Lions' culture suits new safety DeShon Elliott, who's eager to stay healthy and produce
Allen Park — When Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell delivered his now-famous description of the team identity he wanted to cultivate, which included the vivid description of biting off opponents' kneecaps, it was met with snickering and cynicism on the national stage.
Campbell later explained he didn't care about the wider reaction. That off-the-cuff segment of his introductory press conference was from the heart and targeted to his players and fan base. Yet, in hindsight, it has unintentionally become a marketing campaign.
Campbell's intensity and passion, combined with the visual confirmation of the roster's week-in-and-week-out effort, has increased the appeal of Detroit as a destination for some free agents, including recently signed safety DeShon Elliott.
"We played Detroit last year and it was a slobberknocker," Elliott said, referencing a hotly contested game between the Lions and Ravens that ended on an NFL record 66-yard, game-winning field goal. "They played so hard and I could just tell from that game how much they loved their coaches by the way they played. You can always tell from teams by the way they played. They really bought in and loved the experiences they had in the building."
The fit between Elliott and the Lions is a two-way street. After spending his first four seasons in Baltimore, he likes that he gets to continue his career in a city he feels matches his playing style.
His outside perceptions of Detroit were confirmed by former Lions safety Quandre Diggs, who went to the same college and has served as a mentor for Elliott.
"Gritty, and hard-nosed and hard-working people," Elliott said. "That reminds me a lot of Baltimore, so that was another reason why I came here. I wanted to go somewhere I feel like matched my game. Coach said bite kneecaps off you? You know what I'm saying? Like that kinda matches with the way how I play."
The Lions, in turn, add another player who feels he has something to prove. That's been something the team has consistently targeted under Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes.
For Elliott, he's had a chip on his shoulder since entering the league. A unanimous All-American at Texas in 2017, he fell all the way to the sixth round of the draft after forgoing his senior season.
When he's been on the field, he looks every bit a player who was undervalued. But being consistently available has been a troubling issue. He missed the entirety of his rookie season with a broken forearm, much of his second year with a knee injury and 11 games in 2021 with a torn pectoral muscle.
His lone healthy season, 2020, he started 16 games and showcased a well-rounded skill set that should have him in the mix to start for the Lions this year, assuming he can put the durability concerns behind him.
"I'm aggressive," Elliott said. "I'm going to put it all on the line. Of course, I've done it before, but I've got to figure out a way to stay healthy. I think just my style of play and when I am healthy, I make plays. I'm a playmaker when I'm healthy. I think that, and being able to bring how smart I am, I can bring that to the table, as well. Regardless, at the end of the day, I'm trying to make this team win. That's it. That's all I care about."