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O'HARA: Amendola excited to see what Lions' offense can do this year

Wide receiver Danny Amendola regards a one-year milestone for the Detroit Lions' offense as an investment in time and experience that could pay dividends in the 2020 season.

Having most of the core players of the receiving game back from last year – with some additions -- should help in a year when players are forced to train on their own around the country because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Players have been banned from training at team facilities while under quarantine mandates to fight the virus.

Amendola has been training at home in Austin, Texas. Earlier he was part of a small group of players who worked out with quarterback Matthew Stafford in California, and he recently spent part of a week training with Stafford and some other teammates in Atlanta.

There is a positive carryover from being together last year, plus having a full year of experience with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.

"It definitely feels like we formed some experience, at least, together last year," Amendola said Wednesday in a Zoom interview with the Detroit media. "We got into the room this time last year. We didn't know much about the offense.

"We didn't know about our identity as an offense. It was a work in progress; 365 days since then, we've been speaking the same language as an offense for a year now. We're getting more comfortable.

"We're excited to see where this goes."

Amendola's personal scouting report on Stafford is that he is fully recovered from the season-ending back injury he sustained in the eighth game. That jibes with what Stafford said last week.

"Matthew looks great," Amendola said. "I flew to Atlanta privately so I could get there in a safe manner. It was seamless. I got four great days in. It was a great learning experience for me.

"He looks strong and fast and hungry, and he's ready to go. He's going to continue to prepare. He has everything set up at his house, where it's basically an extension of the facility."

It's clear that Amendola, who turns 35 in November, still has pure passion for football as he prepares for his 12th NFL season. That includes tough, gritty work too.

When asked about former teammates Damon Harrison Sr. and Darius Slay, who had harsh words for head coach Matt Patricia, Amendola did not respond with criticism of those two.

Instead, Amendola said he likes practice to be hard.

"I want it to be as tough as possible," he said. "So when I get in the game, I've been there before. I understand what it feels like to be tired in a game, because I was tired in practice.

"What Coach Patricia has to offer is something I eagerly look forward to because I get the best version of me."

The Lions got a good version of Amendola in 2019. It was good enough for them to sign him back in February – about a month before free agency opened – for 2020.

With his energy, production and overall professional demeanor – not to mention a winning background from the five seasons he spent with the Patriots – Amendola fit in from Day One.

In 15 games, Amendola had 62 catches for 678 yards. His average of 10.9 years per catch was second highest of his career, to 11.7 per catch in 2013 with the Patriots. It was slightly higher than his career average of 9.8 per catch.

The combination of Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr. and Amendola gave the Lions a trio of receivers who brought different skills and dimensions to the offense.

Golladay was the big-play man with 65 catches, 18.3 yards per catch and a league-high 11 touchdown catches. He made his first Pro Bowl.

Jones provided another scoring threat who made tough catches on contested balls in tight quarters. Despite missing three games with injuries, Jones had 62 catches, nine TDs and an average of 12.6 yards per catch.

When at home in Austin, Amendola has been working out with NFL quarterbacks Colt McCoy and Baker Mayfield. They live in his neighborhood, Amendola said.

It has not been all work – either on the field, or in Zoom meetings with the coaches – for Amendola this offseason.

He has picked up a new hobby.

"Don't tell Coach Patricia this," Amendola said. "I've been downhill mountain biking a lot. We live in sort of rolling hill country. I get on my mountain bike, just cruise the hills, get on the trails. Nothing too advanced.

"I'm staying active. Staying fit. I'm seeing the city from a different aspect."

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