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Inside linebacker competition keeping players focused

One of the best position battles currently in Detroit Lions training camp is at the inside linebacker position. Detroit has seven or eight players fighting for roles, and the competition remains tight over a week into training camp.

Eight-year veteran Jamie Collins Sr. is one of those players in the mix. He said Thursday the tight nature of the competition has everyone razor focused right now.

"You can't afford to slip up in our room," Collins said Thursday. "Everybody is coming with it every day."

Collins was arguably Detroit's most productive linebacker last season. He was one of three players in the NFL to produce at least 100 tackles, three forced fumbles, 1.0 sack and an interception in 2020.

Collins is one of the more veteran players in the room, but this close competition has proved to him he can't rest on his laurels and not continue to improve as player.

Collins is playing 10 pounds lighter at 250 pounds than his playing weight of 260 last year. He admitted to losing focus too easily in his first season in Detroit last year, and has made his focus and attention to detail a point of emphasis this offseason as parts of his game he wanted to improve.

"Once I dropped weight, I got my game back," Collins said. "Going into nine years is a long time. Sometimes I feel like you can get complacent and you can start settling, but a fresh start is always good. It sparked a lot in me. New guys coming in and in our room the competition level is so high. It's the competitive nature in me to do the best I can and try to keep up with these guys. I'm the old guy in the room now. I'm not the young guy anymore. It's fun though."

View photos from Day 5 of Detroit Lions Training Camp presented by Rocket Mortgage on Thursday August 5, 2021.

Collins, Alex Anzalone, Derrick Barnes, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Anthony Pittman, Jahlani Tavai and Jalen Reeves-Maybin (when he gets activated from the COVID-19 list) are all competing for roles inside at linebacker.

Collins and Anzalone are getting the most run with the first-team defense so far in camp, but Collins knows that the competition level in the room is so high that it will take work to stay where he's at.

"That's where the fun comes in at," Collins said. "We're not out here just lounging. This stuff is hard, so we have to make it fun and we have to compete.

"Once you start competing – internally you want to be the best – so it's all about who's the best out here and that's what we're striving for, to be the best."

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