Allen Park — With the NFL reportedly investigating a fifth Detroit Lions player for violating the league’s gambling policy, the team is taking an active approach to making sure these issues don’t come up again.
“I think, for us, it’s much more an emphasis from us, as opposed to just leaving it to the league,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said Thursday. “We need to make sure that we really hit this ourselves and make a point of it. We did, but obviously not enough.”
Four Lions players were suspended by the league earlier this offseason. Wide receiver Quintez Cephus and safety C.J. Moore were handed indefinite bans after betting on NFL games and were immediately released by the team. Wide receivers Stanley Berryhill and Jameson Williams were hit with six-game suspensions for betting on non-NFL games while at a league venue. Berryhill has also since been released.
Williams, making his first comments about the suspension last week, said he wasn’t aware he had violated any rules prior to the league’s punishment being handed down. That would seem to validate the team’s need to increase education and awareness of the policy.
“The proof is in the pudding,” Campbell said. “So, for us, let’s take it out of (the league’s) hands. They will have what they do every year, but now we need to put our own emphasis on it. And I think that is the best way to do it, is to highlight it. And that is what we are trying to do.”
Hopkins probably not in the cards
Speaking of gambling, the Lions have been listed among the favorites to sign recently released All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Campbell was asked about the possibility but declined comment, and there’s been little beyond broad, national speculation that have connected the two sides.
In March, general manager Brad Holmes implied that the team didn’t have cap space to pursue then-free agent Odell Beckham Jr., who netted a one-year, $15 million agreement with the Ravens a short time later. Hopkins, who doesn’t have the same durability concerns as Beckham, figures to command a similar deal.
After Holmes’ comments and prior to Beckham joining the Ravens, the Lions brought back veteran Marvin Jones Jr. to round out the team’s corps.
“I like our receiver room,” Campbell said. “I think we have a good mix of different types of guys. I think it is important, really in your skill position, between tight ends, backs, and receivers, that you have a mix of different types of skill sets, and I feel like we have that. We have possession, explosive. We have speed. We have consistency, quickness. So, I just think we have a lot of guys that can do a lot of different things and so the more versatility you have, that opens up your packages, personnel-wise and matchup-wise.”
Concerns about productive depth have been heightened following Williams’ six-game suspension, but the team has a lot of faith in the other players on the roster to fill that short-term void, particularly Kalif Raymond, who is coming off the best season of his career.
“Yeah, Leaf is our iron man,” Campbell said. “Particularly in that room, he is a guy that has been there for us and when we have needed him. He has always shown up. … He can play all of the positions. He can play the X, he can play the slot, he can play the Z. He is smart. He is tough. He is headsy. He is a go-getter. He is resilient. He is a huge asset for us. Thank God we have him. So, he will be big for us while Jamo is out.”
Leading by example
Cornerback Cam Sutton, the biggest piece from Detroit’s free-agency haul, isn’t trying to force his way into a leadership role. He’s preferring to sit back and observe, allowing things develop naturally. But within that reserved approach, he’s making sure to set a standard with the young position group.
“I just preach to the guys about mentality, just preach to guys about approach, how we attack the day,” Sutton said. “That starts before you even step on the field. It’s not just because you step on the field you turn it on and off, and you’re just going to have a good day or bad day. It’s so much before that — how you come in in the morning, how you work through meetings, how you prepare your body. And obviously how you step on and off the field. What are you doing after the (work on the) field? How are you taking care of your body? It’s doing all the little details of everything.
“I always tell the guys, never be in a rush to get out of the building.”
In these early stages, Sutton is focused on building a bond with his new teammates, which includes other new pieces, such as former college teammate Emmanuel Moseley and last year’s interception leader C.J. Gardner-Johnson.
The group is working on cultivating all-important chemistry, understanding they don’t have much time to get on the same page with the Lions opening the season against the Kansas City Chiefs. The defending Super Bowl champions had the No. 1 offense in the NFL last season.
“We’ll be ready to go,” Sutton said. “Whatever it looks like, we’ll be ready to go.”