Three and a half months after he challenged D’Andre Swift to do a better job playing through injury, Duce Staley could not be happier with his running back’s performance.
Swift had 87 yards from scrimmage and a key touchdown while playing through a sprained ankle in the Detroit Lions’ win over the Washington Commanders last week, and the third-year back appears ready to gut through the injury again Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.
“He was dealing with a lot (last week),” Staley, Lions assistant head coach and running backs coach, said Friday. “But for him to be able to block that out and move on, and go out there and make some of those special plays that he did says a lot about him.”
Staley challenged Swift this offseason to be more willing to play through injuries, saying publicly in June, “There will be some things you have to fight through.”
Swift missed four games last year with a sprained shoulder, and has yet to play more than 13 games in a season in the NFL.
Swift, who injured his ankle in the first half of the Lions’ Week 1 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, did not practice last week but still played 31 snaps − most among Lions running backs − against the Commanders. He finished with five carries for 56 yards and had two catches for 31 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown that turned momentum in the Lions’ favor.
On Friday, Swift practiced for the second straight day, but was clearly hobbled catching passes in individual drills.
“He responded (to my challenge), and like I said before, he understands,” Staley said. “He understands that, like I said, his 80%, man, is a lot better than other people’s 80%. And once he gets that understanding in his head he can move forward with some of these little minor injuries.”
Staley called Swift’s injury the type that “just doesn’t get better like that, so could be some lingering pain there.”
“But he’ll fight through it,” Staley said.
And Staley said he will keep pushing Swift to do that.
“I’m hard, man, on him,” he said. “And I will be.”
To prepare for their first road game of the season this weekend, Lions coach Dan Campbell said he “had the music cranked nonstop” at practice this week in an effort to simulate the crowd noise expected at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
“Normally, you do it, and then you hold up cards so that everybody can hear, and we just left it up so that you’re trying to get personnel out there, everybody’s trying to communicate and it’s just a – it’s a mess in a good way,” Campbell said. “And I thought (Jared) Goff has handled it really well, and I thought our players handled it well (Thursday). But that’s about as good as you can do to this point, is just try to put them under that stress.”
Campbell said he told players Thursday some of the things he misses most about playing in the NFL are “certainly snack the night before the game,” the camaraderie of the locker room and playing on the road where “everybody’s on top of you and nobody wants you there.”
“Nobody wants to see you win or succeed other than your own group,” Campbell said. “And there’s nothing better than, man, just honing in on each other and depending on one another, that, ‘Man, you’re going to do your job, I’m going to do mine.’ And when you make a play, the crowd just goes silent, and there’s nothing better than that. That’s the stuff you miss, and so, yeah, you do. And I think the good ones, they really do. They thrive on that type of stuff. That’s when they’re – you can argue they’re at their best.”