Allen Park — Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis couldn’t help but crack a devilish grin when asked if he was excited to finally hit somebody in a different jersey this week.
"Oh, most definitely,” Davis said. “Can't really even describe it. It's going to be a special moment. It's going to be fun to go out and do it for the first time this year."
The Lions promptly packed their bags following Monday’s practice and flew out west, where they’ll spend some quality time with the Oakland Raiders.
The teams will hold joint practices Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the Raiders’ training facility in Napa, Calif., before squaring off in Friday’s preseason opener at the Oakland Alameda Coliseum (10:30 p.m. ET, Fox/WJR).
“It’s a real good opportunity for us to go out and just see somebody else. Different scheme, different players, different strengths and weaknesses from that standpoint,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “Getting a good evaluation of our guys, and as you go through the course of the preseason, the preseason games are good and you’re trying to evaluate the talent and the ability.
“There’s a little bit of an aspect of where it’s pretty vanilla as far as the game is concerned, so this really gives us a good opportunity to just have a little bit of a different perspective on some of the things that we can do against an opponent in a very controlled manner. So, that’s all part of it, which is critical.”
It’s the third straight year the Lions will take part in joint practices during training camp and the first of two sessions this preseason. Next week, the Lions will host the New York Giants on Aug. 14-16 for practices before the teams’ Aug. 17 clash at Ford Field.
Patricia said traveling to California will give the Lions a chance to adjust to a different schedule and surrounding, as well as test their focus and intensity in a different environment. There’s also the added strain of coping with the time-zone change, which the Lions will have to deal with in the regular season when they travel to San Francisco to play the 49ers in Week 2.
“We like routine," Patricia said. "We like to kind of be in that normal mode of get up and go to practice, know what we’re doing, eat the same thing every single day and kind of just be creatures of habit. Sometimes the season isn’t like that. You might have a Monday night game, you might have a Thursday game, you might have a night game, a day game, and there’s a little bit of break in the routine.
“So, it’s a good opportunity for us to take this as a challenge to break the routine a little bit and see how we respond and kind of come back and perform. So, it’s another kind of off-the-chart little thing that we’ll look at, too, as we go.”
For Patricia, the stop will give him a chance to unload questions and pick the brain of Raiders coach Jon Gruden, who returned to the sidelines — and Oakland— after serving as a football analyst for ESPN since 2009.
Patricia, a longtime member of the Patriots’ coaching staff, said he met Gruden during his broadcasting career when he’d call New England games. The two hit it off and have conversed about football over the years.
“When really this opportunity came up it was an easy phone call,” Patricia said. “Just give him a call and say, ‘Hey, this is what we are looking for, how about you guys?’ He was on the same page, so it should be a really good working relationship from that standpoint and he’s a good friend, so it will be great.”
While there may be several added benefits to the West Coast trip, most importantly it will help provide a barometer for the Lions with a month to go before their regular-season opener.
“It really gives you a realistic look on where you are as a team and what you have to improve on right away,” Davis said. “I mean, it's still early in the preseason. It's the first game, so it's our first joint practice. It's going to give us an opportunity to see how we've been working, what we need to keep doing and what we need to change.”
Lions vs. Raiders
What: First preseason game for both teams
When: Friday, 10:30 p.m.
Where: Oakland Alameda Coliseum
TV: Fox 2 and NFL Network