Dre Bly sees some differences and similarities in the Detroit Lions from what he experienced when he came to town for the first time in 2003.
Bly had played his first four seasons in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams. His experience there as a ball-hawking cornerback made him a prized player on the free-agent market.
Bly spent four seasons with the Lions before finishing out his career with two seasons in Denver and one in San Francisco.
Bly, who was hired this year to coach cornerbacks, has vivid memories of his stay in Detroit – most of them good on a personal level – and keen observations of what's different.
"It's the same organization," Bly said this week. "Firey fans. Firey people who love football in Detroit."
But as he begins his first season as a position coach on head coach Dan Campbell's staff, there is a notable difference.
"I would say the talent is different," he said. "The leadership is a lot different. I'm actually a little jealous – looking now at how they finished last year.
"All that excitement they had on the field. Looking at how much fun they were having with Dan and the rest of the coaching staff.
"They were on Hard Knocks. There was a lot of excitement. When I heard people talking about the Lions. All the football world ... there was a lot of excitement."
Bly wasn't hired to lead the cheers on the Lions' emergence as favorites to win the NFC North title.
As a player in college at North Carolina and his 11 NFL seasons, Bly was a master at getting turnovers. For his career he had 43 interceptions, 150 passes defended and 12 fumble recoveries. He made two Pro Bowls with the Lions.
In talks with Campbell and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, it was stressed that they wanted playmakers in the secondary. That was the specialty for Bly, who has been nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
View photos from Wednesday's media availability with the newest Detroit Lions coaches.
"That was one of the things Dan said, -- that he was looking for out of this cornerbacks coach," Bly said. "I think I'll be able to bring something unique to the position, to the role.
"(I'm) a guy that's very passionate, very relatable. I like to interact with the players, I'm still in shape. I can move. I can get out there and teach techniques."