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O'HARA: What we learned from the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine

Dan Campbell has shown as head coach of the Detroit Lions that he has a gift for communicating.

He gets his messages across, whether it's a postgame victory speech in the locker room, a one-on-one with a player or speaking from the podium at a press conference.

What we learned from his press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine is that Campbell prefers speaking with prospects to watching them run drills.

"For me, to be able to do these formal, or informal interviews – to me, that's the biggest part of this," Campbell said.

Among the other things we learned include the following: GM Brad Holmes holds people accountable for their job performance – and that includes himself; if the Lions ever were considered a team that free agents did not want to play for, that feeling no longer exists; and Dre Bly, who played four seasons with the Lions in his illustrious career, is expected to make an impact coaching the cornerbacks.

We start with Campbell interviewing prospects:

Under NFL rules, teams get 20 minutes to interview players at the Combine. For Campbell it's a valuable 20 minutes that opens a window to how a player might fit the Lions' culture.

Typically, Campbell and other members of the staff are in the interview room with the prospect. The meetings show a side of the prospect that is not seen in drills.

"To me, grade them off the tape," Campbell said. "Don't grade somebody in pajamas running the 40 with no defenders around.

"The meetings are great. The meetings are pivotal. The other stuff – whatever. Just tell me when to show up. We'll get it done."

Campbell wants to hear what prospects are thinking.

In one group of 30 to 35 players, Campbell said he put check-marks on four players.

"They've got the 'it factor,'" he said. "When you sit there and hear them talk about football, there's a fire inside them. They can't sit in their seat when they talk about football. They've got to get up and talk.

"They have to tell you what's going on. You can't fake that. When you have that, you love ball."

Accountability: Holmes is putting the blame on himself for the Lions' failure to have better backup quarterbacks.

It's a noble gesture – and probably accurate – but the fact is the Lions' backups have been inadequate for more than a decade.

Since opening day of 2011, the Lions have not had a backup quarterback win a game. They've gone 0-11 in relief of Matthew Stafford (0-8 in 2019) and Jared Goff (0-3 in 2021).

"Last year we kind of left training camp sliding into home plate trying to fill that role," Holmes said. "That's on me. We have to do a better job of making sure we're not in that position again."

Nate Sudfeld, who has played six NFL games in four seasons without a start – and two with the Lions in 2022 without attempting a pass -- was the Lions' backup last year. He is a free agent.

Bly returns: Bly can play his old tapes to show Lions cornerbacks how the position should be played.

Bly played four of his 11 seasons with the Lions (2003-2006). He had 19 of his 43 career interceptions and 65 of his 150 passes defended. He made two Pro Bowls before departing as a free agent after the 2006 season.

"His deal is technique," Campbell said. "He did it at a high level, and he did it because he was able to play with technique."

Campbell and Bly were teammates on the Lions in 2006.

Popular destination: Holmes said the Lions are trending that way for free agents in comparison to how he felt free agents were avoiding the Lions when he and Campbell arrived in Detroit in 2021.

"We were just getting started," Holmes said. "I don't think that's the case now. I think we've changed the narrative, which is a good thing."

That's what winning does.

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