Just five days after being carted off the field with a right leg injury, veteran defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson was back practicing for the Detroit Lions Saturday.
Gardner-Johnson has an infectious personality and brings a ton of energy to practice, so it was good seeing him dancing around and interacting with teammates while back on the field in individual and walkthrough periods as the team works him back into a full workload.
"It's very important because I'm contagious," Gardner-Johnson said of taking part in physical reps, though he made it clear he was always locked in mentally.
"I'm like the flu. It's gonna go through your body. It's either you get it, or you don't get it. That's not because I'm cocky, it's because I'm confident in my job."
Gardner-Johnson was one of Detroit's key free-agent acquisitions this offseason as GM Brad Holmes worked to reshape Detroit's secondary. He tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions last season despite playing in only 12 games. He's expected to play both nickel corner and safety in Aaron Glenn's defense as an impact player and ball hawk.
"Just to get back there and get in the flow with the rest of those DBs," head coach Dan Campbell said about the importance of getting one of their defensive leaders back on the field. "Get in the backend with communication and – that's always going to be important so it will be good at any capacity to get him back out there."
DOING IT ALL
Campbell opened his Saturday morning press conference with a shoutout to Chris Spielman, the former Lions linebacker turned special assistant to the President/CEO and Chairperson.
"He does a lot for us and he's kind of a little bit unseen and not always heard on the outside, but I'll tell you what, he's an important confidant and I'm glad he's here," Campbell said of Spielman. "He's somebody that kind of – he certainly helps keep me straight and tells me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear. So, I always appreciate that about him. I just wanted to get that off my chest."
Spielman wears a lot of hats in Allen Park and is highly respected throughout the building. He was spotted at practice Saturday helping the grounds crew fill in divot marks on the field between drills. The guy does it all.
ROOM TO GROW
The exciting thing about this Lions football team is that some of the top players and core pieces are young players like tackle Penei Sewell, wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson, who aren't even close to reaching their prime and maximum potential yet.
Another young player with a Pro Bowl already to his name is fourth-year guard Jonah Jackson. He's one of the top young guards in the game. Jackson didn't allow a sack and allowed only four quarterback hits in 13 games played last season.
But even for an established young player like Jackson, with three years of starting experience in the league under his belt, Campbell said there was room for improvement, and he's seeing Jackson take his game to another level early in camp.
"I've been pretty fired up and there again, I know we just finished one day of pads but I told (o-line coach) Hank (Fraley) the other day, I said, 'Man, I love where Jonah's at right now,'" Campbell said.
"I think he's picked up where he left off at the end of last season and – because to me, he can get ever better too. I mean I think he has more room to grow, and I think Jonah believes that too, and so I see a guy who's man, really coming into his own and it means something to him and I see there's an intensity and urgency about him."
Gardner-Johnson had some high praise for second-year wide receiver Jameson Williams: "He's one of the best receivers in the game right now. Working out with him every day, Jamo's ready. Don't worry about him. He's ready."