DETROIT — Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell is warning all the hyenas out there: Get out of the way. His team his is starving to taste success.
Campbell set the tone with that message at Detroit’s practice in front of around 18,000 fans at Saturday’s family fest inside Ford Field — that’s a team-high for the annual event since they welcomed 20,000 in 2015.
The second-year coach gave an impassioned speech before his team started practice. He did the same last year and seems more than comfortable getting things started at these events. And while he opened with the blue-collar grit talk we’re more than accustomed to hearing around these parts. Campbell gave it his unique touch that clearly connected with those in attendance.
“But I think what makes Detroit special is the fact that, man, you guys will roll your sleeves up and put in a hard day’s work. I think we want to model ourselves after y’all,” Campbell said. “I tell you what, if you’re cold in the winter, you would give your coat to somebody in the winter that needed it, man. That’s what this community is about. however, however, however. Nobody will take advantage of our hospitality. Nobody. So that’s who we’re about. That’s what we’re about.
“This team is working their rear off to give you something to be proud of. All right, we’re grinding it out right now. I know this. We are freaking starving. We are starving. So the hyenas better get out of the way.”
And that set the tone right there. The traffic and parking situation getting into Ford Field were bumper-to-bumper ahead of the practice, so those in the building were already hungry to see the 2022 squad.
New Lions receiver DJ Chak had another impressive day. Chak secured a diving reception near the end zone that sent fans home happy. Starting quarterback Jared Goff continues to look crisp through camp as well. MLive’s Kyle Meinke had Goff at 13-of-17 passing for 171 yards and four touchdowns during the scrimmage portion. Chark caught two of those, while receivers Josh Reynolds and Amon -Ra St. Brown each had one score.
But, the energy wasn’t just about the on-field action. The team’s DJ — DJ Ray — had the music pumping from start to finish. Lions running back Jamaal Williams picked up where he left off in 2021, dancing to his own personal theme song, “Jamaal That.” He was also out there tossing footballs into the crowd before the rest of the team had come out of the tunnel. Williams even had a cardboard board box stuffed with items to give fans who brought him anime items after Saturday’s session.
“It feels good. I mean, look, I would say this though, even last year, we certainly didn’t get the wins we wanted, but man, the last three home games we had, there was a good vibe,” Campbell said. “We could feel it as players and coaches. I would say they’ve picked up right where they left off, you know? That isn’t easy to do. Sitting there at the end of the year, we got no wins. Then we get a win. You get two, so that’s, listen, that’s a credit to our fans. They got hope. So it’s up to us to give them something.”
It was the first taste of Ford Field for Lions rookie defender James Houston and Chark, among others. Saturday was Chark’s first foray onto a game field since last September while still with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Houston, the sixth-round rookie out of Jackson State, called it a once-in-a-lifetime experience to taste the NFL environment with fans in the house.
More than a handful of Lions players hung around on the field for quite a bit after practice. They were signing autographs and taking selfies with those screaming for attention, not to mention tossing and booting signed items and towels into the stands. Prized rookie and former Michigan standout Aidan Hutchinson received quite the roar running up the tunnel. He was followed on that track by right tackle Penei Sewell playfully mocking his jog and wave technique to fans. Hutchinson later reappeared to sign even more items while hearing his name his shouted in about every direction.
Jack Fox wasn’t just signing items and tossing them to fans. The Pro Bowl punter would sign a mini football and then boot it into the crowd. Austin Seibert, one of the team’s placekickers, also joined in on that action.
“I love it. The atmosphere was great,” Houston said. “The fans showed out. They were lively. They were attentive. It was great. It seemed like they really understood what was going on, as well. And the field is beautiful, man. You look up, and you see all the old hall of famers and everything like that. It’s a blessing just to be a part of it.”