As good friends do, Chase Lucas’ buddies didn’t miss an opportunity to talk some smack.
They watched as Lucas entered the Detroit Lions‘ preseason opener on the Atlanta Falcons’ final drive of the game. Holding onto a three-point lead with Atlanta approaching the red zone, he had a chance to end it.
On second-and-14, Lucas sat back in zone coverage, recognized where the quarterback was going to throw and jumped the route. He dove in front of the intended receiver and got both hands on the ball, but it fell to the turf.
“I won’t lie to you after that game I was beating myself up bad,” Lucas said Monday. “I’ve watched it every single day. My best friends called me on my phone like ‘Man you dropping money on the ground’.
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“‘You don’t like money, you don’t want to get paid.'”
It would have been a game-sealing interception.
Instead, two plays later on fourth-and-9 — after Lucas made an impressive open-field tackle on third down to force the do-or-die play — the Falcons got the winning touchdown, to steal the game from the Lions, 27-23.
In just seven defensive snaps, Lucas made two impressive plays. But Monday after practice, Lucas was focused on the one he didn’t complete.
“It was a good play, an OK play, but it could’ve been a great play, ending the game with a pick,” he said. “I’m just trying to brush it off and learn from the experience.
“People kept coming to me to say you made two great plays back-to-back, but I’m a perfectionist and the competitor that I am, it’s going to keep beating me up until I get my first pick in the NFL.”
NFL ties at the college ranks
Lucas admits being in the NFL is tough.
The speed of the game, the learning process — expectations that change when the game goes from passion to career. Then again, he feels as if he couldn’t have been more prepared as he entered the league.
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Not just because he was a six-year player at Arizona State, second in program history in starts (49). And not because he was named a captain in 2021 and finished as one of four players in the country who played a minimum of 250 snaps and did not allow a receiving touchdown.
But because of who was leading him.
“I have to give credit where credit is due, Antonio Pierce, Marvin Lewis and Herm Edwards were all NFL guys for 20-plus years,” he said. “I was just learning from them, got some really good role models in front of me and took it from there.”
Even though he’s 25 years old — considered old by rookie standards — Lions coach Dan Campbell said the team wasn’t worried about Lucas’ “ceiling”.
“He’s tough, pretty smart, pretty aware, high energy type player and he did, he got out there and mixed it up,” Campbell said. “he needs to be in the program a little bit and what I mean by that is man, get a little bit more — just a little more bulk and strength to him which will come in time.
“But he’s got something about him. There is something because he gets things in a hurry, he’s highly competitive.”
Hungry for more
That highly competitive side shows just about every day.
Last Tuesday, he stayed on the field after practice to catch a few dozen balls from the JUGS machine. Or how every day when he gets home, one of the first things he does is turn on his /iPad and begin his homework.
Lucas has played all over the secondary in his short stint this summer — corner, safety and nickel — which puts an added emphasis on situational awareness.
“It goes back to me knowing the playbook and not messing up as much,” he said. “I feel like the coaches trust me in those positions and are comfortable with throwing me out on the field.”
Now, Lucas is hungry to get on the field. He said he goes “every day” into the coaches room to try and see what the game plan is for the upcoming week.
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It’s also translating to the field. Lucas was lined up at safety on the final play of practice when Kalif Raymond streaked down the right sideline.
David Blough heaved it deep, and Lucas calmly shuffled his feet, got to the goal line, high-pointed the ball and snatched the “game-sealing” interception.
He admitted he wanted to take the ball out of the end zone and run it back, but knew the situation so he had to take a knee — never mind the swarm of defensive teammates who came rushing in and all but tackled him to ensure he didn’t take it out of the end zone.
“I had to make up for Friday, I had to get my hands on some balls today,” he said. “You’re out there in the fire and I feel like that either busts pipes or makes diamonds, that pressure.”
Contact Tony Garcia at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @realtonygarcia.