MOBILE, Ala. – There are a handful of players at this week's Senior Bowl that will be first-round picks in April's NFL Draft. The majority of the other players drafted from this week's game will probably have to make their initial marks in the NFL on special teams.
"I told them, you guys listen, if you're not a first-round pick or a quarterback, the first way you're going to get on the field is in the kicking game," Lions new special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs said Tuesday of his initial message to the Senior Bowl North Team squad. "So, it's an adjustment for them from an attitude standpoint. Most of them have been starters on offense and defense, haven't been hugely involved in the kicking game, and for every rookie, that's an adjustment. I have to buy in."
Coombs' message to the North Team Monday night was that the faster they realize special teams is an avenue to success, the quicker they get ahead of the game as a young player in the NFL.
Coombs steps into a good situation in Detroit where he's got a lot of veteran players in key roles on special teams. Don Muhlbach is the most veteran Lion as a long snapper. He's expressed an interest to return for a 17th season. Matt Prater is one of the most veteran and consistent kickers in the league. Sam Martin is a veteran punter, though he's a free agent, and Miles Killebrew and Jalen Reeves-Maybin are two of the best special teams cover men in the league.
Lions head coach Matt Patricia is a huge proponent of having good special teams play. The North Team at the Senior Bowl Tuesday spent more time taking part in special teams drills than the Cincinnati Bengals-coached South Team.
It's a fact not lost on Coombs.
"To me, that's huge," Coombs said. "I can't overstate how important that is. Not every head coach is like that. Some guys want no involvement. They want you to tell them what you're going to do and just go do it.
"Matt (Patricia) is by far and away of any head coach I've been around the most knowledgeable and invested and interested in the kicking game. He has a vision of what he wants it to look like. I think that's a big reason why I'm here."
In that regard, Patricia is also a challenging head coach for a special teams coordinator to work under, but Coombs likes that kind of support and challenge.
Coombs, 33, is young, but he says players don't really care about the age of a coach as long as their coach can make them be a better football player.
"I'm going to prove that as fast as a I can," Coombs said. "With my work, with my teaching and hopefully (the players) can see that pretty quickly and we can have some success together."