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Head strength & conditioning coach Harold Nash Jr. talks strongest Lions, evolution of today's athlete & more

All professional sports teams have an extensive weight and training program as part of their performance regimen. But when it comes specifically to the weight room, nothing compares to the NFL in terms of the kind of weight being slung around by their athletes.

Heck, the league has installed grandstands around the bench press at the NFL Scouting Combine. It's an event now.

The NFL employs some of the biggest and strongest athletes in the world. So, it begs the question, when it comes to the Detroit Lions, who are the strongest men on the team?

That was a question posed to Lions head strength & conditioning coach Harold Nash Jr. at the Season Ticket Member Summit earlier this month.

"That's, obviously, relative," Nash replied. "But I think collectively you have a guy like Ricky Jean Francois, very strong. A'Shawn Robinson, very strong. Frank Ragnow, who we just signed, very strong.

"I think what coach (Matt) Patricia has done is put a premium in this area. We obviously stimulate competition, we stimulate improvement and hopefully we can be stronger this year."

There's a long-standing belief that today's football player is bigger, stronger and faster than those that came before them. Advances in training technology and nutrition are factors in building better athletes.

Nash said the area where he's seen the most evolution in football, however, is among the offensive and defensive lines. It's the players upfront that have changed the game, Nash believes.

"I think that the bigger players are (stronger and faster)," he said. "The performance of the offensive and defensive linemen. There was a time when you had an offensive lineman and he was 285 pounds or 290 pounds. That was the norm.

"Now, the norm is that guy being 315 or 320 pounds, and he can move just as quickly and just as fast. I think the biggest jump or leap that's evident is with the offensive and defensive line."

That evolution upfront is at the center of Patricia's philosophy of roster building from the ball out. He believes a good football team is built on its foundation upfront, especially in the middle of the offensive and defensive lines.

"What I'll tell you is this: When you build – and this is on both sides of the ball – you want to build from the ball out," Patricia said at last year's Combine. "So, starting in the middle and working out."

One of Detroit's biggest strengths right now is the middle of its defensive line with Damon Harrison, Robinson, Da'Shawn Hand and the depth they have with players like Francois, who is scheduled to become a free agent in March.

The Lions spent a first-round pick (Ragnow), third-round pick (Graham Glasgow) and a big free-agent signing (T.J. Lang) to build the center of its offensive line.

"I think it starts in the trenches," Lions GM Bob Quinn said after drafting Ragnow back in April. "I think it starts up front. We want to build through the middle of our team, through the offensive line, defensive line and through the middle. And that's kind of what we believe in."

So, as free agency and the draft loom ever closer, look for Quinn, Patricia and the Lions to always be open to adding those big, strong foundational pieces upfront in the middle, whenever the opportunity presents itself.

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