Dan Campbell has brought a little fun to the offseason workouts and minicamp in his first season as head coach of the Detroit Lions, and it's just that – a little fun.
That's one of the things we learned in this week's three-day minicamp, which ended Thursday with a spirited workout. Among the other things learned include the following: The respect that defensive end Trey Flowers built in his first two seasons with the Lions has carried over to Campbell and his staff; veteran safety Dean Marlowe doesn't feel the weight of the Lions' historically bad defense in 2020 and expects the unit to benefit from a change in scheme; and a final thought on watching two young Lions maturing quickly.
We start with fun at work:
Campbell caused something of a stir in a lively special teams drill that assistant coaches took part in. It was an open competition, two players at a time, running around a hoop and being the first to touch a tackling dummy.
There was some good-natured trash talking. All in all, it was one of those drills that gives a team a temporary lift during practices that can be mundane.
Minicamp days are full workdays, with two breaks for lunch and a snack.
"It's a way for us to get something competitive into practice," Campbell said Thursday morning. "Some of the coaches we've got, they are very competitive. Which we want them to be.
"They've got some drills that I think are really good that guys enjoy doing, and it gives them a chance to compete."
But there's a limit to the intensity, and the physical stress it puts players under. Teams are more cautious by the year in limiting the risk of injury, and Campbell is no exception.
"It's not like we're running 100 yards down the field," Campbell said. "These are things that are under control but man, you've got to keep your feet under you. You've got to learn to run the hoop."
Flowers' take: You might think that from his four seasons with the Patriots and playing the last two in Detroit under former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia that Flowers would be a little skeptical about fun at practice.
"He has a little fun," Flowers said. "He makes it the way guys can get a little looser. You talk noise. It brings you back to the backyard days. You compete against your neighbor, the man down the street.
"You're not really thinking, 'This is my job.' He's going to roll with it, and we're going to roll with it. I feel like a lot of players are buying in with his approach.
"We're loving it, having fun. It's the NFL. We'll see."
Flowers' leadership: Flowers is held in high regard by Campbell and his staff. A strong sign of that was when Flowers was chosen to break down the huddle after the first minicamp practice.
"I think that's a testament to my character," Flowers said. "I'm a guy who prides himself on high character. I do the things the right way, and I just respect the game. With any team, you're going to get that same Trey Flowers.
"My character is not based on who I'm doing it for. My character is based on the principles I grew up on. It doesn't matter who's the head coach, who's the GM. As far as where I'm at, you're still going to see the high-character guy that represents himself in the highest regards."
Stats and scheme: The 2020 Lions' defense was as bad as the stats indicated as it leaked yards and points from the first game to the last. But none of that means anything to safety Dean Marlowe.
He signed with the Lions after previous stints with the Panthers and Bills – both winning teams of late. Marlowe does not see remnants of that defense. Part of that could be the optimism that runs rampant in teams this time of year, but Marlowe sees an important change in scheme that should benefit the Lions.
"I feel like we have guys who want to win who want to get better every day at something," Marlowe said.
"Everything now is changing. The scheme they were in last year seemed to be more a man-to-man scheme, probably over 50 percent of the time.
"Now we're in a split safety scheme where they'll be able to use their strengths more. I feel like the game is changing. It's a passing league. You've got to have guys that can play the ball and have their eyes on the quarterback and read their keys."
Dynamic duo: Tight end T.J. Hockenson and running back D’Andre Swift put on a daily exhibition in minicamp of what they can bring to the Lions for the rest of this decade.
Swift is 22, going into his second season. Hockenson is 24, going into his third year with one Pro Bowl to his credit.
With a quarterback operating behind a solid offensive line, Swift and Hockenson should be fun to watch.