Da’Shawn Hand has been given a challenge by the Detroit Lions' coaching staff to stay healthy and put his natural ability to good use.
It's not something he is resisting. In fact, he welcomes it.
Hand's talent level was obvious as a rookie in 2018. He was a playmaker. In 13 games with eight starts he had three sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
As a fourth-round draft pick out of Alabama, Hand looked like one of the steals of the 2018 draft.
Unfortunately, Hand did little to build on that promising beginning. Dogged by injuries, Hand played only 13 games the last two years combined with three starts. He had one forced fumble and no sacks.
With a new coaching staff, a new defensive scheme and a weight gain of about 25 pounds, Hand feels good about what he can accomplish this season.
"I've been blessed to have an opportunity to come back," Hand said after Monday's training camp practice. "They believe in me. I've been doing things the right way, and they paid off.
"That's why I'm still here. I just want my talent to show. I want to stay healthy, and I want to show you all I can really do this. I can be a bona fide player in this league."
Hand worked to get his body in playing shape in the offseason. That included bulking up to 290 to 295 pounds after playing at around 270 last year.
"Luckily, the NFL gives us a nice salary, so I can afford a chef," Hand said. "I like to eat. The chef got me right."
What was on the menu?
"Lobster ravioli with white butter truffle sauce," Hand said – for starters. "Chicken wraps. High on steak and potatoes, potatoes, potatoes ... potatoes. Just trying to be more carbs heavy.
"Last year I was so honed in on leaning out. I leaned out a little too much."
View photos from Day 7 of Detroit Lions Training Camp presented by Rocket Mortgage on Saturday August 7, 2021.
The Lions want Hand to put his bigger, healthy body to use on the defensive line.
"The biggest thing is, we challenged him to play the run," said defensive line coach Todd Wash. "We know he can rush the passer when he's healthy and stuff. This offseason we challenged him to really get in there and play the four technique ... play the three. He really showed us he's willing to do it.
"This is going to be a good year for him. If he comes up and plays well, good things could happen not only for him but for us as a football team. We're going to put pressure on him. He's a talented football player.
"The biggest thing is, he's going to get in there and play stout against the run. So far, I think he's doing a great job for us."