Today marks a new year, and just about everyone can probably agree that 2021 is a welcome sight.
While the calendar has flipped to a new year, the Lions still have some unfinished business to take care of Sunday at Ford Field against Minnesota to wrap up a difficult and challenging 2020 season. It's one more opportunity to end the season on a high note.
For rookie running back D’Andre Swift, Sunday is an opportunity for him to wrap up a rookie season filled with some difficulties, but also some high points, and use it as a way to springboard himself into the offseason.
This 2020 rookie class had a raw deal coming into their first NFL season as the league had to cancel the offseason training program due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The rookies missed out on hundreds of reps that would have helped acclimate them to the NFL. Then the preseason was cancelled, which is usually another way rookies learn to adapt to the speed and physicality of the game before it counts for real.
In Swift's case, a hip injury suffered in training camp put him even farther behind the ball. He was eased into a role early in the year, and in his first regular-season game, he dropped a potential game-winning touchdown against Chicago in the final minutes of the season opener.
Swift also battled concussion symptoms and an illness that cost him three games.
Still, through all that, Swift has been able to show the flashes of talent that made him a second-round pick by the Lions this past NFL Draft.
Through Week 16, Swift has 102 rushes for 467 yards (4.6 average) and seven touchdowns, along with 43 receptions for 341 yards (7.9 avg.) and two scores. He's a versatile threat, and his 808 total scrimmage yards are fifth most among rookies.
Swift said it will be huge for him to finish strong Sunday.
"I'm all about finishing," he said this week. "Playing all the way through, and I think that's what we need to do as a team. Trying to get this win and finish the season strong."
After that, Swift said the focus will quickly shift to the offseason and improving his overall game heading into a second season where he's expected to play a big role on offense alongside Detroit's other young, core pieces on that side of the ball.
"Just taking my game to the next level," he said of what his focus will be this offseason. "I've got a season under my belt, so I kind of know what to expect, know what I need to do, know what extra stuff I need to do to get my body in the right condition and right shape to go out there each week and produce. I've got to produce every week."