Lions’ Aidan Hutchinson: ‘I feel stronger … more mobile than ever’

Detroit News

Allen Park — If you were hoping to learn why Aidan Hutchinson is growing out his hair, well, Thursday was a disappointment. He was tight-lipped.

“I got a little idea for the future, in the season,” he said, denying that he’s planning to eventually sport a mullet.

But the Detroit Lions’ second-year edge defender did share a whole lot about how he plans to take another step forward this season, and it does, in fact, start with how he looks.

“I feel stronger than ever,” Hutchinson said. “I feel more mobile than ever. I really think having an offseason and just taking my time (to) focus on some of my body deficiencies, I think it’s helped me a ton. I can’t wait.”

Hutchinson, the No. 2 pick in 2022, got off to a modest start to his rookie season. By season’s end, he was one of the defense’s most productive and all-around important players. The former Michigan Wolverine played all 17 games and finished with 9.5 sacks, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries while finishing second for defensive rookie of the year.

This season, he’s hoping to become one of the best players in the whole NFL. That starts with a healthy diet and a clear mind, the latter of which he started to work on toward the end of 2022.

“I started doing a lot of visualizing and meditating and stuff like that, and I think that really helped. It helped a lot, actually,” Hutchinson said. “That’s something that I implemented into my routine every day now. I have all these new routines and I took this offseason to evaluate all the different ways I can improve things — dieting, food, get a chef in, good stuff like that.

“Last year I was eating takeout meals probably after every day during the season, so just couldn’t be good for inflammation at all.”

As is common for most second-year players, Hutchinson said he was amazed by how different this offseason has been compared to the last one. The pre-draft process, while helpful for landing a gig in the NFL, doesn’t do a great job of preparing folks to actually play NFL football.

He said he lost “a lot of strength” during the year and it “took a little bit to get that back and to add on it,” but the ability to take some time off and then focus was “super beneficial.”

“I mean, all the vets were telling me that this point, this offseason period. They were telling me how good that would be for me, this and that, just putting the helmet on that rookie year,” Hutchinson said. “And I took my time off. I worked really hard. And now we’re back and I’m feeling better than ever. It’s definitely — yeah, I can get used to this offseason.”

Old rules die hard

The two Lions coaches who were asked about the NFL’s adjusted fair-catch rule on kickoffs had very different reactions. The new rule, adopted from the college game and intended to aid player safety, states that if there is a fair catch on a kickoff (or safety kick), the ball will be automatically placed at the receiving team’s 25-yard-line.

“Highly frustrating. It’s very frustrating,” head coach Dan Campbell said. “But look, I don’t make the rules. So, that’s the new rule, then we’ll live by the new rule. We’ll find a way to adjust and adapt and get what we want. That’s what you gotta do.

“I hate that we continue to take away from the game. That’s what worries me. We continue to bleed this league (dry) — if we’re not careful, it won’t replenish at one point.”

Perhaps surprisingly, Lions special teams coordinator Dave Fipp didn’t seem to think it was a big deal.

“I don’t think it’s gonna change the game a whole lot,” Fipp said. “…The shorter the kick, or the further out it is for the return team, like…if the ball’s kicked to the 10, I think data says you should return it, so I think we’re still gonna see a lot of returns, even in those situations.”

Fipp doesn’t buy the idea that the NFL is trying to slowly eradicate special teams altogether.

“I don’t think that’s what they’re trying to do,” he said. “I think they’re trying to make the game safer. I think over the last handful of years, the league’s been incredible about that. They’ve done a great job making the game safer for the players.

“I think it’s a better game today than it was. It’s definitely different, but I think for the most part, they’ve done a great job and I trust what they’re doing.”

Twitter: @nolanbianchi

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