DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Lions took training camp to Ford Field for the day, giving their new coaches and players a chance to practice on the team’s home field.
New head coach Dan Campbell, hired in January, kicked off the festivities with an impassioned speech to the fans in attendance.
“I want you to envision right now that we’re in the backyard, because Ford Field is our backyard, and we’ve got our firepit in the backyard,” Campbell said. “And so, we’ve got a beer, we’ve got our hot dogs, we’ve got our wine. Kids got the marshmallows ready to go. Let me tell you something: We’re going to bring the firewood and we’re going to light the flame. And you guys know at some point late in the night, you really want to see the show and see how high we can get this thing to burn.
"You’ll douse it in gasoline and that’s what we need from you.”
On the field, it was the tight ends who brought the fire. T.J. Hockenson, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2019, caught two touchdowns. Free agent signing Darren Fells had one of the biggest plays of the scrimmage with a 20-yard grab up the middle.
“I always tell coach we can play with five tight ends out there if we need to,” Fells said after practice. “I feel like everyone in that room is extremely talented and can make plays when they are called upon.”
Hockenson is coming off a Pro Bowl season after catching a career-high 67 passes for 723 yards and six touchdowns. Only two other NFL tight ends had more yards receiving: Kansas City's Travis Kelce (1,416) and Las Vegas' Darren Waller (1,196).
“In my mind, he’s one of the top tight ends in the NFL,” Fells said of Hockenson. “He’s going to go out there, and like you guys saw, he makes big plays when called upon.”
While the Lions’ tight ends were shining, their wide receivers dealt with several injuries. Starters Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman did not participate, nor did backup Quintez Cephus. Campbell noted that none of the injuries appear to be serious and their absences were precautionary.
“Tyrell, he’s fine,” Campbell said. “We just want to take care of him, be smart with him, because he’s in a good place. His groin is a little bit tight. He’s had a good two weeks. We wanted to be smart. Cephus kind of bumped his head yesterday on the ground, so just being safe with him. And (Perriman) kind of had a hip.”
With the top guys out, it was also an opportunity for rookie receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown to get an extended look. The former USC receiver was taken in the fourth round by the Lions in April. In Detroit, he is competing for the team’s starting slot receiver job.
On Saturday, he hauled in one of three touchdown passes from Jared Goff. He also picked up a key fourth-down conversion during the team’s two-minute drill.
“We knew we were going to be down some guys,” St. Brown said. “So we were probably going to get more reps, maybe a little more tired than usual, but we were out there, had to make plays, and execute.”
On one of his catches, St. Brown admitted he ran the wrong route but still managed to make the play.
“It ended up working out for me,” St. Brown said. “We talked about it on the sideline, and we’re going to get it fixed, but you never turn down a touchdown.”
NOTES: Goff had a strong outing with TD passes on all three of his possessions, including a two-minute drill attempt. ... Lions kickers continue to struggle from long distances. Randy Bullock and Matthew Wright went a combined 0 for 4 on field goals of 50 yards and longer. ... Left tackle Taylor Decker and linebacker Robert McCry got into a brief scrum during practice, but it was broken up before any punches were thrown.
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