Skip to main content


Presented by

Camp Notes: Branch continues to make a good impression

When an established, veteran player like C.J. Gardner-Johnson uses words like 'stud' and 'star' to describe a rookie, that rookie must be making some kind of impression.

The rookie Gardner-Johnson is referring to is Detroit Lions second-round pick Brian Branch. The talented defensive back out of Alabama has been terrific through training camp and the first preseason game and is trending toward a big role at the nickel cornerback spot to begin his NFL career.

"That's what you want from any rookie that you expect a lot of. He's over exceeded expectations," Gardner-Johnson said. "He can outplay anybody. I just want to see him continue to get better day by day and fight through camp. That's what it's about right now."

Fans got to see their first glimpse of Branch and the kind of flash plays he can make in last week's preseason opener against the New York Giants. Those plays seem to be a daily occurrence at practice. Branch has been so good to begin his first training camp the Lions are finding it hard to take him off the field. In fact, he's been so good in the nickel cornerback role, veteran Gardner-Johnson, who was signed in free agency to be the nickel, has moved back to safety next to Kerby Joseph and is playing mostly there in practice now.

"He's been very good," Lions GM Brad Holmes said of Branch on the Lions-Giants alternate broadcast last week. "It goes back to just getting football players. We don't really get caught into the whole, 'Well, we just signed C.J. Gardner-Johnson in free agency so we can't get a nickel because we already got that. So, let's get another (position).' No. Look, man, this guy's a ball player. We had him high up there on the board. We got in striking distance to take him, and we took him.

"It was pretty evident as soon as he got out there that he meant business and he's making waves, man."

Branch started in Nick Saban's defense at Alabama as a freshman. That says a lot about his physical and mental ability. He has terrific instincts and understands defensive football. He said recently that he's come a long way through training camp learning the intricacies of Aaron Glenn's defense and understanding how he and everyone else fit into it.

"Coming from a guy like that it means a lot," Branch told of Gardner-Johnson's recent comments about him. "Just got to keep on putting in the work and allowing him to mentor me because he's a great safety and he comes out here and proves that every day."

Branch said Gardner-Johnson has been an invaluable resource for him -- A veteran player who like him can play the nickel, in the box or move back to safety and do all at a really high level.

"He's going to be able to help me sharpen my toolbox," Branch said. "Just having him out here teaching me those things is big for me."


Campbell told 97.1 The Ticket Thursday morning and later confirmed to the media gathered for his pre-practice press conference, that he doesn't plan on playing the starters Saturday afternoon in the second preseason contest of the year vs. Jacksonville at Ford Field.

He also said there could be some select rookies who don't play, either. The Lions have a number of rookies already playing big roles with their respective first-team units, including running back Jahmyr Gibbs, linebacker Jack Campbell, tight end Sam LaPorta, Branch and defensive tackle Brodric Martin.


Campbell gave a shoutout to head groundskeeper Eric Bryan on Thursday for the shape the two practice fields have been in after joint practices with the Giants last week and Jacksonville this week.

"He was a little nervous about it back in March, but I'll tell you what, he's delivered," Campbell said. "Those fields are unbelievable ... it's a credit to him and his crew."

Related Content