Allen Park — When you know, you know.
And after getting a brief look at his options in free agency, new Detroit Lions cornerback Cam Sutton knew didn’t need to keep them open any longer.
Detroit was home.
In fact, he said at his introductory press conference Thursday in Allen Park that he doesn’t even know most of the other teams pursuing him — he didn’t need to.
In joining the Lions, he said, he’s getting to work with “some of the best coaches in the business.”
“When it was time to really get things going, Detroit, the family, they came strong, man, and it just made sense,” Sutton said. “Just from top-down, the organization — Ms. Sheila (Hamp), Mr. (Lions general manager Brad) Holmes, (Dan Campbell), they all have a vision.
“They all carry themselves in a manner that I’ve been around, in this game, to appreciate. And I know they’re doing the right things.”
Coming from a stable, legacy NFL organization like the Pittsburgh Steelers, that’s a pretty solid compliment. The Steelers have not finished under .500 in 16 years under head coach Mike Tomlin, including the last six years with Sutton on the roster. For him to see parallels between the Steelers and Lions — who have a less-than-sterling reputation for competence, historically — is quite a development.
Last season, the Steelers started 2-6 before finishing with a 9-8 record. They had a shot to get in the playoffs if the chips fell their way in Week 18, but alas, they did not. The Lions, other than starting 1-6, had the same exact trajectory — and Sutton took notice of the rebound while himself understanding what it took.
“You could’ve laid down and you could have gave up on the season and looked forward to the future or look forward to what’s next,” Sutton said. And it’s never about that, man. It’s about us coming together at every opportunity we have in front of us and making the most of it, so, they stood on that. They stood on the foundation of that. And they weathered the storm.”
Sutton (5-foot-11, 188 pounds), a third-round pick out of Tennessee in 2017, signed a three-year deal with the Lions worth up to $33 million.
There was once a time when the Detroit Lions were among the lower-ranking destinations for free agents. But according to the 28-year-old Sutton, that’s a sentiment that’s starting to change under the leadership of head coach Dan Campbell.
“Being around the league … seeing what he’s been doing around the league, it’s exhilarating, man,” Sutton said.
“Guys love this guy. And it’s not just me speaking. You see his spirit … spread around the league. Guys want to play for him. Guys just love his energy and just everything he brings to the game. He’s going to be always passionate about what he does, and you need that.
“You need someone who’s going to go head-over-heels and just, again, push you in the right direction and see what’s best for yourself, and someone who has that same belief in you. That’s what it takes sometimes, someone who has that true belief in you. Someone who really supports and just the knowledge, the knowledge of the game, it’s been good to get around the last couple days. He’s just been so electric; all the guys are so electric with their energy.”
After the way they closed things out last year, the Lions were one of the league darlings entering this offseason. Sutton said he’s looking forward to being part of the group that takes the next step.
“Organizations’ ready to turn the hump, regardless of what you may see or what you may think or any other stuff. We’re here to play. We’re not here just to show up and be in the building and say we’re a part of this league,” Sutton said.
“We’re here to leave our mark. We’re right there. We’re going to keep coming together.”
While he finds it hard to believe at the spry age of 28, Sutton is one of the oldest players on the Lions’ defense. In fact, after parting ways with Michael Brockers, the team doesn’t have a single player who’s in his 30s. Sutton said he’s looking forward to embracing the leadership role on a defense that sorely lacked it through the first half of last season.
“It’s going to be beyond the production of the game, all those values of the game. Just really embracing that leadership role,” he said. “I’ve been around plenty of great leaders throughout the years, even in the whole position group, who have really molded my game, really molded how I’ve carried myself as an individual.”
Sutton added, “(Being a leader is) something I’ve never not been, in any form of life.”
Good news for Sutton: He’s in a place where leadership is the only form of life.