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Anzalone talks defensive additions, season opener & more

Alex Anzalone is looking forward to the Detroit Lions' opening game for more reasons than any other in his first two seasons with the Lions.

The NFL schedule makers have chosen the Lions as the visiting opponent for the Super Bowl champion Chiefs in Kansas City.

It's the NFL's showcase game for the kickoff of the 2023 season -- Thursday night on Sept. 7.

"I've never played there," Anzalone said. "I've heard it's one of the best stadiums. It's going to be fun for me. I love playing in primetime. As a defensive player, you want to go against the best.

"Obviously, they're one of the best teams in the league."

As the Lions move through their offseason workout program with their third OTA workout completed Thursday, Anzalone has learned how to deal with the changes as he prepares for his seventh NFL season and third with the Lions.

The Lions finished strong last year, winning eight of their last 10 games to finish one game out of the playoffs with a 9-8 won-loss record.

The defense was one of the NFL's worst in the first seven games that saw the Lions stumble to a 1-6 record, then make a dramatic turnaround to be one of the best in the last 10 games.

The message for this year is clear: Be ready to play, and win, from the start.

"We don't have to be reminded of that," Anzalone said. "We were one game away from the playoffs."

Anzalone was heartened by the fact that the Lions did not stand on their laurels in the offseason. They were aggressive in fortifying the defense, signing free agents to strengthen the secondary, drafting linebacker Jack Campbell in the first round and versatile defense back Brian Branch in the second.

They also re-signed key veteran defensive linemen Isaiah Buggs and John Cominsky. And Anzalone signed a multiple-year contract that reflects his value and performance in 2022.

Anzalone appreciated how GM Brad Holes and head coach Dan Campbell worked to improve the team.

"It really is going to help our defense out," Anzalone said. "That's who you rely on then the rookies and the undrafted guys. Some will play. Some wil be role players.

"That's how you cultivate a great defense."

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