennedy was with the ones, but Kennedy stayed on for the next play and made a nice toe-tap for a touchdown along the sideline as Tim Boyle rolled to his right to buy time.
Boyle, who’s locked in a neck-and-neck competition with David Blough for the backup job, threw an interception two plays later that hit Jarrad Davis right in the gut. Reynolds had a great blitz pickup on Shaun Dion Hamilton on the play.
• Goff threw a pretty touchdown pass to DJ Chark on a second-and-goal play from the 10, dropping the ball just over DeShon Elliott. And Kalif Raymond had the catch of the day, laying out to snag a Blough pass when he beat Okudah for a touchdown.
Goff was 3-for-4 passing in the red zone period with two touchdowns, and his only incompletion came when Elliott appeared to commit defensive holding or pass interference against T.J. Hockenson in the end zone.
• The first episode of “Hard Knocks” already was edited before Tuesday’s practice, but a few things to keep your eye out for in Episode 2: One camera crew spent part of practice Tuesday trailing rookie linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez, who’s been a standout the first two weeks of camp, and HBO cameras spent a significant amount of time on players as they interacted with their kids and families on the field post-practice. One camera stayed with John Cominsky as he doted on his wife and daughter on the field, and another caught Lions coach Dan Campbell rolling around on the ground as he entertained a few young kids.
I can’t imagine many NFL coaches are spending their first few minutes after practice rolling on the grass with young children who aren’t theirs.
• Along with Benson, Quintez Cephus, Julian Okwara, Levi Onwuzurike and Ifeatu Melifonwu were among those who did not practice Tuesday.
• Former Fab Five star and ESPN host Jalen Rose was on the guest list for Tuesday’s practice.