Before last Friday's preseason opener against Buffalo, it had been 590 days since Penei Sewell had strapped it up and hit another player wearing an opposing jersey. That was Jan. 1 of 2020 in the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin when he was a sophomore at Oregon.
"It kind of felt like when I was a little kid again kind of getting introduced to this game and kind of going out there and getting all the emotions out," Sewell said after Monday's practice in Allen Park of his NFL debut. "Getting everything reintroduced to myself again. At first it was a little rusty, but kind of keep cool and keep calm and at the end of the day focus on that."
After a one year, seven month and 12 day hiatus from competitive football in a game setting, the rust was somewhat expected from Sewell early. He got a little careless with his technique on the third play of the game and allowed a sack that ended Detroit's first drive of the game.
View photos from practice at Detroit Lions Training Camp presented by Rocket Mortgage on Monday August 16, 2021.
But like anything we do our whole lives and take a little break from, it doesn't take long for things to come back, and it didn't take long for Sewell to settle back into the grove and show why he was considered one of the best players in this year's NFL Draft and the No. 7 overall pick by the Lions.
Sewell and the offense rolled off an 18-play, 70-yard drive on their second possession. The offensive line kept quarterback Jared Goff clean and opened run lanes. Sewell looked like just one of the guys.
Sewell is a pretty mature young man for 20 years old. He doesn't let too much bother him, which is a critical mindset to have as an offensive lineman.
"It kind of goes to the mentality that I've kind of picked up over the years is the next play," Sewell said. "Because at the end of the day, I can't really change what just happened or happened in the past. So, just got to focus on what's next and go from there."
So, what is next in Sewell's development with two more preseason games on the docket and less than a month to go before the regular-season opener against San Francisco at Ford Field?
Sewell said he's targeting two things in particular. His hand placement and pad level.
"I've got to get my hands right," he said. "Right now they are way too wide, especially going against the people in the league now. I just got to lock in on that.
"Fine tune on my pad level too, getting my knee bend back, and just those two things will separate myself."
Sewell admitted to having some nerves in his NFL debut, but said now that the debut is out of the way he expects to be much more settled down and locked in early on Saturday in Pittsburgh for Detroit's second preseason game.
"I can go out there and know what to expect somewhat," Sewell said. "Just go out there and play fast."