Allen Park — In his first season with the Detroit Lions, coach Matt Patricia placed an emphasis on conditioning, with increased sprints during and after practice.
He's looking to take that to the next level this year with the construction of a large hill on the perimeter of the practice field at the team's Allen Park facility.
"You know, the hill, or different training things that we try to do and improve on, are always thing we’ve researched that will help players and their training," Patricia said. "It could be anything from rehabilitation issues — or something that we use from that standpoint — conditioning, improving lower-body strength, lengthening run strides, protecting different muscle groups, and we use it in different capacities. Depending on the day it might be used in different facets. It’s just another piece of equipment for us to go out there and improve from a physical standpoint."
Running hills has long been associated with NFL success, famously dating to the San Francisco 49ers' teams in the 1980's and 90's. Star players Jerry Rice and Roger Craig would lead the team on a four-mile uphill run at Edgewood Park and Natural Preserve in Redwood City, California.
The Lions' hill more closely mirrors those built by Patricia's former employer, the New England Patriots, earlier this decade, something coach Bill Belichick brought over from his time in Cleveland.
While not popular with players because of the grueling nature of the workout, many of them appreciate the impact it has on their season.
"It definitely teaches you how to become comfortable with being uncomfortable," former Patriots and current Lions receiver Danny Amendola said in 2016. "It's a beast, for sure."
Julian Edelman credited running the hills as one of the reasons the Patriots were able to come back from a 25-point second-half deficit to beat the Falcons in Super Bowl LI.
"We've got these stupid hills in Foxborough that we have to run, like literally, until we left," Edelman said after the game. "We all (expletive) and complain about it. But hey, we do it. We put in the work. We put in the conditioning."
The Lions didn't utilize their hill on the first day of training camp, but you can bet it will be incorporated into the practice routine sooner than later.